What is traumatic bereavement?
When people lose someone close to them due to unexpected accidents or acute deadly diseases, they are at risk of chronic grief reactions. This can traumatize an individual and make their grieving process much more challenging and complicated. In some cases, it leads to the individual experiencing PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), a condition in which a traumatic event leads to severe anxiety and distress.
As there are more and more confirmed cases of COVID-19 every day, the number of fatalities also increases. This may mean that there is a higher likelihood of being exposed to a situation where traumatic bereavement is possible. It is important that you try to acknowledge what is happening and remember that everything you are feeling is valid.
Some emotions that you may feel after such a traumatic loss include:
- Numbness. In the initial stages, your brain may block out the recent events in an attempt to shield you from the pain that it will bring you once you process it.
- Sadness. Once the pain is processed, an overwhelming feeling of sadness is likely to result as you begin to reflect on your loss.
- Uncertainty. You are unsure what to do now that your loved one is gone. The sudden departure of their presence makes you unsure of any next steps to take
- Guilty. There may be moments where you feel as though you could have prevented their sudden death.
- Angry. Instead of blaming yourself, you may have feelings of hatred towards another individual or organization and blame their actions.
It is important to let yourself feel these emotions and recognize each one of them.
Other symptoms of traumatic bereavement may include:
- Excessive irritability
- Mood swings
- Insomnia and nightmares
- Difficulty socializing and avoidance of social interactions
- Difficulty performing daily tasks
The symptoms above describe what you may happen while you are experiencing traumatic stress. However, if these symptoms continue and/or worsen over the span of two months, it may be possible that you are suffering from PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Intense flashbacks
- Recurring nightmares
- Trauma from sensory triggers
- Constant fear and anxiety
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Fainting/feeling faint
Below are some tips on dealing with traumatic stress and/or post-traumatic stress. Not all of them may be suitable for you so it can be helpful to experiment with a couple and see which one is the most helpful to you.
- Feeling support and being connected with others can help to prevent PTSD
- Try to think about your support system more broadly
- Recognize the power of your thoughts and their impact on your risk of PTSD
- Keep an encouraging mindset. Ask yourself “Is this helpful?”
- Ensure that you are keeping up a healthy diet and exercise routine
- Overthinking about the past not only increases the risk of depression and PTSD but also hampers your ability to benefit from treatment.
- When ruminating starts, stop it and focus your mind on gratitude.
- Accept difficult emotions to create a healthy relationship with your thoughts. It is important to face your fears.
- Make stress reduction a priority
If you find yourself still experiencing the same levels of anxiety and stress after six weeks of trying out the tips above, it may be time to consider getting professional help. Additionally, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, an increasingly challenging time socializing or avoiding more and more traumatic triggers, then it is also a sign that it is time to seek a specialist.
Here are several related Relay articles:
- What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving
- Meditation Resources for Dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Grieving and Self-Care During COVID-19
- Five Tips to Start Your Day Right!