October 5, 2022

How To Deal With Trauma And Grief?

Trauma can be defined as a psychological, emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. 

The element of trauma can refer to many serious situations such as sudden death or losing someone we loved, murdered or violence, chronic illness or injury, accidental or natural disaster, losing a job or property. People who experience traumatic events will likely develop PTSD. But it doesn’t mean that everyone will experience the same.

Grief is a natural and necessary response at a time of loss. Grief is about how a person feels inside, thinks, and reacts to the situation after facing or experiencing a traumatic event, losing something or someone important to us. 

Mourning is the outer part of the expression of our grief. It can be in many forms like crying, sharing or expressing their pain with others, writing stories, and certain rituals that a person chose to maintain based on their culture. Eventually, it will help a person to heal and set back to normal or rather create a new life. 

Common symptoms of trauma and grief: 

  • Frequent crying, 
  • Feeling sad, lonely, isolated or withdrawal
  • Shock, denial, or feeling numb
  • Physiological symptoms like sleep difficulties, loss of appetite, body ache or pain, headache, and fatigue.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Lack of self-esteem or confident
  • Confuse or difficulty concentration
  • Irritability, anger, guilt, hopelessness, blame
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Increased alcohol, smoking, or drug use. 

All these reactions to grief are common and you may experience different emotions and reactions at different times.

 Grieving process

Grief is not an illness or to be ashamed of, nor it is a sign of emotional weakness. But grieving helps the person to heal from the inside and helps to improve physical health, sleep, appetite, and thought processes. 

The way people grief varies greatly between individuals, cultures, and situations. There is no time set and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is a highly individual experience. Healing happens gradually, some people take time to heal and may start to feel better in weeks, months, and years. It is ok until they can function well in their daily lives, especially in emotional and physical well-being. 

Acute grief: For several months after the loss of a loved one, a person may experience symptoms of shock, distress, poor appetite, sleep trouble, and sadness. These symptoms will slowly diminish and begin to resolve naturally with the passage of time. 

Complicated grief: A person with complicated grief may become ashamed of their grief, and wonder why they haven’t managed to recover. Other times, they feel that enjoying their life, or overcoming grief, is a betrayal to the deceased.

Integrated grief: After resolving the most intense symptoms of acute and complicated grief. A person has come to accept the reality of the loss and learns to cope and starts to resume daily life activities. But this does not mean that they have completely forgotten or do not miss them anymore. 

Stages of grief: 

According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Model, there are 5 stages of grief based on her studies and each stage represents a common emotional response to a significant loss. The stages do not necessarily occur in order and not everyone will experience every stage. 

  1. Denial: The reality of the loss is questioned. Example: This can’t be a suicide but it is murder.
  2. Anger: At this stage, some people might cast blame. Example: Why was I not chosen and left for? Who shall I blame..myself or others?
  3. Bargaining: Some may attempt to bargain as a way to avoid the cause of grief. Example: I will not let this happen to me again, in order to pass the exam, I will study hard and give my 100% effort.
  4. Depression: At this fourth stage, some may lose motivation, feel low, lose interest, become socially withdrawn, and enter mourning. Example: I feel sad all the time and cannot focus on anything.
  5. Acceptance: In the last stage, a person may learn to accept the actual fact, even though he/she is still in pain and gradually look forward to finding the meaning of life.

Types of grief and loss:

Grief can be expressed in various ways such as physical, behavioral, social, and emotional. There are 9 types of grief and loss:

  1. Anticipatory grief: The individual who is the caregiver to an ill person may start grieving before the actual ill person passes away as their illness begins to deteriorate. They might start feeling empty and lost towards the particular person. This may make them feel guilty or confused as to how they feel and think about the person who is still alive.  
  2. Normal grief: There is no proper definition for normal grief, but normally it is defined as the “ability to move towards acceptance of the loss”. Gradually their intensity of emotions will decrease and they will be able to function in their daily activities.
  3. Delayed grief: It is when a person may not immediately react or express their pain to any loss or death, but after some time, they may start to express or realize and get emotionally disturbed.
  4. Complicated grief: It refers to normal grief that becomes severe with the longevity of time and becomes dysfunctional in emotional, occupational, and social areas. The signs when some are in chronic grief may experience such self-harm or suicide thought, guilt feelings, irritability or aggressiveness, fear, and behavioral changes.  
  5. Cumulative grief: It happens with the individual who has experienced multiple losses within a short period of time. It complicates their life as they experience one incident after the other, even before they get the chance to completely grieve on one loss. 
  6. Masked grief: Individuals may experience certain behavioral changes and physiological symptoms but they are unable to understand that these behaviors or physical symptoms are connected to a loss. 
  7. Distorted grief: A person with distorted grief may have extreme feelings of guilt, anger, behavioral changes, hostility, and self-destructive behaviors, and these symptoms are very much visible to other people. 
  8. Exaggerated grief: The intensity of a person’s grief may increase day by day and become worse as time passes on. A person may end up using drugs or substances, develop psychiatric disorders, insomnia, nightmares, and fear.
  9. Inhibited grief: Here, individuals may not outwardly show or express their feeling, and emotions to others. They may likely keep their grief inside for themselves. When someone doesn’t allow themselves to grieve properly, psychological problems may arise. 
Tips for coping with traumatic grief:
  1. Take your time: According to Dr. Wolfelt, “Grief is not something you can do all at once. Feeling so many feelings often leads to feeling overwhelmed. Instead, take in ‘doses’ of grief and mourn in bits and pieces.” The way we all deal with our grief is different for everyone. Individuals should not rush, it is absolutely ok to take your own time to heal and learn not to be judgmental about your feelings or thoughts in those situations. 
  2. Be kind to yourself: Grief can be hard and painful, in the process of grieving a person might tend to forget or neglect to look after themselves in terms of day-to-day life. Practicing self-care for yourself with compassion will be beneficial for someone who is grieving.
  3. Find ways to express yourself: There are different ways to explore and express our feelings. It can be through talking to someone, journaling, art or painting, traveling, and so on. Unable to express your pain and suppress it can also lead to complications such as PTSD, substance misuse, depression, anxiety, and other physical issues.
  4. Try to maintain your hobbies and interests: Doing what you like and what makes you happy can help you to cope with grief. 
  5. Allow yourself to feel anything: Let yourself feel anything without judgment or embarrassment. You can feel sad, cry or not cry, angry, blame, happy, fear…it’s ok to feel all of these. Do not allow anyone to tell you how to feel and when to move on. 
  6. Flashback: Any related memories or situation can trigger a person and can become suddenly emotional, but accept that it’s completely normal. The more experience you face, the stronger you become if you can handle the situations with positivity. 
  7. Try to maintain your daily routine: When you stay physically healthy, you can be able to cope emotionally. You need to get enough sleep, eat well, talk to people and don’t stay alone for weeks or months, take bath, go out and exercise. Avoid unhealthy food such as alcohol or other drugs just to cope with your grief or lift your mood artificially. 
  8. Try to stay positive: During your grief process, you may have to deal with different people around you. People who haven’t experienced a similar loss, may not understand or feel you and they may end up saying or doing the wrong things. You need not understand them, but learn to stay positive and focus on yourself.
  9. Join a support group: Sometimes you may feel lonely and isolated, even when you have loved ones around. Try sharing your sorrow with people who have experienced similar losses or people who are helping others with a group of members to support people in need.
  10.  Seek mental health professional’s help: When you cannot handle your own and nothing is helping you out anymore. If your pain feels too much to bear, it is the right time to seek help. They can help you work through your emotions, cope better with your grieving, and to move on with positivity. 

Conclusion: Grief can never be as easy as we think. It is important to note that when we lose someone or something, it can take time for a person to adjust and learn to live their life in the absence of a loved one. With @ school, now it is available for screening individuals and tools to guide in understanding your concerns regarding your mental health. 

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