After experiencing a traumatic death, someone who survived may suffer what is referred to as traumatic bereavement, traumatic loss, or complicated grief, which are marked by lasting symptoms of both grief and trauma. The type of deaths most apt to trigger traumatic bereavement would be suicides, homicides, accidents, disasters and military combat. Sudden traumatic deaths, according to 2012 stats from the National Vital Statistics Report, are the most common type of death for those in all age groups falling under 44 years of age. For example, people 15 to 19 years of age are about 8 times more apt to perish in an accident and 6 times more apt to be the victim of a homicide or commit suicide, than die from cancer, which is the most common cause of a natural death among those in this age group.
For a death to be considered traumatic it must occur without any warning; if it was a violent death; if it was unexpected; if the survivors thought the death could have been prevented; if the loved one’s body was damaged; if the survivor thought their loved one suffered; if a perpetrator caused the death with intent to harm; or if the survivor thinks the manner of death was unjust or unfair. Other types of deaths considered traumatic would include deaths witnessed by the survivor; those in which the survivor was dealing with multiple deaths; and deaths in which the survivor had their own life threatened.
As when a natural death occurs, survivors usually have feelings of emptiness and sadness that you would typically regard as grief. They most likely will experience a yearning for the loved one they lost and feel like they lost a part of themselves as well. In cases of complicated grief or traumatic loss, the symptoms of grief are on top of the trauma symptoms. Because of the devastating impact of an unexpected traumatic loss, it often causes sleep problems, flashbacks and problems with concentration, which are all symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Therefore, survivors of a traumatic loss must deal with both their grief and mourning while coping with the terrible trauma they were confronted with at being informed of the death. What follows for survivors of a traumatic loss are symptoms that are far more extreme and have longer duration than what one deals with after a natural death. In fact, it is quite often that survivors struggle with the aftermath of the traumatic loss for many years, even the rest of their lives.
Those surviving traumatic deaths face a whole host of painful issues that typically do not occur after a natural death. They’re not only dealing with the tragic and sudden death of someone they loved, but their most fundamental life assumptions were shattered. These assumptions would include the idea that the world is controllable and predictable, that things happen as a result of justice and a sense of fairness; that we’re safe and secure; and that for the most part, people are trustworthy.
Survivors of traumatic loss commonly have problems accepting the death and this can delay the mourning process. Most people dealing with traumatic loss find that they try to make sense of it all, or somehow find meaning in the death of their loved one. When the survivors search and cannot find any meaning for this loss, their grieving process is far more painful as opposed to those survivors who do find some meaning in their loved one’s death.
Healthcare practitioners as well as ordinary people commonly believe that being spiritual or having religious beliefs help in coping with loss. When you believe that your loved one is now in a better place or that one day you will be reunited with your loved one does provide a measure of solace. On the other hand, it often happens that survivors begin to question their faith, and some even lose it altogether.
Quite a lot people who survive a traumatic loss find they have extreme feelings of guilt. This occurs even when they bare no fault whatsoever. Most continually ruminate over whether their lost love one suffered at all when they died. Did they know they were facing death? Were they terribly afraid or filled with terror? These types of ruminations are most commonly experienced following violent deaths or those involving damage to the body of their loved one.
If you are in need of effective treatment for trauma and complicated grief, please give us a call to schedule an appointment today.