Chapter 2: When grief and trauma come together

What may help

I've been there
Marc speaks about how hearing from others about their grief helped him, and how his own grief changed from day to day. (3:22)Video transcript

Before the accident, I didn’t have a lot of anxiety. But for a long time afterwards, if I couldn’t get hold of a family member, I would freak out and get hysterical, crying and being very anxious. I wasn’t able to function until I knew where they were. It's better now, but that is still a trigger for me.

If your trauma response is significantly interfering with your life, you will most likely need professional support from a therapist or counsellor who is trained in trauma work. Hoping that things will get better without seeking this support is likely to extend your distress and disrupt your grief. You may need to address your trauma response first, or you might need to move between it and your grief.

If you’re not sure that your experience was “traumatic,” consider seeking help from a professional with training and experience in trauma and grief. They can help you to understand and manage difficulties you are having. By reaching out for help, you can work to reduce your distress more quickly and find ways to engage more fully with your life.

You may find that naming your experiences and using self-assurances can also help. For example:

“That was a flashback. I am safe now.” 

“This is my grief surfacing. I recognize the waves.”

“These are my grief [or trauma] responses. They are normal.” 

You may also want to find a safe and supportive place where you can tell and retell your story in your own way and time, such as a professionally supervised peer-support group with others who have experienced a similar loss.