Chapter 2: When grief and trauma come together

Differences in trauma responses

I've been there
Joanna speaks about how her anger has changed over time and the need to be compassionate with oneself.(3:22)Video transcript
Susan speaks about how her grief made her "spring into action" as a way to cope.(3:22)Video transcript

At first, I really didn’t feel anything, and I thought other people were overreacting or being melodramatic.

Every time I went by the street where my son was killed, my heart would start to pound.

How you respond to trauma depends on a number of factors, including the support you have prior to and at the time of the death, as well as previous exposure to trauma and death. Your personality and coping skills may also impact how your respond. For these reasons, your response may have aspects unique to you while sharing some that are similar to those of other people.

Not only can responses to trauma vary from person to person, but they can also change over time. For example, a person might initially feel overwhelmed and unable to function as they usually do, but gradually come to terms with their experience and be able to resume activities and responsibilities. Another person might witness the same event and experience overwhelming thoughts and feelings that don’t lessen over time, making it difficult for them to interact with the outside world as they once did. Everyone’s experience and response to trauma is individual.

Some examples of changes you might notice include:

These changes may be temporary, or they may linger for an extended period of time. If you have experienced trauma in the past, your earlier responses may reappear and complicate your current situation. The next section is intended to help you decide if you need professional support.