Chapter 2: When grief and trauma come together
Events or circumstances around a death
When my husband’s body was finally found, they wouldn’t tell me much because they said the investigation was ongoing. I had so many questions. I kept imagining what his death was like.
Sometimes trauma is the result of how events or circumstances surrounding a death are experienced and interpreted. These may have occurred before the person died, while they were dying, or after they had died, but in general, they tend to be distressing and disturbing. Some examples include the following:
Surviving or witnessing an event where someone died.
Finding the body of the person who died.
Returning home to find medical equipment, police tape, or blood.
Witnessing distressing events while someone was dying.
Hearing or seeing disturbing actions taken by healthcare providers or others.
Receiving information that was upsetting or insensitive.
Having your own life put at risk at or after the time of the person’s death.
The impact of such situations can be significant. Even if you were expecting the person’s death, the actual events at that time can be unexpected or shocking. You may feel that you weren’t truly prepared, or you may have questions or regrets about what happened. Multiple layers of trauma, depending on the circumstances of the death, can sometimes gather and create a “snowball” effect.
Other circumstances can also contribute to a trauma response. These are discussed in the following pages, along with suggestions to help you manage difficulties. Keep in mind that if you are struggling over an extended period of time or feel “stuck,” it will be important for you to seek help from a therapist with trauma training.