Chapter 2: When grief and trauma come together

Events or circumstances around a death

I've been there
Susan speaks about her first encounter with death and grief as a teenager when her father died.(3:22)Video transcript

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:

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.