Chapter 2: When grief and trauma come together

Witnessing or surviving

The grief expert says
Roy talks about the 4 parts of anguish: agony, anxiety, anger, and powerlessness. (3:22)Video transcript

I watched as the paramedics tried to save my son, and I felt so helpless that I could not do anything to save him.

If you were present while someone was dying, you may have witnessed disturbing events. You may have felt shocked, upset, or helpless. This can happen if you were at a hospital bedside or if you came across or were involved in an accident. You may continue to revisit the visual images or sounds.

Your memory of what happened may be unclear, or you may now have questions about what happened. You may have regrets about things you did or didn’t say or do.

If your own life was at risk at or after the time when the person died, you may carry feelings of guilt related to your survival.

What may help

  • It’s normal to revisit disturbing events, but it’s important to find ways to limit these thoughts because they can add to your trauma. At the same time, it’s equally important that you don’t completely avoid thinking about what happened.
  • Look to supportive friends and family who can listen to you with patience and compassion. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by thoughts, feelings, or memories, seek help from a trained trauma therapist.