Chapter 3: Challenges you may face

Lack of support

I've been there
Susan speaks about the solace she found in connecting with other mothers whose children had died through gun violence.(3:22)Video transcript

I wanted to talk about what had happened, but I felt ashamed, and I didn’t want to expose others to what I had seen and heard.

Sometimes I feel like I want to share my story but when people learn that I was there that day, it feels like there is a shift in how they see me and treat me. They either don’t know what to say and change the subject – or they ask way too many questions. I really just want someone to listen.

Some traumatic experiences carry a sense of the “unspeakable.” Examples include witnessing a horrific incident, deaths by homicide or suicide, substance-related deaths, or deaths that involved sexual or other violence. These experiences are often accompanied by stigma, embarrassment, or revulsion. You may feel hesitant to speak about what has happened for fear of traumatizing others.

Friends may be unsure whether or not to raise the subject, or they may not feel capable of hearing about your experience. Some people may suggest that you not think about the death; others may make statements or comments that imply blame. If you feel that other people don’t want to hear about your experience, or are judging or criticizing you, this can heighten any feelings of guilt, blame, or isolation that you may have and lead you to withdraw from social interactions at a time when you need support.

What may help

  • Regardless of other people’s opinions, remember that avoiding thoughts and feelings about your experience will hinder rather than help your grief.
  • If you’re concerned that sharing with friends or family will be “too much,” reach out for support elsewhere. You may also find online resources to be helpful. Particularly if your own coping abilities have been overwhelmed by trauma, you will need support from a professional counsellor who is trained in trauma and grief.