What is trauma
Grief and loss may trigger a traumatic reaction. Trauma is a result of either direct or indirect exposure to a frightening and overwhelming event; where the person is unable to process the event or give meaning to it. This may include a person experiencing a death as violent and horrific, outside the norm and/or they witnessed the death. Some examples of this includes, an unexpected or sudden death such as suicide, death of a child, of a partner, a murder, a natural disaster or if the death is seen as preventable.
The body’s natural reaction to trauma is to trigger a survival response in the brain – ‘flight/fight or freeze’ reaction. This system is designed to protect us from a potential threat from harm, as we no longer feel safe. Everyone’s response is different and people will usually just react, rather than having time to think about it. For example, people may notice in ‘fight’ mode, they yell and scream and possibly become physically aggressive. If people default to ‘flight’ mode, they may try to escape or avoid the situation. If people default to ‘freeze’ mode, they may go blank or have an inability to make decisions.
If you have been through a traumatic event, as a result of loss or grief and would find it helpful to to speak with someone please call GriefLine. We have trained skilled volunteers who are ready to listen and work with you to unpack what is happening for you during this time.
What are the signs of trauma
Given everyone experiences trauma differently, below are some signs and symptoms of trauma:
- Low mood
- Feelings of anxiety
- Fear of losing control
- Not able to make any sense of what has occurred
- Loss of motivation and interest in the outside world
- Crying and sobbing at unexpected times or places and not knowing why.
These are all normal human responses to a traumatic experience and everyone’s reaction to grief, loss and/or trauma is completely individual.
Working with trauma
When a person experiences a trauma, there may be many confusing emotions and thoughts, or there may be an absence of thoughts and emotions or even a numbness associated with the experience/s. Central to the experience of trauma is that none of it makes sense at the time nor for some time following the event. As a result of this, there may be feelings of confusion, disbelief, despair, low mood, anxiety, fear of losing control, panic, helplessness, guilt, loss of motivation and interest in the outside world, amongst other responses. You may find yourself crying and sobbing at unexpected times or places and not know why. These are all normal human responses to a traumatic experience and everyone’s experience of grief, loss and/or trauma is completely individual.
Some people find that they are able to work through their traumatic experience with a trusted friend/s or family members who understand, or have lived experience. Others may find formal psychological support such as a Counsellor or Psychologist useful in working through what has occurred. Whatever your choice, make sure it is a good fit for you. If not, give yourself permission to look around further, until you find the right support, where you feel heard and understood to work through your trauma experience.
You may find it useful to access the Griefline helpline service. Our volunteers are trained in relation to your experience of grief and loss and are ready to talk with you.
During this time, it is also important that you look after yourself. Following the EAST approach, may be helpful. Click through on the link below.