My Grief Care

Grief & Mental Health

5 Episodes

Episode 3 : How Trauma Affects Your Grief


Episode Notes

Trauma & Grief

When a grieving person has been moderately or severely traumatized related to a loved one’s death, they sometimes experience post-traumatic symptoms.

Let’s define trauma. To keep it simple for our purposes here, try to think of trauma as An event, or series of events, that causes you to experience physical and/or psychological pain.

In other words, any painful experience could be considered traumatic. But, most minor traumas will not result in having post-traumatic symptoms. If you have some trauma-related symptoms, that does not necessarily mean that you should be diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is a specific and often severely impairing mental disorder.

Sometimes people can experience post-traumatic symptoms in addition to the many other natural and common symptoms they experience when grieving.

Let’s take a moment to consider what some post-traumatic symptoms might be. You might find that you are:

  •   Easily startled or frightened
  •   Highly vigilant about perceiving danger
  •   Having intrusive, unwanted thoughts or images
  •   Experiencing flashbacks of traumatic scenes
  •   Experiencing nightmares
  •   Feeling an exaggerated sense of guilt

Most deaths, fortunately, aren’t greatly traumatizing – though undoubtedly, some are.

Suppose your loved one died in a severely traumatic fashion, whether or not you were present. In that case, the impact of the trauma could have lasting post-traumatic symptoms, which can be very debilitating over time.

If you have such impairing symptoms, I recommend that you reach out soon to see a mental health professional (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, or other licensed therapist) to debrief with you and perhaps provide some early intervention.

The early professional intervention of this type may reduce the severity and length of time you experience trauma symptoms. And addressing a severely traumatic event early on may also aid your overall grieving experience.

If your trauma symptoms are not severe nor impairing to you, you may find that they will fade in time as you adjust and heal from your loss.

I have personally found with my clients that trauma responses sometimes remain – even after thoroughly processing their grief. So I treat their trauma symptoms separately. I use the EMDR method (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming). That’s quite a mouthful, so we just call it EMDR most of the time!! EMDR treatment has proven to be reliable and very helpful for my clients.

If you seem to be healing from your loss but still find yourself struggling with post-traumatic symptoms, there is a good chance that a well-trained and experienced EMDR therapist can help you overcome those symptoms. I know from personal experience that such treatment can be really helpful.


  •   Traumatic experiences that accompany the loss of a loved one are not uncommon
  •   Post-traumatic symptoms are also not uncommon and may require additional professional help beyond grieving the loss
  •   Experiencing post-traumatic symptoms does not necessarily mean that you should be diagnosed with PTSD.
  •   If you are concerned about your mental and emotional health for any reason, it is a good idea to seek professional help.


Spend at least a few minutes of your time reviewing your recent experience. Do any of the trauma symptoms or experiences I shared with you sound familiar? If you have trauma symptoms, are you distressed by these symptoms and want to overcome them?  If so, consider reaching out to a mental health professional to address your experience.


Our minds are wonderful creations that allow us to feel passion, joy, wonder, and experience beauty. Our minds can also torment us with painful memories, unresolved issues, and rob us of peace and joy. There are gifted healers who can help you with the hell your mind sometimes retains or creates. Asking for help is a sign of health – not weakness.