What is Traumatic or Complicated Grief?
When you lose someone in a traumatic way such as through suicide, it can often make the bereavement more difficult to cope with than bereavement that happens as a result of other illnesses and this is called Traumatic or Complicated Grief.
Traumatic grief can also happen with any other unexpected loss or when you have witnessed the person suffering before their death.
If you are experiencing traumatic grief, you may experience a range of difficult and distressing feelings. You may have some or all these feelings and they may happen at the same time or at different times. These feelings are normal for the loss you have experienced.
Common feelings associated with traumatic grief are:
- Anger – You might feel angry at the person you lost, at yourself or others around you or with professional services. It can be difficult to cope with these feelings which can feel contradictory to the sadness you feel.
- Loss of meaning – You may find that getting on with any kind of normal life feels meaningless. Seeing other people going about their lives can be difficult to watch.
- Guilt – You may feel guilty about something you think you could have done to prevent the bereavement, you may then blame yourself which can also lead to anger.
- Fear – You may feel frightened and anxious and struggle to sleep. You may not be able to explain why you feel fear and you might feel that the world is a less safe place than it was before.
- Pain – You may feel extremely emotional, have overwhelming or intense feelings such as sadness or be tearful. You may experience physical symptoms of pain such as headaches or ache and pains.
- Flashbacks – You may have upsetting images in your mind about the bereavement by suicide. These might come up in nightmares or dreams or may occur when you are awake when things remind you of the person you have lost such as on TV, sights, smells or sounds.
- Disbelief – You may find it difficult to believe that the person has gone, you may not know all the facts and struggle to accept that this has happened.
- Feeling numb – It may be difficult to express your feelings and you may feel detached from yourself. It may be difficult to recognise how you feel. This can be your brain’s way of trying to protect you from overwhelming thoughts and feelings
It is important to have support for traumatic grief such as when you have been bereaved by suicide. This may be through family, friends and your other support networks and professional support can also be really beneficial.