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Outline for Grief, Trauma and Recovery Sessions

What is trauma?

Examples: homicide, rape, natural disaster, terrorist attack,

Definitions from various sources:

American Psychological Association Definition:

Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event…[in our cases murder]… Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.

Another definition:

A trauma is an extreme distressing event, outside the range of usual human experience that threatens our survival, and confronts us with the terror of our own vulnerability, fragility and mortality…

And an alternative:

Trauma is an extraordinary, overwhelming event that threatens our life or the lives of others for which we lack the appropriate resources to cope…

–for survivors it threatens your emotional, social, spiritual lives…

The many ways we experience trauma.  Losing a loved one to murder is so overwhelming …it knocks us off our feet… A trauma like murder shatters our sense of safety and security, the meaningfulness, fairness, and justice of life and our feeling that we can control what happens to us….

  1. Emotionally
    1. extreme sadness
    2. guilt – or need to blame/self or others
    3. anger/rage
    4. embarrassed
    5. depressed
    6. shock/confusion
    7. fear/dread – sense of doom/feel might happen again
    8. anxiety (separation)
    9. panic
    10. denial – unreal/surreal
    11. helplessness
    12. on-edge
  2. Socially
    1. avoidance
    2. alienation – people have difficulty facing you because you are living their worst nightmare
    3. difficulties with strained relationships – couples grieve differently
    4. overly sensitive
    5. hyperactive – I developed an anxious reaction…talking a lot…reach out to others who lost a loved one murder.
  3. Spiritually
    1. stronger faith
    2. no longer believe
    3. angry with God
    4. change in faith
  4. Behaviourally
    1. needing to talk incessantly about your murdered loved-one…I brought my daughter’s name into every conversation for fear of others forgetting her.
    2. distracted while driving …my kids said “mom you just went through another red light”
    3. avoiding talking about your lost loved one so others are not uncomfortable
    4. alcohol or drugs use
  5. Physically
    1. fatigue
    2. aches and pains
    3. choking on nothing
    4. vertigo
    5. change in appetite – I gained 45 lbs
  6. Cognitively
    1. difficulty concentration
    2. feel you’re going crazy
    3. surreal feeling-unreal
    4. hallucinations of the deceased
    5. being distracted
    6. feelings of self-harm or suicide
    7. intrusive thoughts of how your loved one was killed
    8. wanting to numb out pain

What is complicated grief?

What is mourning?

Short vs. Long term impact

Does everyone meet criteria for a Diagnosis of PTSD or Depression?