How do you know if you are suffering from grief and loss vs. trauma vs. traumatic stress?
- Grief can exist without trauma
- Trauma will also involve grief reactions from the loss suffered in the traumatic event
- You can work through grief –symptoms are not linear
- You process trauma—to do so the narrative must be linear.
Sadness vs. Terror
- “Sadness” is the word best used to define the experience of grief.
- “Sheer terror” is the best phrase to define the experience of trauma.
- Grief can stand by itself---one can feel sad without feeling unsafe or terrorized.
- When a person is traumatized the terror overpowers any grief reactions.
- The victim needs to become a survivor first by processing the trauma then grief can emerge.
- Sadness usually turns inward and weakens the person; therefore grief is not energizing or motivating.
- The terror of trauma usually renders a person powerless.
- Powerlessness turns into anger
- Anger is motivating- either in a positive way or a negative way.
- Trauma victims need to regain the sense of power taken from them by their trauma experience in order to become survivors themselves.
- Victim→ Survivor→ Thriver
- In grief the dreamer is usually dreaming about the deceased.
- In trauma nightmares, the dreamer, or someone else, is in harm’s way (being shot at, chased etc.)
- Grief is usually associated with “I wish I…”
- The core of guilt in grief is sadness
- Trauma guilt is often survivor guilt.
- Survivors may feel powerless “I could have prevented it if …”
- It is easier for people to feel guilty (feeling that you have done something wrong) than to feel powerless
With thanks to Sheli Bernstein-Goff , Certified Traumatolgist
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