Both grief and trauma have many faces. We can all feel grief at various times throughout our lives. We can lose a loved one, or lose a part of ourselves - a limb. Coping better with both grief and trauma means going through a process, or stages. We'll explore ways to help you through.
This article is one in which I have thought about writing for quite some time yet have postponed it because of the personal nature of the material and the intense feelings connected to it.
Yet, it is time. I feel ready.
The subject is too important to wait any longer to write about it. The recent death of Carrie Fisher and her Mom, Debbie Reynold’s reaction to it, and then her subsequent death a day later, compelled me to write about what it is like for a parent to lose an adult child through death.
Experiencing a miscarriage is a unique type of loss. Unlike other significant losses, it is often experienced in secrecy and isolation. Many couples might not have even shared that they were pregnant, and then feel uncomfortable mentioning that they lost a child, since most couples now wait until twelve weeks before sharing with families and friends, just to make sure that the baby is okay.
Being raped is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to us. Yet being raped in what we may consider our safe place, i.e. our university or college campus, exacerbates the trauma. Most often the person is someone we know and may even like or have dated. As a result, we might feel incredible confusion about the experience, doubting ourselves and our own memory.
Heroin usage and heroin overdoses have become an epidemic on Long Island. Long Island has even been called the “Heroin Highway”. In Nassau County alone there were more than 821 non-fatal heroin and opiate overdoses in 2013, according to the Long Island Herald, of which 119 were fatal. And these numbers have only been increasing.
For many of us who have pets, losing them to death feels as devastating as losing a family member or best friend. People who don’t have pets don’t tend to “get” this, but those who do really understand the profound sense of loss. Our pets are often like a member of our family, so when we lose them, we feel immense grief.
As tragedy follows tragedy in the news, it is apparent that school shootings are increasing in frequency. Whatever we may believe is causing them, it seems that we will see more innocents die before a solution is found.
Grief and loss are not given much attention or respect in our culture – we’re often given three bereavement days, and then expected to go back to work. In contrast, on one South Pacific island they really "get" the grieving process. For one year after the loss, the mourner does not have to work, and the entire community provides food and helps to take care of the children.
We are hyper-connected, yet disassociated. We are always plugged in, but not tuned in to each other. And when a devastating loss happens to us, we don’t always know where to turn: grief is not a great subject for Facebook, and we sometimes have difficulty determining who we can talk to about our loss. We are not encouraged to mourn, making grief even more difficult.
In spite of what many believe, grief and depression are not the same thing. Rather, "ordinary grief", or bereavement, is a temporary reaction to loss that may, or may not, require therapy. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a psychological disorder that almost always necessitates treatment.