Coping with Trauma and Loss

The unexpected, sudden, untimely and utterly devastating loss of a loved one is an experience that has a profound effect on the whole of your being, affecting how you think, feel about life, and how you continue to be in the face of such loss. Bereaved people and especially traumatically bereaved people go through a deep personal change that taps into all dimensions of their being.

When a traumatic loss happens the first thing to happen is the embodied reaction. The physical dimension of traumatic loss evokes a powerful bodily reaction which is completely normal. The body reacts by throwing the bereaved person into a state of arresting and paralysing shock, characterised by an intense feeling of disbelief and general numbness. Often people bereaved traumatically describe shaking, trembling, feeling numb, vomiting, crying uncontrollably, screaming, sitting stunned, silent, not feeling anything for ages, not crying but feeling a paralysing shock. All embodied reactions to sudden loss are normal.

The mind experiences a cognitive arrest, where the person bereaved does not feel that he/she knows how to be, what to say, what to think, and how to make sense of the new state of life. The overwhelming shock at the reality of the loss is imbued with a disorientating sense of being empty, blank and feeling alienated and inconsolable.

Many people suffering such a trauma, feel frightened by the intensity of their embodied response and get stuck in modes which are about pushing the anxiety of such pain away and down.

This doesn’t help. It builds and eventually pours out in other psychological disturbance.

If you are navigating such trauma – take pause, stock and get talking with someone who is prepared to listen. It’s vital you don’t expect yourself to go through this alone.


Published by

Dr Chloe

Dr Chloe Paidoussis Mitchell is a grief and trauma psychologist working in the UK today, an innovator in digital mental health technologies. She teaches, writes, supervises and works with clients form all over the world to help them adjust to traumatic life events. Most recently she was appointed as the clinical lead for the Minds for Life "Overcoming Grief" app and has developed strong expertise in delivering digital mental health apps.

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