You Don’t Have to Be a Combat Vet to Experience PTSD

Grief and PTSD go hand in hand.

Most people associate PTSD and its unpredictable symptoms with women or men who have experienced a traumatic event—rape, a car accident, or an attack.

But people also can experience PTSD when someone they love dies unexpectedly. That shock coupled with human emotion, and any underlying guilt or feeling of unfinished business with the deceased, can deeply affect a survivor in a traumatic way.

Traumatic deaths

Earlier this month we posted the “At Home in the Dark” video about how PTSD can affect suicide loss survivors. Charles Shaw, the film series’ creator, narrates the video and explains how he and his mom are still deeply affected by his sister’s suicide. Shaw and his mother experience PTSD as a result of the suicide.

A person who was raped may have vivid flashbacks when he sees a certain car or hears a song. And a person who has lost someone to suicide can experience this type of flashback when the phone rings, or when she hears about another suicide. People who have lost loved ones to suicide also can have bad dreams and feel anxious—like they’re waiting for the event to happen again.

Other traumatic deaths, such as murder, accidental deaths, and sudden deaths, can leave the dead’s survivors with residual PTSD.

How to deal

People with PTSD may not “get over” their loved one’s death, but they can live with the condition.

First and foremost, people experiencing PTSD should take care of their self and grieve. The grieving process doesn’t end; finding ways to respect this feeling and live with it can help someone get through the bad days.

Other treatments to consider include mindful thinking, meditation, medication, attending support groups, or seeking specialized counseling from a therapist who understands grief and PTSD. Possible therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Exposure and Response Prevention. Learn more about some of these therapies here.

The best “treatment,” though, is to remember that this condition is a natural response to a traumatic event. Respect your mind, body, and emotions and give your self room to process and heal.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.