Across the world, approximately 120 people die each minute. The causes of these deaths are diverse. From lengthy battles with illnesses and natural causes to freak accidents and drug overdoses, there is no denying how difficult it is to lose a loved one. However, it is often an expected loss when it comes to long-term illnesses or the death of an elderly loved one. While this does not detract from the pain of the loss, it is less likely to lead to shock than suffering the unexpected loss of a loved one. In cases where death comes suddenly, it is a highly traumatic experience for the loved ones left behind. To cope with the loss and regain a sense of normalcy after such a traumatic event, many require professional help. The method used in these situations is known as traumatic grief therapy.
What Is Traumatic Grief Therapy?
Grief is a natural and expected response that humans experience due to losing someone or something that means a lot to them. Although it is often associated with the death of a person, grief can be experienced as a response to losing a pet, a divorce, pregnancy loss, a job, or any other significant situation that causes a feeling of loss. This overwhelming feeling of sadness and suffering is difficult to navigate, but it is essential to learn how to cope with these feelings in a healthy way.
In scenarios where a loved one was lost in a tragic or unexpected manner, grief can be all-consuming and prevent you from living your life. Many situations can be considered traumatic, but traumatic grief is typically associated with deaths involving homicides, suicides, overdoses, or fatal accidents. These losses are often compounded by matters like the loved one finding the deceased person, witnessing the death, or otherwise being directly involved in the situation. This creates a trauma response in the surviving loved one that needs to be addressed and treated in a delicate manner to help the individual stop suffering and move forward.
Traumatic grief therapy is a combination of tactics used by mental health professionals to treat those struggling with a traumatic loss. Unlike traditional counseling or therapy methods that address grief, these techniques focus on stabilizing and processing the trauma before the grief itself is addressed and worked through. If you are struggling with a traumatic loss and need grief therapy to take control of your life again, reach out to Olympus Recovery today to learn how we can help.
Grief Therapy Techniques
As with all types of therapy, grief therapy must be catered to each individual. Because grief and trauma are unique experiences, they can affect people differently. For example, one person may struggle with flashbacks after losing a loved one in an accident that they survived. Another person may instead feel guilty for surviving to the point that it affects their daily lives. In either scenario, the trauma will remain at the forefront of grief therapy in the beginning. The intent is to stabilize the trauma so that the individual can feel safe and relaxed again. Without having this basic need met, it is difficult to progress any further.
Once the person is stable and able to manage their trauma symptoms, they will work to understand and process why they reacted the way they did. In turn, they will work diligently with a therapist to learn healthy coping skills. This is crucial, as many who have experienced trauma tend to develop unhealthy habits to numb emotional suffering. If coping skills are not developed, it can lead to additional problems like addiction, suicidal ideations, depression, and a host of other consequences.
Some of the most common techniques used in grief therapy include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy — CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, is a method used by therapists to help patients take control of their thought patterns. The belief is that by teaching the patient to identify negative thoughts, they can re-direct them before they impact the person’s emotions or behaviors. While this sounds fairly simple, it can be difficult to do. In efforts to replace these negative thought patterns with more productive ones, therapists encourage patients to set goals, use coping methods such as relaxation techniques, or keep a journal to help express and identify thoughts and emotions.
- Interpersonal therapy — Known as IPT, interpersonal therapy is most commonly used to treat conditions like depression and anxiety but is also included in grief therapy. The treatment typically includes several sessions where a therapist focuses deeply on the patient’s personal life and relationships. This is because there is a connection between the quality of relationships with others in a person’s life and their mental health. By identifying existing problems within these current relationships or the loss of these relationships, the hope is that new coping skills and interactions can be learned to reduce associated negative symptoms.
- Acceptance and commitment therapy — One of the most difficult aspects when it comes to losing a loved one is learning to accept the loss. Regardless of how the loss occurred, unfortunately, the circumstances cannot be changed. This is the mantra of ACT, or acceptance and commitment therapy. Instead of reliving the past, ACT encourages the patient to live in the moment and accept feelings and thoughts as they come and then let them go. This is achieved by teaching the patient a variety of techniques and coping skills throughout various sessions.
A grief therapy expert will determine which of these methods (and perhaps others) are suitable for their patients. After the initial trauma has been treated and is under control, the grief therapy expert will continue to work with the patient to identify, understand and process the grief in a healthy manner. It is also important to note that no two situations and people are identical. One person may require different methods of treatment for mental disorders to reach the same level as another patient.
Efficacy of Traumatic Grief Therapy
It is important to understand the effect that untreated traumatic grief can have on a person suffering from it. In many cases, these individuals develop mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or substance abuse disorders in relation to the trauma experienced. Through traumatic grief therapy, including a mix of cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, studies have found that 51% of participants responded to the treatment. When compared to the 28% response rate without these methods, it is easy to see the importance of incorporating specific traumatic grief therapy techniques into a patient’s treatment plan.
Reach Out to a Traumatic Grief Therapy Expert Today
Losing a loved one is always a difficult experience. Unfortunately, losing them in a traumatic way can make an already tough situation even more complicated to navigate. By working with a trained expert in grief therapy, this trauma can be addressed so that you can move forward with your life. Contact Olympus Recovery online or by calling (866) 305-7134 today.