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What is trauma? – The close link with grief


What is trauma? This a question we are asked all of the time, however the truth is trauma can be closely linked with grief and loss, and often very hard to pull apart. So it is helpful to look at both of these, and understand that there are elements in both that overlap the other. 


Grief is a response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which are connected or a bond or affection was formed. It incorporates diverse psychological (cognitive, social-behavioural) and physical (physiological-somatic) manifestations (Stroebe, Hansson, Stroebe & Schut, 2001). Someone grieving will experience distress due to separation, which is a normal response loss, however painful. The grieving person is sometimes preoccupied with their loved one or circumstance that they are grieving, and seek reminders of them. This can be extremely detrimental, and grief left untreated can become ‘complex grief’.  


It is important to understand that we can grieve over the loss of a job, money, family through divorce, friendships, the loss of a pet and many other things.


Understanding that grief can be different for everyone depending on our attachment to the person or situation in our lives, is important and no one person’s grief is the same as another’s. Grief is not simplistic, it can be complex and unrelenting if we do not seek help. 


So how does trauma fit into this? Trauma is defined as any event that is outside of the usual realm of human experience that is markedly distressing. It can evoke reactions of intense fear, helplessness and horror. These traumatic stressors usually involve the perceived threat to one’s physical integrity or to the physical integrity of someone in close proximity (Mitchell & Everly, 2001).


In contrast to a grief response the person that is traumatized can be preoccupied with the scene of the trauma and/or the violent encounter of death, or an experience that could have resulted in death. They wish to avoid reminders of the event; they are hyper-vigilantly aroused and orientated to threat, danger, or the return of a similar threat. There is a great deal of anxiety and the world seems an unsafe place. 


The overlap between both grief and trauma is called traumatic grief and dimensionally captures both responses to the one event.  


Deciding if you need help.


It is important to remember when deciding if you need help, that it does not mean you are weak. People process events, losses and grief very differently. Many factors contribute to person being able to “handle” the stress associated to an event or loss, and the complexity of this can relate to a person’s childhood and previous losses. 


Deciding on getting help is brave. Many people say that getting help was triggered because of general sadness, but we have put together a small list of symptoms you may have that specialists belive are a sign that you need help.


•  Not sleeping

•  Significant change in circumstance 

•  Significant impact on key relationships

•  The use of alcohol or drugs to ‘cope’

•  Inability to attend to everyday matters

•  Not eating or eating too much

•  Mood swings- anger, sadness, uncontrollable crying

•  Flash backs to an event/ death

•  Consistent nightmares

•  Communication breakdown

•  Inability to leave the house/ bed


Our team is dedicated to ensuring you have the right type of care for your individual journey, so please call us so we can help you decide ‘where to’

from here. 

emotional distress

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Out of The Well - By Lisa Eskinazi


A great resource for professionals working with students. Lisa's book talks about her experience of school bullying and the impacts it had on her life.


School yard bullying has effected her mental health and quality of life. Lisa was the first person to sue the Department of Education and win.


Lisa hopes to educate the community about dire impacts bullying has on a person, through her writing.

Warning - This book may adversely effect victims of bullying. The book is very confronting and to be used as an educational tool.