Adult Grief After a Traumatic Death

opportunity to share stories and memories that are tied to those images or special items. Consider their Needs When suddenly faced with a violent death, most people feel an urgent need to “do something.” This is a normal reaction to a

traumatic event. The first way you can help is by considering the specific needs of those closest to the person killed. If you are a close friend or family member, by all means go to the hospital or to the home if they are ready for visits. Otherwise, a personal note may be more appropriate. Most families facing a crisis only want to be with those who are very close.

Consider the needs of those closest to the victim.

Notes can be read again and again and become a treasured source of support. You can say things in a note that you may not be able to say in person. Most important, the person receiving the note doesn’t have to respond unless he or she wishes. You may choose to make personal contact later. When you write or visit with family members, accept them as they are. It is too early to feel better. “I’m so sorry” followed by a touch or a hug can mean a great deal to people. Avoid phrases such as: “I know how you feel,” “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “It was God’s will.” Also avoid using phrases that begin with “At least…” or “You’re lucky that...”. These phrases discount a victim/ survivor’s pain and grief. Victims/survivors may reach these conclusions on their own, sometimes early, sometimes after months or years. How they assess meaning to what happened will be part of their healing journey. Probing for details is not appropriate, but simply inviting them to tell you what happened opens the door for them to

disclose as much or as little as they choose. Listening attentively is the most helpful. Simply accept whatever is expressed and respond with words such as “I can’t begin to understand how difficult this must be for you,” or “I would do anything to be able to take away your pain, but I know I can’t.”

Sometimes simply listening can be the most helpful.


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