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GriefSpeak: Work through Trauma, PTSD with a professional – Mari Nardolillo Dias

By: Mari Nardolillo Dias

The term “trauma” is often used in thanatology (study of death and dying). Deaths are often categorized as “traumatic” if caused or associated with homicide or suicide, accidental or sudden/unexpected. Thus, the loss may be defined as traumatic loss, and grievers may be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the past, the term PTSD was associated primarily with war and its aftereffects. We now know that PTSD can be associated with any traumatic experience.

According to trauma specialists in the field of psychotherapy, trauma is not what happened, but how we respond to it (Bessel van der Kolk). We may also assume that responses to trauma are varied depending on the person. Not everyone who experiences the same incident reacts in the same way. Indeed, trauma can cause changes to our brains, but reread this statement. If trauma is NOT what occurred, but rather how we respond to it, then we can logically create a syllogism where “C” is we can change/fix/accommodate it.

There are several methods that trauma-informed therapists use to work through the trauma. It is not designed to erase the incident or experience, but rather remember the incident without re-experiencing the emotions we associate with it. Some of these methods include complicated grief disorder protocol (see the works of Kathy Shear); eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (see the works of Francine Shapiro); and havening (see the works of Ronald A. Ruden).

If you experienced an event that includes:

  • A serious accident or fire;
  • A physical or sexual assault or abuse;
  • A natural disaster including earthquakes, floods or war;
  • Seeing someone be killed or seriously injured;
  • Having a loved one die suddenly;


  • You have experienced 3 of the following symptoms in the last month:
  • Nightmares or thoughts about the events when you did not want to;
  • Tried hard not to think about the events or went out of your way to avoid situations that reminded you of the event;
  • Being constantly on guard, watchful or easily startled;
  • Felt numb or detached from people, activities or your surroundings;
  • Felt guilty or unable to stop blaming yourself or others for the events or problems the events may have caused;

Again, if you answered yes to 3 of the 5 questions, PTSD is POSSIBLE and needs further evaluation (PC-PTSD5, PTSD Consult).

Trauma is an adjective that precedes types of both death and grief/loss. It is essential to understand that trauma is your reaction to the incident, and that there are several successful methods to assist in ameliorating your pain. If this article strikes you, find yourself checking off 3 or more statements on the PC-PTSD5, know there is help for your pain. Please reach out to a trauma specialist and together work through the traumatic experience(s). It is a gift for you to move on and forward.

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