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Grief After Traumatic Loss

Okay, So What is Traumatic Loss?

There’s variation in how traumatic loss is defined in the research, but for our purposes, I think this definition from Wortman & Latack (2015) does the trick:

“A death is considered traumatic if it occurs without warning; if it is untimely; if it involves violence; if there is damage to the loved one’s body; if it was caused by a perpetrator with the intent to harm; if the survivor regards the death as preventable; if the survivor believes that the loved one suffered; or if the survivor regards the death, or manner of death, as unfair and unjust.”

That’s a pretty broad definition, and we should also add circumstances in which the survivor witnessed the death, when their own life was threatened, and when the mourner experiences multiple deaths.

In addition to the nature of the death, other trauma risk factors include:

  • Having to make medical decisions about life support, organ donation, etc

  • Uncertainty about whether the person has died (ex. they are missing; information about their condition has not been disclosed)

  • Media Attention

  • Limited opportunities for social support

  • Being blamed for the death

  • prolonged court proceedings

  • Having a prior history trauma

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