Trauma is extreme stress that swamps a person’s capacity to cope leaving those affected by it unable to function normally. It is a subjective experience in that it is unique to the person experiencing it.
It can be a reaction to a one-time significant event or can be a reaction to repetitive events such as ongoing abuse. Trauma is defined by the experience of the person and it is possible for two people to react in different ways to the same event.
Some of the physical reactions associated with trauma are
- aches and pains such as headaches, backaches, stomach aches
- sudden sweating and/or heart palpitations
- changes in sleep patterns, appetite, and interest in sex
- constipation or diarrhea
- easily startled by noises or unexpected touch
- more susceptible to colds and illnesses
- increased use of alcohol or drugs and/or overeating
Some of the emotional reactions associated with trauma are
- shock and disbelief
- fear and/or anxiety
- grief, disorientation, denial
- hyper-alertness or hypervigilance
- irritability, restlessness, outbursts of anger or rage
- emotional swings — like crying and then laughing
- flashbacks — feeling like the trauma is happening now
- feelings of helplessness, panic, feeling out of control
- increased need to control everyday experiences
- attempts to avoid anything associated with trauma
- a tendency to isolate oneself
- feelings of detachment
- emotional numbing or restricted range of feelings
- difficulty trusting and/or feelings of betrayal
- difficulty concentrating or remembering
- feelings of self-blame and/or survivor guilt
- diminished interest in everyday activities or depression
- unpleasant past memories resurfacing
- suicidal thoughts
- loss of a sense of order or fairness in the world; expectation of doom and fear of the future
- anger towards religion or belief system; loss of beliefs
The emotional reactions to trauma are overwhelming and make it difficult for the individual to see how to help themselves. As trauma is an individual experience there is not a one size fits all solution to healing the effects of trauma. Counselling with an experienced, empathetic counsellor gives you the best chance of leading a productive, fulfilled life.
Grief and Loss
Grief is the expression of the feelings that you experience when something important to you is lost. This can include the loss of somebody close to you, the end of a relationship, the loss of employment or the loss of something that you love.
When you suffer loss, grief is a normal response. Grief is expressed in various ways including sadness, anger, shock and overwhelm. The effect of grief is not just limited to how you feel but can change the way that you think about things, your ability to make decisions and your ability to concentrate.
You may wonder if the pain will ever diminish. No one can tell you how to grieve or how long it will take, but it can help to talk about it and get support from the people who care about you.
The following stages of grief can be experienced. Not necessarily all of these stages will be experienced. The stages do not necessarily follow the order below. Stages can be experienced more than once as the grief resolves.
- Denial, numbness, and shock: This stage protects the individual from the intensity of the loss. Numbness is a normal reaction to an immediate loss. To move through this stage the individual needs to come to accept that the loss has occurred.
- Bargaining: Involves thought about how the loss could have been avoided, specifically what could have been done differently. Unless this stage is resolved feelings of remorse or guilt may remain.
- Depression: This stage occurs in some people upon realising the extent of their loss.
- Anger: The feeling of helpless and powerless can give rise to anger. This anger can be an expression of the feeling of abandonment or anger at a higher power or toward life in general.
- Acceptance: Over time the individual comes to terms with how they feel and accept the fact that the loss has occurred. The loss can now be integrated into the individual’s life experience.
Transitioning through the stages of grief can be assisted by an empathetic counsellor.
Diane Clough of Christobel Counselling is an experienced trauma/grief and loss counsellor.
She is working out of StartPoint Counselling’s office at Beenleigh on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday afternoon. She holds a Masters in Counselling and a Bachelor of Social Work.
Diane’s website is http://www.christobelcounselling.net.au Medicare rebates may apply.
Appointments with Diane can be made by phoning her on 0414728884. Please leave a message if you get her message bank and she will return your call.
Masters in Counselling
Bachelor of Social Work