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Traumatic Bereavement

Traumatic bereavement is a combination of trauma and grief responses that often impairs functioning in various life domains such as spousal relationships, parenting, and work. These responses may occur following the sudden death of an important person, often through shocking circumstances. Types of deaths most likely to precipitate traumatic bereavement include acute natural events (e.g., brain aneurysm), accidents, homicide, suicide, natural disaster, and war. Survivors typically experience painful grief symptoms, such as yearning for their loved one, as well as trauma symptoms, such as disturbing intrusive thoughts.

In most cases, survivors' defenses are completely overwhelmed by experiencing a sudden, traumatic loss. In a single instant, their lives have been fundamentally changed. As one survivor expressed it, “It was as though someone had cut my insides out.” ...

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