What it is Like to Experience a Traumatic Event

What have you learned about how it would feel to lose someone you love to a violent crime?

As human beings, it’s important once in a while to take some time and reflect on a past event or situation, and to think about whether it’s positive or negative. When a person experiences an unexpected situation, especially if it involves the death of a loved one to violent crime, it can cause a lot of stress, sadness, anger, guilt and anxiety. The trauma of the death and the troubling thoughts of the violent event can remain with the survivor for a long time. From my personal experience, I have learned that losing a loved one unexpectedly through an anticipated death causes pain and sadness. When a loved one’s death is anticipated, there is time to prepare for their death and to say to them “I love you” prior to their death. However, a sudden death of a loved one can be shocking and stunning. In a situation like the murder of a loved one, it is hard to absorb the reality that a he or she has died as a result of a violent crime, especially if this person is the sole provider for the family. Consequently, a person may find it very difficult to understand why the death occurred as it did. Finally, I have learned that the trauma that is associated with losing someone to a violent crime can remain with a person for a long time. I have also learned that loved ones can be taken away without warning. In an effort to avoid flashbacks of the traumatic memories, I avoid doing anything associated with the trauma. I also avoid participating in activities or going to places that would bring back those bad memories.

What reactions did you have that surprised you?

My reaction to the situation was that I was completely shocked and stunned by the news that my loved one has been killed in a violent crime. Other reactions I have that surprised me was emptiness, grief and loss, fear and anxiety, feeling of self-blame, nightmares and problems sleeping. I also experienced difficulty concentrating or remembering. I was saddened and in complete disbelief that I lost a love one without warning and without being able to say to them “I love you” or “goodbye”. I found it very difficult to comprehend what events possibly could have transpired that led to their death. The death does not make sense to me and I find it very difficult to understand that it actually happened and that the person has died. To my surprise, I feel physical and emotional symptoms as I try to deal with the feelings of the loss and grief. However, looking at the situation in another way around, this experience had made me appreciate life and the life of those around me.

What do you think would help victims of violent crime recover from such a powerful and painful experiences?

People are affected differently by unexpected traumatic events such as a violent crime. A violent crime is not just murder, but it also includes sexual abuse, assault, kidnapping and robbery. Those who have gone through traumatic events or a violent crime need support and assistance to put their lives back on track to lessen the mental, physical and emotional impact of their traumatic experience. Victims of a violent crime cope differently: some people have a difficult time coping with the situation or even doing everyday things such as shopping, cooking or running daily errands; others cope quickly and the negative impact of the event has a minimal impact on their day to day functioning. Victims of violent crimes can recover through support from their friends and family members. They should be provided support through counseling and psychotherapy. They should be listened to attentively without any judgment. Other helpful ways to recover from a painful experience include sharing feelings with a trusted person, remembering that bad feelings do go away, going to the gym to exercise, limiting the intake of alcohol, and connecting the victim with government and community support services.

What would be unhelpful to people who have suffered trauma?

An unhelpful way of dealing with people who have suffered a trauma is to blame them for the cause of the trauma or the cause of their traumatic symptoms they are experiencing. Also, it would not be helpful to be judgmental or to doubt the story the person is tells. Another unhealthy strategy of dealing with someone who has suffered traumatic event is to take their anger outbursts personally. Instead, they should be given an opportunity to express their feelings, and they should be listened to attentively

How would you or a loved one know if a person is experiencing ASD or PTSD?

If a person is experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder they usually present with a story that has a traumatic nature. In addition, they usually reported that their symptoms have started after the traumatic event. The person may have recurring or intrusive memories of the traumatic event; they may report flashbacks and dreams about the traumatic event; and, they may report avoiding places, activities or anything that reminds them of the trauma. Furthermore, other symptoms that may be observable in a person who is experiencing PTSD include fear, anhedonia, hypervigilance, staying away from others and difficulty sleeping.

What co-morbid psychiatric conditions might occur after a traumatic experience?

Psychiatric conditions that might occur after a traumatic experience include posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, depression, dissociative disorder, personality and panic disorder.