Recently I read about PTSD in a UBC press release titled “Healing an invisible wound“. It mentioned a veterans transition program that was created to support military people who suffer from traumatic stress symptoms.
When I read the article everything that was described sounded very familiar. It occured to me that a support group of bereaved parents is really the same thing. “When you have people who are traumatized, it is helpful to receive support and validation from others who have shared those experiences.” That sentence in my opinion reflects the most commonly mentioned statement by bereaved parents, namely that it was helpful to speak to other people who understand, that things are simply known and acknowledged and do not require explanation or justification.
Although PTSD gets very much associated with military actions, people can get traumatized for many other reasons than war. Wikipedia describes a traumatic event as follows: “A traumatic event involves a single experience, or an enduring or repeating event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience.”
At the stillbirth conference in Vancouver speaker Joanne Cacciatore, founder of the Miss Foundation and researcher at Arizona State University, talked about the concept of traumatic grief. “Traumatic bereavement encompasses deaths that are sudden, violent, or due to human actions (Green, 2000), as well as the death of a child (Rando, 1985).” The paper mentions a debate whether traumatic grief should be classified similarly to PTSD or if it should be characterized differently. I am not qualified to comment on that debate, but personally I just feel that the resulting treatment should certainly not always be medication. If trauma is really a “normal response to an abnormal event” that overwhelms one’s ability to cope, then one solutions seems to be to focus on ways to learn to cope. That is what it felt like to me when my children died. I needed to learn how to deal with these emotions and talking to other bereaved parents helped a lot.
Labeling such an experience as a disorder really only leads to stigma when in reality it is a normal response and not a disorder, doesn’t it?
Dr. Westwood explains: “Part of what we do is explain to them that their response is a normal reaction. We talk about how the brain and hormonal system are activated involuntarily in response to trauma and how this can be harmful to themselves, family and others.” Dr. Cacciatore mentioned physiological responses as a result of traumatic loss as well. It was very interesting to learn about such reactions that very well could become a medical issue if prolonged for too much time.
I would like to think that all kinds of trauma can best be addresses with a similar approach. It takes time to learn to cope with trauma. And the opportunity to connect and interact with people in a similar situation.