Grief versus Traumatic Grief

Traumatic Grief

“a severe form of separation distress that usually occurs

following the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one.

Numbness and shock are frequently accompanied by a

sense of futility and the meaninglessness of life,

although the total syndrome includes many other

painful and dysfunctional responses.”

– The American Psychological Association

  • Also known as complicated grief or prolonged grief disorder
  • Relatively new term
  • Considers both the trauma of the loss as well as the grief response
  • Interrupts ability to function


  • Difficulty maintaining work/personal obligations and routine
  • Intense feelings of depression
  • Suicidal ideation/thoughts of self-harm
  • Overwhelming feelings that life is not worth living
  • Inability to stop blaming yourself
  • Identity disruption (loss of sense of self)
  • Significant disbelief/denial regarding the death
  • Avoidance of reminders
  • Intense emotions – anger, bitterness, sorrow
  • Difficulty continuing with everyday life – interests, social life, future planning
  • Emotional numbness
  • Loss of meaning of life
  • Intense loneliness/detachment from others