Navigating Grief and Anxiety While Supporting Others Through Trauma
There’s no right or wrong way to react when exposed to a traumatic event. It may be difficult to put a name to our own feelings. And we may even feel completely numb – even in the face of extreme tragedy.
Over time, we may come to name the feelings we’re experiencing: Angry. Sad. Heartbroken. Guilty. Depressed. Stressed. Anxious.
Even if we have not been directly affected by a tragedy, it’s still possible and normal to react, each in our own way. As humans, we connect the traumas we’re exposed to in the present to the traumas we’ve been exposed to in the past. If you’re exposed to a new trauma before you’ve been able to heal from a past trauma, you may begin to experience the events as related and need more time to recover.
Coping with our reactions – especially in the face of compounding traumas – is important. Rather than ignore our feelings, experiencing them is the first step to healing. Find someone who feels safe to talk to as a starting place. Writing down thoughts in a journal is also a good way to begin to process emotions. It’s also a good way to monitor how the body is physically reacting to your mental state.
Common physical reactions to trauma include fatigue, nausea and headaches, difficulty concentrating and difficulty sleeping – as well as a roller coaster of emotions from anger to irritability to sadness and numbness. Watch the way you cope with these physical and emotional reactions: it’s common to use or abuse alcohol, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, medication or sexual activity as distractions.
Find ways to channel your energy towards something positive, even as you are battling intrusive thoughts or negative emotions. Take control over what you can, especially if you are reacting to situations outside of your direct influence.
Distractions like sports, hobbies or reading can help you reengage with joy and give yourself a break. Find a way to engage with community events or actions if it feels right.
For those of us who must navigate our own feelings and reactions to trauma while taking care of others – whether it be family members, children, nieces, nephews or friends – staying strong can be incredibly difficult.
Especially if you are responsible for children, it’s important to retain a sense of calm and stability when engaging with them as you. Remember, you don’t have to have all the answers or solutions for your children: you just need to reassure them that they are loved and safe with you.
Talk with your family, friends and children about their thoughts and feelings to traumatic events. Opening a line of dialogue can help others process their emotions and feelings too. While reactions to trauma can diminish over time, seeking help from a professional can help you learn ways to manage your emotions and cope with reactions.
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or Blue Care Network member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth.
More from AHealthierMichigan:
- How to Talk to Your Boss About Taking a Mental Health Day
- Checking In On the Mental Health of Older Loved Ones
- How You Can Help #EndTheStigma of Mental Health Conditions
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