The Emerging Field of Psychotraumatology in Canada: Reflections of a Trauma Nurse/Counsellor’s Academic, Research & Clinical Experiences Crisis Counselling – Bereavement Reactions

Posted by: Linda AK Thompson on November 21, 2012 9:37 am

A pivotal aspect of successful crisis resolution is grief work and bereavement in response to any acute loss.  Our rational, social nature implies attachment to other human beings, a view of ourselves in relationship to the rest of the world; our family, friends, pets and home.  Death and the changes following any loss are as inevitable as the ocean tide, but because loss is so painful emotionally, our natural tendency is to avoid coming to terms with acute loss immediately and directly.

Grief work takes time and is not a set of symptoms to be treated, rather the phenomena of grief involves a process of suffering that a bereaved person goes through on the way to a new life without the lost person, status or object of love, pining and searching, anger and depression, and finally turning toward recovery.

Care of the bereaved is a community responsibility for reconciliation with that which was lost and so important to circumvent destructive post-crisis outcomes.  The 7 features of crisis bereavement reactions are:

  1. A Process of Realization eventually replaces initial denial and the avoidance of memory connected with the lost person, status or object.
  2. An Alarm Reaction sets in including restlessness, anxiety, and various somatic reactions that leave the person unable to initiate and maintain ‘normal’ patterns of activity.
  3. The Urge To Search for and find the lost person, status or object in some form, the painful pining, preoccupation with thoughts of the lost person, role or events leading up to the loss, and general inattentiveness are common search and rescue behaviors of the bereaved.
  4. Upsurges of Anger may develop toward the one who has left or towards oneself or others.
  5. Guilt about perceived or real neglect (by self or others) is typical as is feelings of guilt about having said something harsh to the person now gone.  There may be outbursts against the people who press the bereaved person to accept the loss before they are psychologically ready and able to do so.
  6. Feelings of Internal Loss are revealed by the bereaved and mourning the loss in community can occur for several decades later.
  7. Variations of Grief Responses is the norm as grief is a phenomenal experience, however, whenever any of the above reactions are inhibited, excessive or prolonged; a distorted form of is most apt to happen and typically in the absence of social support.

Author:  Dr. Linda AK Thompson, BGS, MA, CCC, PsyD, FAAETS                                   Owner, Matrix of Trauma (© MOT ™):  Research, Advocacy, Healing


Hoff, Lee A. (1995).  People in Crisis – Understanding and Helping.  Jossey-Bass Inc. CA. ISBN: 0-7879-0084-2

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

2 comments on “The Emerging Field of Psychotraumatology in Canada: Reflections of a Trauma Nurse/Counsellor’s Academic, Research & Clinical Experiences Crisis Counselling – Bereavement Reactions”

  1. Linda Thompson says:

    Hi Trish – no, I am not familiar with this text and I will look into it. My studies took me to the Themes of Grief reseach by Susan Carter and I utilize her research and created a tool based on her research to help with reconciliation work concerning traumatic bereavement. Thank you for sharing this source. Regards Linda

  2. Trish McCracken says:

    I find this topic fascinating. Are you aware of Patrick Morrissette. He has a nursing and psychotherapy background and his book was published a few years ago on the Pain of Helping. See

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