Managing Grief after Disaster: A National Center for PTSD Fact Sheet   [open pdf - 60KB]

"The recent terrorist disasters left many people suddenly bereaved of spouses, children, parents, close friends, and coworkers. In the immediate aftermath, some have been numb or unable to accept the loss. Many have felt shocked, lost, anxious, depressed, and physically unwell as a result of this loss. For many, the pain has been intense and unrelenting. In the acute aftermath of the violent death of a loved one, a sense of disbelief or intense, uncontrollable emotionality is very frequent. Distressing physical symptoms are also common (Lindeman, 1944; Stroebe & Stroebe, 1993). These emotional and bodily reactions may be very strong and can themselves be traumatizing, especially if they are unfamiliar and unexpected. Such a secondary reaction can further amplify the pain caused by the loss and can be mitigated by information about grief and stress reactions. It is important to realize that intense and unfamiliar emotionality is entirely normal and does not necessarily have implications for long-term emotional stability or health. The fact that a popular Internet book site lists 2,776 titles on the topic attests to the fact that grief is both common and difficult. In ordinary, peaceful times millions of people die every year, each leaving friends and family bereaved. Many experience numbness or intense pain in the immediate aftermath. For most, this initial reaction subsides with time, and the bereaved person finds a way to again engage fully in life. However, studies show bereaved individuals, in general, are at risk for longer term mental and physical health problems. It is a good idea to provide ongoing support, monitor the outcome of grief, and know that professional intervention can be helpful. Given the universality of bereavement, there has been relatively little research to characterize its course, develop a nosology for bereavement problems, identify risk factors, or guide treatment. The information provided below draws upon what has been done and upon ongoing work."

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