Normal Stress Reactions to Trauma/Death

It is important to remember that trauma or stress reactions are normal reactions to abnormal situations. It is important to allow yourself and others permission to have your reactions, to take care of yourself and to ask for help as best you can. Many people fad it helpful to have information about what constitutes a typical reaction to trauma. Below are listed some common reactions:

Physiological and Emotional

  • Heightened anxiety or fear: fears about the death of others, anxiety about the future without the company of the one who died, fears of being alone.
  • Irritability, restlessness, over excitability
  • Feelings of sadness, moodiness, more crying than usual
  • Feelings of numbness or detachment
  • Hypervigilance
  • “Survivor guilt” or feelings of self-blame that you’re alive
  • Mood swings: small reminders or emotional events that seem insignificant can trigger sudden changes in mood or intense reactions

Cognitive

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling confused, disoriented, distracted, not able to think as quickly or easily as usual
  • Difficulty making decisions that normally would be easy
  • Ruminating about the death or the person who died

Physical

  • Headaches
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Fatigue, feeling slowed down: a lot of energy goes into grief work. It can be overwhelming and physically draining

Behavioral

  • Hyperactivity or less activity than usual
  • Withdrawal, social isolation
  • Avoidance of activities or places that bring memories of the person or the event
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia: inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, disrupted sleep, deep sadness upon awakening