Can bereavement cause PTSD?

PTSD can occur after a bereavement just like after any major trauma in life.  A death is, after all, one of the worst traumas we ever have to face.  But, of course, not everyone gets PTSD after losing a loved one and PTSD is a bit different from grief.  So what exactly is PTSD and why does it happen after a bereavement?  

PTSD after a bereavement can occur when:  

  • you have witnessed a death or
  • when death of a family member was violent such as a murder or suicide or accidental death

You are particularly at risk if you have been exposed to several traumatic events, or multiple bereavements.  

Woman all in black showing signs of ptsd

What are the symptoms of PTSD after a bereavement?  

While people grieving do get bad dreams and might sometimes think they have seen their loved one or hear their voice, the symptoms of PTSD can be much more intense and frightening.  

You might experience: 

  • recurrent distressing memories
  • nightmares
  • flashbacks
  • acute distress when reminded of the event
  • hypervigilance and difficulty sleeping
  • being easily startled
  • reckless or self-destructive behaviour

People with PTSD after a loss may also experience any of the following: 

  • trying to avoid reminders of the death such as people, places, activities
  • inability to remember all or part of the circumstances of the loss
  • self-blame, fear, guilt, negativity, anger, aggression, irritability
  • inability to form close relationships with others

In America, 7 - 8% of people will experience PTSD at some time in their lives. 

Many people will recover from the worst symptoms within a few weeks, especially if they have support from family and friends.  

It's important if it goes on for longer than this to seek help. If PTSD goes on for a long time, other mental health symptoms such as depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol use can also occur.  

Treatment for PTSD after Bereavement 

The treatment most recommended by mental health organisations is psychological therapy (talking therapies) such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or online therapies - either through courses or with a professional. 

We recommend BetterHelp who provide confidential online counseling (including CBT) with expert therapists and counselors. You can read more about how this therapy works here.   

Get Private and Confidential Help in the Privacy of Your Own Home

  • Simply fill out the online questionnaire and you will be assigned the expert grief counselor most suitable for you.  It only takes a few minutes and you don't even have to use your name.  
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Self-Help Hypnosis Downloads

Try a gentle hypnotherapy track to relax the mind and help you cope with your grief. We recommend Hypnosis Downloads which have been created especially for those who are grieving by qualified specialists in medical hypnotherapy.

Choose from this list of grief and loss tracks for your specific type of loss.  


Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the country and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.

Related Pages: 

Can bereavement cause depression? 

Can bereavement cause memory loss? 

> > Can Bereavement Cause PTSD?

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