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

Do you feel alone and sad with no support and no idea how to move forward?  It can be tough when you are stuck in grief to find the motivation to get the most out of your precious life. 

Online counseling can help by giving you that support so you don't feel so alone. You can have someone to talk to anytime you like, a kind and understanding person who will help you to find meaning in life again, to treasure the memories of your loved one without being overwhelmed and to enjoy your activities, family and friends again.

  • 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.  
  • Pay an affordable FLAT FEE FOR UNLIMITED SESSIONS.  
  • Contact your counselor whenever you like by chat, messaging, video or phone. 
  • You can change counselor at any time if you wish.
  • Click here to find out more and get started immediately. 
  • Or read more about how online counseling works here.  
Woman Crying. Get Started with Online Counselling

Related Pages: 

Can bereavement cause depression? 

Can bereavement cause memory loss? 

> > Can Bereavement Cause PTSD?

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