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The Untold Grief:
Navigating the emotional impact of witnessing a traumatic event

Published September 2023

Witnessing a traumatic event can have a profound and lasting impact on an individual's emotional well-being. Whether it's a natural disaster, accident, act of violence, or any other distressing incident, the grief experienced by witnesses often goes unrecognized. In this blog, we will delve into the hidden aspects of grief associated with witnessing a traumatic event and discuss strategies for coping and healing.

Image by Eric Ward

1. The Unseen Grief:

While the focus is often on the direct victims of a traumatic event, witnesses also bear an immense emotional burden. Witnessing a distressing incident can lead to feelings of helplessness, guilt, fear, and profound sadness. Acknowledging and understanding this unseen grief is the first step towards healing.


2. Allow Yourself to Feel:

It is essential to give yourself permission to feel the full range of emotions that arise from witnessing a traumatic event. Suppressing or denying these emotions can have long-term negative effects on your mental and emotional well-being. Embrace the grieving process and be compassionate with yourself as you navigate through the stages of grief.

3. Express Your Emotions:

Finding healthy outlets to express your emotions can be profoundly healing. Engage in activities such as journaling, art therapy, or participating in support groups where you can openly share your feelings and experiences. Verbalizing or creatively expressing your emotions can help process and release the grief associated with witnessing a traumatic event.


4. Practice Self-Care:

Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is crucial during this challenging time. Engage in self-care activities that promote relaxation, such as practicing mindfulness, exercising, getting enough sleep, and eating a balanced diet. Prioritize activities that bring you joy and promote a sense of calm and inner peace.

Image by Eric Masur

5. Reaching out for  Help:

If the grief associated with witnessing a traumatic event becomes overwhelming and begins to interfere with your daily life, seeking professional help is essential.  mental health professional can guide you through the healing process, provide coping strategies, and address any underlying trauma or emotional distress.

6. Give Yourself Time:

Healing from the grief associated with witnessing a traumatic event is a journey that takes time. Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that healing is a gradual process. Allow yourself the necessary time and space to heal and recover, respecting your own unique timeline.


7. Seek Support:

Don't hesitate to reach out for support from trusted friends, family, or mental health professionals. Sharing your experience with others who understand the emotional impact of witnessing trauma can provide validation, comfort, and a sense of belonging.  Reach out to NALAG for support and  helpful resources. 

Witnessing a traumatic event can leave an indelible mark on an individual's emotional well-being. By acknowledging the grief associated with witnessing trauma, seeking support, expressing emotions, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help when needed, it is possible to navigate the healing process. Remember, you are not alone in your grief, and there is hope for healing and finding a renewed sense of peace and resilience.


Trudy Hanson OAM 

Published September 2023

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