Chapter 1 What is traumatic grief?

Emotional impact of grief and trauma

Additional Videos
De-escalating tense situations(3:22)Video transcript
Anger(3:22)Video transcript

 “Families have enormous grief reactions. Some will fall to the floor and scream. Others will not be able to speak; a few will say that they cannot feel their hands or feet. We see people dissociate and decompensate constantly. Many families will sort of “check out;” they are not able to absorb what has happened”. – ICU Nurse

End-of-life experiences are likely to elicit deep and mixed feelings. Family members may express intense emotions, and different emotions may occur simultaneously, whereas others may prefer to keep their emotions to themselves and it may not be obvious that they are struggling internally.

One of the most challenging emotions you may face is anger. Families are under stress and may sometimes direct anger towards you, especially if they feel the care of the patient has been inadequate.

Click on each tab below to explore the emotional impacts of grief and trauma.

Clinician Tip

Responding to anger to others 

A minority of family members will have atypical and even paradoxical emotional reactions, such as laughing inappropriately or displaying seemingly unrelated emotions in rapid succession. Uncommon emotional reactions are common during moments of intense stress and not necessarily something that warrants clinical attention. In very rare circumstances an emotional reaction may be an indication of mental illness that warrants professional intervention.