Coping With Anniversaries of Traumatic Events

Updated 2 years ago

Coping With Anniversaries of Traumatic EventsHealthy Living – December 4, 2012Dr. David Prescott – Eastern Maine Medical Center Behavioral MedicineWhy are Anniversaries of Traumatic Events so Difficult? Living through a difficult time takes energy and hard work. Most people wish that once they make it through a difficult time it will be behind them forever. Unfortunately, people who experience the loss of a loved one, extreme personal hardship, or a traumatic event often relive parts of that experience on anniversaries of the event. This can be especially upsetting when the anniversary occurs during the traditional holiday season. Common Reactions on Anniversaries of Traumatic Events Anniversaries of traumatic events may be associated with a variety of difficult memories and feelings. Common experiences on an anniversary include: • Extreme anxiety or apprehension as the anniversary approaches. • Repeated memories of the event, or a renewed clearity of memories that had begun to fade. • General feeling of sadness or depression. • Sensitivity to reminders of the event. • Difficulty sleeping or having dreams about the event. • Impaired concentration or trouble focusing. • Unexpected outbursts of anger or irritabilityDifficult Events that Occur around the Holidays: For some people, the traditional holiday season is also the anniversary of a personal loss or traumatic event. This can lead to feeling left out or detached from others who do not share your experience. In most cases, it is important to honor your true feelings at the moment, and avoid trying to pretend that you feel upbeat or joyous. Over time, unhappy anniversaries tend to fade in their intensity. Most psychologists agree that grieving and sadness are part of healing, and that if allowed to take its course, recovery from a traumatic event occurs in most people over time. Strategies for Coping with Anniversaries of Traumatic Events• Recognize and acknowledge feelings you may experience. Understand that your feelings are part of the recovery process.• Find healthy ways to cope with your distress. Share memories and feelings with someone you trust or just spend time with friends and family. Activities that allow your mind to focus on something other than these memories are a good coping strategy for some people. Contemplative activities like reading, thinking or just taking a walk are also a good approach. • Avoid reactions that become part of the problem such as drinking or using drugs. Sometimes, progress in healing from a traumatic event can occur simply by avoiding coping strategies that lead to bigger problems. Excessive drinking or using drugs usually make the problem worse in the long run. • Engage in an activity that honors lost loved ones. You may want to plant a tree in their memory, make a donation to their favorite charity, participate in activities your loved one would have enjoyed or share happy memories with others. Consider volunteering: you may find that helping others actually helps you. • Use your support system. Reach out to friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself. For More Information: American Psychological Association Help Center (www.apa.org/helpcenter)


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