How Can EMDR For Traumatic Grief Help You?

Sad woman looking at sea; EMDR for traumatic grief
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If you struggle to function in your daily life after losing a loved one, you may have traumatic grief . Traumatic grief is known in the current diagnostic and statistics manual as Prolonged Grief Disorder. Traumatic grief is not a diagnostic term.

What is traumatic grief?

However, it is a phenomenon that can happen when the nature of the death is sudden, unexpected or violent. You feel shock and disbelief, and then plunges you into feeling persistently upset about it prolonged period of time. You may wonder whether EMDR for traumatic grief works, and if it would be helpful for you. Traumatic grief is different from acute grief. In traumatic grief, the yearning lasts longer. The negative symptoms of traumatic grief disrupt your normal functioning for much longer time than is usual.

EMDR therapy can help you address the traumatic nature of the death and your reaction to it. This way, you can grieve in a healthy manner and resolve the loss. EMDR therapy does not bypass the painful nature of losing someone you care deeply about. It does reduce the preoccupation and the elements of reliving the death. This post will address how EMDR for traumatic grief can help you.

Does research Support Use of EMDR for Traumatic Grief?

In studies done so far, EMDR therapy for traumatic grief has been found to be effective. It provides a shift in your perspective on the grief that is helpful and adaptive. Some studies found it to be as effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for treating traumatic and complicated grief.

EMDR’s distinct advantages include that recipients were better able to distance themselves emotionally from their distressing memories of the loss. They were also less likely to have intrusive thoughts and images related to the death.

Another advantage of using EMDR therapy is that you don’t have to have repeated exposure to the death. CBT has you go over the details of the death repeatedly and listen to it until you are desensitized. This repeated exposure aspect of CBT could possibly lead you to drop out of treatment before you receive its benefits.

EMDR Therapy for Traumatic Grief

What is EMDR? EMDR therapy is a type of therapy that is empirically validated for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The term EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. The late psychologist and innovator, Francine Shapiro, PhD developed this therapy. It helps process traumatic incidents so that they are stored adaptively in the mind.

Inherent in many traumatic incidents is a sense of loss. That loss could be safety, security, integrity, or peace of mind. With traumatic loss, you can lose your sense of an assumptive world. By that I mean a world that is stable, safe, and predictable. This could result from something like a terrorist attack or a personal attack. The same can also be said for unexpected loss of a loved one.

The death of someone close to you, such as a parent, child or spouse, can feel traumatic to you. This is especially true if the loss was unexpected or through a violent means (e.g., murder, suicide, terrorism or war). Many have suffered this type of loss from the COVID-19 pandemic because they lost someone much younger than they expected.

Two grief experts, Solomon and Rando, use EMDR therapy to removing triggers that remind you of the loss. It can also neutralize secondary losses that occurred as a result of the death. This could include loss of employment, displacement from housing, loss of friendships, or other circumstances that changed after the death. Once past and present triggers are neutralized using EMDR therapy, the therapist can also create a future template. This future template is for possible situations where you might have trouble because you are reminded of the painful loss.

man standing in front of window; EMDR for Traumatic Grief
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Preparing For the Future with EMDR

Are there places that you avoid going to because they remind you of the loss? Do you try not to hear to certain music because your think about your loved one dying? This makes sense when you think about grief. However, it can limit your life in that you can enjoy freedom of motion and go wherever you like.

The future template mentioned above can help you feel more comfortable doing things that remind you of the loss. This way, you can still remember that you used to enjoy ding things with the deceased. Yet you don’t have to fear getting too emotional if you happen to go there without them.

The future template is a procedure that helps you neutralize triggers that remind you of the loss. First you imagine yourself doing something painful because it reminds you of the death. While you imagine this and how it makes you feel, you receive bilateral stimulation. This helps take away the emotional sting from the situation. This can be very helpful in liberating you from having to avoid everything that reminds you of the death. It can also restore your life to normalcy more quickly, thus helping you grieve in a healthy fashion.

Are You Ready to Try EMDR therapy For complicated bereavement?

This is just an overview of some of the benefits of receiving EMDR therapy for traumatic grief. It’s important to let the therapist know whether you have a seizure disorder, heart problems, or might be pregnant. These are contraindications for receiving EMDR therapy. You should also let the therapist know if you have symptoms of dissociation. You can talk to the therapist about this in more depth.

Dissociative symptoms do not preclude EMDR therapy for traumatic grief. However, it does require some modifications to make it safe and tolerable for you. If you can be emotionally present while thinking about disturbing life events, you’ll probably benefit from EMDR. Otherwise, it is a safe and effective treatment for the traumatic aspects of losing a loved one. If you want to know more, please call me at 661-233-6771.