In 2007, on a snowy February night, my elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Surgeons operated on her for 20 hours, but her injuries were too severe and they were unable to save her life. Blut force trauma was the actual cause of death — three words a parent never wants to hear or say.

The death of a child is bad enough; the death of a child from blunt force trauma is horrific. I wondered about my daughter’s last minutes of life and worried about my granddaughter, a passenger in the car. Why did the accident happen? Years ago, my daughter was involved in another car crash and broke her neck. It happened on my birthday and my husband and I had gone out to dinner with our daughters to celebrate.

We came upon the accident and my husband, a physician, revived his own daughter. This sounds unbelievable, but I can assure you it happened. I directed traffic while my younger daughter ran to a farm house and called for help. Though my daughter’s broken neck healed, she never had full neck mobility, and I think this is what caused her second car crash.

You can understand why I felt traumatized by her death in 2007. Randle Clark, MA and Avril Magel write about trauma in “Unraveling Trauma from Grief,” an article published in the Summer 2013 issue of We Need Not Walk Alone. They say psychological trauma occurrs after exposure to an “extraordinary stressor outside the usual realm of human experience.”

According to the authors, the symptoms of trauma can include extreme anxiety, hyper-vigilance, the startle response, extreme sensitivity to stimuli, avoidance thinking, concentration problems, painful images, and flashbacks. I had some of these symptoms, but not all. Still, I was concerned about myself and read several resources about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Thankfully, I didn’t have PTSD and thankfully I had good coping skills that I put to work.

You may be going through a traumatic loss now. How can you cope? I can tell you how I coped and my steps may help you. First, I identified my grief work and started working on it, work that continues to this day.

Next, I became aware of my emotions and named each one as I felt it. I also made a conscious decision to be a survivor, not a victim. You can make the same decision. I hope you choose to be a survivor because the victm choice sets you up for complicated grief and can prolong grief.

Each day, I set aside some time for meditation. I’m a professional writer and before I started work in the morning I meditated for a few minutes. Sometimes I meditated as I was walking. Writing affirmations also helped me. I started writing them in my mind and wrote so many one-sentence affirmations I started a computer file. This file eventually became a book.

I pushed myself forward on the recovery path by setting goals. My first goal was to set goals. As soon as I completed a goal, I crossed it off my list. As you might expect, my goals changed as the years passed.

Telling my story with written and spoken words has helped me immensely and I think it will help you. If you haven’t done this, I hope you will start writing your story today. You may write daily in a diary, regularly in a journal, or even write a book about your experiences.

Six years have gone by since my daughter died. Yes, I suffered a traumatic loss and I have survived it. Today, I am living a new life. Traumatic loss need not define you or the life you are living. With hard work, determination, and honesty, you can recover and find happiness again.

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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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