Dr. Gloria Horsley with the Open to Hope Foundation talks with Robert Zucker about traumatic grief, healing, and his own bereavement process. As a grief counselor and the author of The Journey Through Grief and Loss: Helping Yourself and Your Child When Grief is Shared, Zucker knows all too well how difficult bereavement can be. Every loss situation and everything we grieve for has a traumatic component according to Zucker. There’s no such thing as a grief that’s more traumatic than another. Deaths that are predictable are also traumatizing. There’s no use in comparing grief.
Everyone has had a loss. Zucker grew up with a grandmother who was grieving holocaust deaths. He was introduced to horrendous, violent deaths at a young age via storytelling. He was told about many people in his family who were murdered. It introduced him to deaths with severe trauma components, and this exposure has always been a part of his processing. Some circumstances we associate with the event can also be traumatic, which compounds the grief experience.
Types of Grief
It can be difficult to connect to a memory when traumatic deaths occur. Connecting with those memories can trigger a natural avoidance as a means of self-preservation. There’s something terrifying about the death that interferes with memory work. There are many options to address this according to Zucker. It’s human instinct to live well and survive by depending on support networks. From books to support groups, family and friends, lean on those support groups—that’s often what works.
There are also some people who benefit from professional support. This might be someone who doesn’t otherwise have access to networks, or maybe their reactions are so debilitating that pro help can be beneficial. Feeling isolated and different is normal, but it’s necessary to tackle it.