Trauma-Informed Approaches to Grief and Loss: Overview and Recommendations for Providing Support

Abstract by Shannon Trecartin & Desiree Davis

Some of the most common experiences shared by humanity are those of grief and loss. Both grief and loss can penetrate every aspect of one’s life, regardless of religious identity, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. The experience of grieving the loss of a loved one, lost opportunity, or even the anticipation of loss, can be life-altering. In addition, traumatic experiences can exacerbate the grief response. These common grief disruptions, coupled with traumatic loss and separation, may result in complex grief reactions. Increasingly, pastors, teachers, health care workers, therapists and the general population are noticing the consequences of complex grief and being asked to intervene in ways and at levels not previously experienced. In this paper, the authors will begin by describing grief in general including common biopsychosocial and spiritual reactions.  The paper will transition to a description of grief and loss experiences that are complicated by trauma. Finally, the current and most prominent theories on grieving processes will be presented. These may include Kubler-Ross’s Stage Model of Grief, Continued Bonds, the Dual Process Model and the Integrated Model. The chapter will conclude with recommendations for the general population and professionals to support those who are experiencing grief and loss, in the context of traditional and complicated grief.