Recognising the signs of PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic grief can have a huge impact on people who are recently bereaved, especially if the death was sudden.

The months and weeks that follow an unexpected or sudden bereavement can be very overwhelming and confusing for the bereaved relatives/loved ones.

Support and guidance from healthcare professionals can be vital in the hours, weeks and months that follow, playing a crucial role in helping with the immediate shock and raw emotions that the relatives/loved ones may have.

Often months and years after the sudden death a clearer picture develops of the challenges the grieving person faces.

When the police investigation and funeral passes, friends and families return to their lives, the phone stops ringing and it is hard to recognise the person is struggling with something more than the grieving process.

The immediate aftermath of bereavement a number of symptoms may be expected. However, a person who is experiencing a sudden bereavement may be at a higher risk of suffering traumatic grief reactions.

Traumatic grief is defined as grieving thoughts and reactions that are more traumatic and challenging, than those suffered in most cases after a bereavement. Generally, these symptoms last longer than two months. Some common symptoms include:

Increased likelihood of emotional challenges

-Physical symptoms

-Insomnia or nightmares

-Difficulty doing daily tasks


People who have been diagnosed with PTSD are defined as having suffered a traumatic event, which includes a sudden death of a loved one. Symptoms generally take around a month to manifest in around a third of cases. These symptoms are suffered for more than a year later if appropriate care is not provided.

Typical signs of PTSD can include:

-Recurring thoughts and vivid flashbacks, which can sometimes be expressed through traumatic nightmares

– Intense distress when reminded of the event and fear that similar events may happen again

– Avoidance of things associated with eh event

– A loss of sense of safety and feelings of isolation

– Self-destructive behaviour