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Bereavement and other traumatic events

Losing a loved one or experiencing other traumatic events can have a long-lasting negative impact on our mental health.

How bereavement can affect us

We are all likely to experience the loss of a friend or loved one. Whenever it happens, it will be a difficult time.

Grief affects us in different ways, but we are likely to feel waves of emotions as we come to terms with loss. Feelings of sadness, guilt, shock and anger are normal after a death. There's no right or wrong way to feel.

The NHS website has guidance on dealing with grief and loss, and there are lots of other sources of support for bereavement.

Traumatic events and mental health

Experiencing a traumatic event can be devastating, and it can also continue to have effects for a long time.

Children who witness or experience trauma are more likely to have problems as adults.

There are many traumatic events that can affect mental health, such as:

  • being neglected or abused as a child
  • being abused as an adult
  • living in areas of armed conflict
  • working in the armed forces, emergency services or professions, such as social work

Witnessing a traumatic event can also have a serious effect. You may feel confused, afraid or angry. You may also feel guilty, ashamed or numb about the events you have seen.

Traumatic events include things like serious accidents, natural or man-made disasters, or a traumatic childbirth.

When we experience traumatic events, our body's defences can create a stress response, which may make us feel physical changes, intense emotions or behave differently.

Directly after the event, we may experience shock and denial that can give way over hours or days to sadness, anger and guilt.

Usually people feel better and recover gradually, but traumatic life events can increase our risk of poorer mental health, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There are lots of sources of support and information that can help if you have experienced traumatic events.