There is no way to prepare yourself for a sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one, and the pain that remains after can be crippling for an unpredictable amount of time. Jonathan, whose mother was murdered by her partner, knows this all too well.
Even though 20 years passed since his mother was killed, Jonathan was still experiencing the emotional and physical toll that accompanies grieving a traumatic loss. Along with missing a sense of closure, he would encounter a range of complicated emotions, anxiety, and panic attacks. "You feel like you're having a heart attack. You feel like you're going to faint from being dizzy," he explains, " I saw everything as a threat."
While everyone grieves differently, there are ways to process the different emotions you may feel in a manner that promotes healing and progress. Jonathan sought help from Virginia Mason's Separation and Loss Services, where he was able to work through different aspects of his grief and learn more about why he was experiencing the symptoms he had. Working with Clinical Director Laura Takacks, he was able to find a level of closure he was unable to reach on his own. "We allow for a safe place for them to actually speak what is actually going on with them, what their experience is, because they're not talking about it with anybody else," says Takacks.
With the help of Laura, Jonathan participated in sessions that normalized his response to trauma and helped him heal. "What I realized is that by not talking about her death for so many years, I never spoke about her life," Jonathan says. One of the greatest benefits of attending separation and loss therapy sessions was being able to take back control of how he viewed his mother - as a person, not a victim of domestic violence. "Obviously, it was so sudden, and through our exercises and role playing, I was able to remember my mom and say goodbye to her."
By doing simple things like looking at photographs of her or drawing pictures, the memory of Jonathan's mother came to life, "It really brought her back into the room, adding her to conversations," Laura explains.
If you are struggling with grief after losing a loved one in a sudden or traumatic way, there is help available and you do not have to go through it alone. Virginia Mason's Separation and Loss Services offers free grief groups and individual counseling so those affected can be equipped with the tools they need to move forward. You can call 206-223-6398 or go online to get involved in a program suitable for you.