Coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

It is important to learn how to cope since recovery is an ongoing process. Recovery doesn't mean the ability to forget tough experiences but the ability to effectively manage trauma-related memories, reactions, and emotions. Recognizing and accepting the impact traumatic situations have, and then taking action to improve things creates a sense of personal power and control.

Behavior Patterns of Coping

Shock and Denial - "No, it can't be true!"

Often people need to use this phase to cushion the pain of the loss. It is accompanied by numbness, disbelief, and feelings of surrealism. Except for a rare few, people do not need to be confronted and will come out of the denial phase by themselves.

Anger - "Why me?" "Why him/her"

This anger may be directed at the person who died, an event, or other people. It is important to let the grievers experience their anger without being critical or judging whether the anger is appropriate.

Bargaining - "Yes, it is true, but ... "

This is the beginning of acceptance. The need here is to let the mourners make the agreements that they need with God, with the person who died, or with others. On their own, people will decide, when they are ready, if these promises can be fulfilled.

Depression - "Yes, it has happened to me."

The mourning process is being worked through. The mourners begin to separate emotionally, and may accept offerings of support. Usually, the grievers reject offers of reassurances.


This is not a resignation, but an acceptance of the realities, and the need to pick up the pieces and move on.