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Coping With Watching a Loved One Die

How does watching someone die affect you? The trauma of watching someone die can be quite debilitating for one’s mental health. Most people are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These effects can be compounded when you’re the one watching someone die. Some reactions include PTSD, anxiety, and bodily reactions among many others. In this post, we will review the psychological effects of watching someone die and how to get over watching someone die.

Does Watching Someone Die Change You?

Watching a loved one die can create emotional and physical reactions in a person. While the below are just a few examples of what can happen in your mind and body after you watch someone die, it is important to note that these things manifest differently from person to person with some experiencing these reactions in stronger or prolonged ways than others. Some effects of watching someone die include:

  • Shock, disbelief, or fear

  • Nightmares and flashbacks to the moment in question

  • Physical reactions, such as shaking, body aches, nausea, racing heart and chest tightness

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Changes in appetite

  • The need to be near others more or be alone more

  • Questioning the meaning of life

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The above symptoms can manifest as PTSD of seeing someone die. But how can you cope with some of these reactions? In the next section, we will review some tips for dealing with these stresses and anxieties.

Coping with Watching A Loved One Die

Naturally, watching someone die is not going to be easy but there are a few things you can do to help yourself through the process. Below, you will find some tips for dealing with trauma after watching someone die.

  • Make an action plan beforehand. A lot of things will need to be attended to after your loved one passes and you will likely not be able to deal with them while undergoing the grieving process. Make these plans before their death so you will have less to worry about in the future.

  • Forgive yourself for any guilt or shame. It’s a natural part of the grieving process to take a look back on the things you could’ve done better to make your loved one more comfortable or to prolong their life. Forgive yourself for these oversights — both major and minor.

  • Give yourself time to grieve. Even the strongest person will experience a deep emotional impact after watching a loved one die. You will likely be distraught for the next few days and weeks ahead and that’s OK. Give yourself time to process the loss.

  • Take care of yourself and face your feelings. Don’t try to suppress your feelings. Instead, open up about them so you can respond in healthy ways. Additionally, it is normal to feel a sense of relief after your loved one dies and that may make you feel additional guilt. However, that does not mean you are less deserving of self-care. Make a list of those basic needs and take care of them at the start of each day.

Ask for help. You may feel like a burden when asking loved ones for help with everyday duties but you do not have to pretend like everything is OK. Those closest to you will understand and they will likely want to help as much as they can. Furthermore, be specific in your wants and needs so these helpers will be in the know.

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