The worst thing about having PTSD is that whatever problem you’re dealing with, PTSD makes it worse. Coping with the death of a close friend or family member can be devastating, and well-meaning friends can add to your burden by telling you how they think you should respond.
Grieving the loss of someone you love can be overwhelming at the best of times; it’s unthinkable when you suffer from emotional numbness. Intellectually you know you should be feeling terrible, but you may feel nothing at all other than the same sense of being overwhelmed you felt before the death.
If you don’t suffer from emotional numbness, grieving for a loved one may add to your sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Again, that can happen to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, but it is double trouble for someone with PTSD. These kinds of problems are called “complicated grief,” and they are much harder to heal from than what someone without PTSD has to handle.
So, how do you grieve the loss of a loved one when you have PTSD? There is no easy answer to that question, but the best response may be just to go through it as best you can. If you can do that without fighting the pain, so much the better.
That’s the ticket to surviving grief: allowing yourself to experience it. When you have PTSD, then you (along with your family and friends) must realize that the pain will come when it comes. No one can grieve on demand. You have to allow yourself however long it takes, and that can be hard to do.
Don’t let anyone else tell you how you’re supposed to feel. When you are able to process your grief, it will happen. Allow yourself all the time you need. You have enough on your plate coping with the PTSD right now.
Be gentle with yourself. You’ve been through a lot and you’re going to need extra time and support to get through your grief, but you’ll get there. It just may take a bit more time and effort.