Vicarious Trauma and Grief

Relatives and friends of the recent victims of violence have been emotionally devastated by the recent traumatic deaths that have occurred nationally and internationally. The communities where these events occurred will be changed forever. Even if you do not have a direct connection to those who died, you may experience trauma and grief from these tragedies.

One form of psychological stress is known as vicarious trauma, vicarious grief, or compassion fatigue.

It is unsettling but normal to feel sad and anxious because you have absorbed some of the sorrow and trauma of people unknown to you through hearing their stories in the news. Your empathetic and sympathetic responses are evidence of your compassion and humanity, and perhaps your own experience with loss.

Honor your compassion. Consider sending a donation to a fund for the victims’ families or donating time or money to a cause related to the tragedies. Tend to any anxiety you feel from watching reports about the violent events. Talk with someone you trust about what you are experiencing.

Manage your basic health needs well in these times. Know your limits and monitor your exposure to the news. Be intentional about spending time with those you love.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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