Sufferer PTSD after bereavement


New Here
Hello everyone. I lost my Mum 10 months ago. I lived with her all my life and was her main carer for 6 years. In the last year of her life she had cancer and what we went through with her was so awful I can’t bear to think about it. I saw things I never even imagined could happen in the body of another person never mind the person I loved most. Some of it she was unaware of herself and I had to hide my reaction to what I was seeing and my fear of what I was told could happen to not upset her. They told me the tumour could perforate her bowel at any time, or could perforate a major artery resulting in catastrophic bleeding which would have haemorrhaged through open wounds she had in her abdomen. She would have been gone in minutes if that happened so I lived in constant fear. Even the district nurses struggled with what they were seeing happen to her. She wanted to be at home so I pushed it all down to do my best for her. I would do it all again for her sake but it was a horrendous time. In the end she suffered a major stroke and died peacefully 3 days later at home with my sister and me by her side.

Almost immediately after she died I started to have awful flashbacks to things that happened. I wasn’t sleeping well anyway but I kept waking up in the night thinking she was calling me. My anxiety levels went out of control. I managed to start bereavement counselling through the Palliative care service that attended my Mum. I was struggling with increasing suicidal ideation which is a long term issue for me so felt I needed the support. My counsellor is wonderful but everything has become so much worse since I started going. She told me I am having a traumatic response to all that happened. I didn’t understand that as the trauma happened to my Mum, not me, but she said it is vicarious trauma. However she also seems to think there was some trauma in my childhood. I dissociate badly in sessions (I didn’t know what it was called until a couple of months ago) and I feel as if I’m living in another dimension to everyone else most of the time. She also seems to think the anxiety issues I have had all my life, recurrent bouts of depression, chronic pain and a serious phobia I have are all symptoms. Until a couple of months ago I just thought all those were just things that made my life more difficult, I didn’t know they added up to any kind of diagnosis. I am now also taking medication for anxiety and depression. I’m not sure about the idea of childhood trauma because I had a good family and wonderful parents and no recollection of anything bad happening. I just don’t understand why all this is crowding in on me now, at the most difficult time of my life? I just want to grieve but I am so overwhelmed with anxiety, the struggle to stay present and the battle with thoughts of ending it all that I just feel numb about the loss and can’t even cry. I am self harming too which I haven’t done in years. There is no one I can talk to about any of this. It’s a nightmare and I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I’m just taking a day at a time and choosing to live for the day I’m in. I am a Christian and have a strong faith so that is something I hold onto. I’ve read some threads on here and can see I have a lot to learn, but also that others have been through so much worse and learned how to cope in life so that has encouraged me to hope that it’ll get better. I’m grateful for that..


Welcome to the forum. (That always sounds off. It doesn't seem appropriate to be glad that someone has a mental health issue. Of course that's not it, just glad to have you aboard.) That sounds like a truly horrible ordeal, for both you and your mother. She was lucky to have you in her life. I hope she knew that!

Things like suicidal ideation, anxiety, phobias, dissociation, etc, mean something. It doesn't necessarily mean your family of origin was the problem, but it seems reasonable to suspect that something was. I'm glad you've found someone you can work with to help you sort things out.
I just don’t understand why all this is crowding in on me now, at the most difficult time of my life?
There's something on here called the "stress cup" explanation of things. What it means, basically, is that stress builds up and everyone has only so much capacity to deal with things. The brain kind of works to help us survive. It totally makes sense that things would come up now, after all you've had to deal with. The stress was building up, but you had too much to do, earlier, to deal with it. Once the pressure of caring for you mother was gone, everything else is looking to be addressed. It could be even more complicated that that, but it totally makes sense.


I am so sorry for what you and what your Mom went thru! How difficult that would be! I can't imagine! I am glad to hear you have strong faith, I pray for you in this time of grieving and sorrow! I am praying for peace where there is anxiety and acceptance so you can move on. Somethings that helped me a lot and have helped many are these three: Magnesium malate is great to calm the mind body and spirit, and ginseng helps get rid of those sticky negative thoughts that loop around. Also, getting involved in helping others can help you move on too. Distract yourself from the negative things that keep coming to mind so you stop the loop by listening to an audio, I do that even as I fall asleep w timer and one sided headphones to turn off my brain. Hoping this helps you too! God bless! <3

Also, I would not go looking for problems that may not be there in the past, that is a go to for many counselors but has many false negatives and causes more trauma. Don't go looking for trouble when there is none. =)


Sorry about the loss of your mum. I’m glad she was ultimately able to go reasonably peacefully, but the whole experience must have been a tonne of work for you to cope with, particularly on an emotional level.

If your symptoms are lingering, perhaps consider someone with a higher qualification to provide you with support. The symptoms that you’ve described are entirely consistent with someone who has been through what you’ve just been through.

Suggesting that there’s a childhood trauma issue underlying it all that you’re not aware of is not only unprofessional (the exact opposite of best practice, at tye worst possible time), it invalidates what you have just lived through. It’s not a small thing to have to watch your own mother struggle through something like that - it more than explains the distress levels and symptoms you’re going through now. It would absolutely makes sense that your recent lived experience would give rise to mental health issues.

“Vicarious trauma” is a bit of a vogue psych-expression at the moment. Be aware that there are a whole range of mental illnesses that can be caused by traumatic experience. Depression and Anxiety are 2 common ones, and they can each of them become incredibly disabling if not diagnosed and treated competently.

Again, condolences for your loss. Hope you have a support network around you and that you have some fond memories of your mum to hang on to.


I'm so sorry you had to go through this. I can't imagine how difficult it is.
Have you been diagnosed with PTSD? Because in a situation like yours it's really easy for professionals to confuse PTSD with Complicated Grief Disorder and vice versa. It could be worth looking into, im sorry i can't help more :c
Hello @Wisdomhunter - welcome to the forum. I hope we can offer some support while you work through this.

I'm very sorry your mother passed away and that it was such an extended period of suffering.

I'm sure she really did know and appreciate that you were there for her when she needed you. I hope you know that.

I am self harming too which I haven’t done in years.

Did you receive treatment for this when you were doing it before? Do you know why you began doing this? Maybe there is a connection to stress.. idk... feeling overwhelmed, out of control..?

There is no one I can talk to about any of this.
Can you fix this with seeking out a professional who can care for your mental health.

I think it's difficult to give ourselves the same respect, compassion and assistance. But it's time you did now.



I'm so sorry. That is so much to live through, and your mom was blessed to have you there. Welcome to the forum and although I have no other thoughts to share, I just want you to know you are heard.