Grief is the form of emotional and physical suffering when someone you love loses their life. It is a natural process and can take days, weeks, months, and even years to heal. It can impact various spheres of an individual’s life and disrupt the normal ongoings of everyday life. Another form of grief recently recognized is Traumatic Grief; it refers to the grief of losing your loved ones unexpectedly and experiencing the violent death of their loved ones. It can include losing someone in a murder, suicide, termination of pregnancy, a violent terrorist attack, or a car accident. It can incorporate various emotions like anger, fear, sadness, dissociation, and pain.
Here, I will cover Traumatic Grief caused by homicides, targeted killings, and terrorist attacks in the context of Pakistan. We all suffer from grief at some point in our life. It is a very individualized yet a painful experience for everyone. Some might be able to cope with it in a better way, and some might have more stressful reactions to losing their close loved ones. However, studies have shown that going through traumatic grief is a rather intense process and impacts individuals for an extended period.
The psychological analysis of Traumatic Grief
I will begin by focusing on the psychological impacts Traumatic Grief can have on an individual’s life and the sociological aspects. Some of the major symptoms of people going through traumatic grief can include anxiety, anger, fear, and pain, intense and prolonged grief, whereas some victims are at a higher risk of developing PTSD. Most often, Traumatic Grief involves intrusive memories and the images of the deceased person prior to death. This graphic image can cause nightmares and insomnia and prevent them from resuming their everyday life activities. It should be noted that Traumatic Grief is different in all different situations it is caused, with very few overlapping aspects discussed below.
Homicides are a significant factor that causes people to be victims of Traumatic Grief. The increase in murders all over the world is a fundamental cause of concern. In some cases of homicides, the victims suffer instant death. However, in others, the idea of them suffering, going through oppression, violence, and anxiety before they die leaves a more significant impact on the griever. For instance, over a year ago, Pakistan witnessed the death of Noor Mukaddam, where she was held hostage, raped, and then murdered after two days. Her death impacted her family, friends, and at large the women of Pakistan. During my research, I got to talk to Noor’s family friend, whose identity shall remain anonymous according to her will, and she described losing her in the following words.
“Suffering from her loss, like most women, I felt intense feelings, something I had never felt even when I lost people very close to my heart. There is a constant fear of it happening again and the pain of knowing what she went through. For a couple of months, I could not sleep, knowing how she had died. I would constantly think about how she wanted to escape his house, how she might have screamed out of fear, and how he dragged her back to his room. I think of how she would have wanted him to stop, which gives me shudders. It keeps me awake until now. Thinking of her laughter and smiles, it hurts to imagine her being in pain”.
In other cases of homicide that occasionally happen in Pakistan include targeting a particular group of people; this ends up causing more painful bereavement for the people who identify with the same group and cause fear in the community. Here the theory of identity trauma comes in,
“The violence perpetrated in the name of these types of prejudices or political and economic motives as identity trauma because they are based on the intent to discredit and destroy the personal and cultural identity of victims”
The connection between identity and traumatic grief is essential in understanding the fear and increased terror among the members of the targeted community. For instance, in Pakistan, the Hazara community has been targeted by violence for an extended period. Losing your loved ones because of their identity can cause complex trauma in the individual. Traumatic grief can also cause immense fear among the grieving members of the family. A young woman from the Hazara community talked about the mental stress from the constant fear of being associated with the community,
“When my brothers go out to the marketplace, we fear and suffer from anxiety till the time they come back home safely” 
Pakistan has been a witness to terror attacks for multiple years. Losing your loved one in a terrorist attack has several psychological implications, such as hypervigilance, constant fear, anxiety, and a higher risk of developing PTSD. On 16th December 2014, the Army Public School Peshawar came under one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in our country. Around 132 children embraced martyrdom in the attack, while more than 1000 children were present on the premises of the school when the attack began. Losing your children in a violent terrorist attack has had many psychological impacts on the parents. Father of Fahid Ahmad, a victim of the APS attack, talks about his wife, who was unable to bear the loss of her only son and has spent 6 hours alone with the dead body of her son,
“In the initial months, she would beat herself up and throw her body against the walls. She caused herself injuries that led to the loss of speech and hearing” 
Traumatic grief not only impacted the parents but the students who saw their friends, die in front of their eyes. Ahmad, who is another APS student and was present in the auditorium, states,
“The sound of my friends crying, and the bullets hitting everywhere still echoes in my ears. I cannot forget that day.”
Seeing or even hearing about the violent death of your loved ones can leave a long-term impact on the individual, and it can be hard to forget about the graphic images. The grief, in this case, can keep the victims from sleeping at night and makes it hard for them to focus on anything else.
The literature present on traumatic grief suggests that the severity of the traumatic reactions following traumatic grief is greater than normal grief. In summary, it is essential to realize that people who are going through Traumatic Grief should not be publicly stigmatized, rather should be treated with compassion. In addition, passing derogatory remarks for the dead loved ones only adds to the pain of the grieving family. Through this article, I would advise the readers to be compassionate and show support in whatever way they can.
 Sirajuddin. (2015, December 16). After APS: How do you counsel a grieving mother? DAWN.COM. https://www.dawn.com/news/1226313
 Sultan, S., Kanwer, M., & Abbas Mirza, J. (2020). The Multi-Layered Minority: Exploring the Intersection of Gender, Class and Religious-Ethnic Affiliation in the Marginalisation of Hazara Women in Pakistan. The Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development (CREID). https://doi.org/10.19088/creid.2020.005
 Courtois, C. A., & Ford, J. D. (Eds.). (2009). Treating complex traumatic stress disorders: An evidence-based guide, p.10.
Feature image by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash