Anniversary Reactions: A Survivors Guide on How to Cope
Helping a Person Who is Suicidal
Post traumatic Therapy - Frank M Ochberg
Prostitution, Violence Against Women, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder - Melissa Farley, PhD and Howard Barkan, DrPH -
Anniversary Reactions: A Survivors Guide on How to Cope
by Angie Panos, Ph.D.
What is an Anniversary Reaction?
Anniversary reactions are a re-triggering or re-experiencing of a traumatic event that occurs because of a time cue. A time cue can be anything that was associated with the time that the trauma occurred, from the season of the year, to a particular day, date or hour. While anniversary reactions relate to a specific time, other cues can cause a person a re-triggering or re-experiencing, such as disturbing news reports about trauma. The following information describes anniversary reactions and is specifically for you, the survivor, as a helpful guide to understand how to cope.
A Survivors Story
What is so frustrating for survivors of trauma, is that an anniversary reaction can occur even if they are not consciously aware of the current date, day or time. A survivor called Ashley*, shared her story of an anniversary reaction:
My father and I went to the market every Saturday morning. We would joyfully share this time of being with each other, talking and shopping. But then my whole life stopped. My father was shot and killed by a stray bullet when some gang members came in to rob the store we were in. I was only 14. My whole life changed for the worse.
It has been five years now and I am 19. Still on Saturday mornings, even when I am not paying attention to what day it is, I feel an unease inside. Often I begin to have thoughts of missing my father and feeling sad. Then I think to myself, What day is this? and sure enough it is Saturday. I have been to several therapists who have told me that my grieving is incomplete and once I adequately deal with the trauma and grief, these feelings will go away. But after five years and lots of therapy, it had gotten less intense, but the feelings had not gone away. I didnít give up though, I went to a couple more therapists and asked for a new approach.
There are several points in Ashleyís story that are important for survivors to understand. Anniversary reactions can be persistent and troublesome. They can occur even when you are not aware of the time. Although Ashley was in therapy and trying to deal with her grief and trauma, it did not seem to alleviate this particular reaction. Ashley did not give up however, determined to find a way to cope with her feelings she went to a couple more therapists until she found a helpful approach. Ashley, now 20 years old, continues her story:
My therapist asked me a lot of questions to help me express and understand my feelings. She asked me how I wanted to feel about Saturday mornings. I realized that I did not want to give up my special memories of the times my father and I had on Saturday mornings. I just didnít want to think of the trauma, the shooting, the blood and his death. I began doing things on Saturday mornings to honor his memory and change my feelings for Saturday mornings to a positive experience, like it was for so many years. It wasnít immediate, but little by little the positive experiences and feelings became stronger than thinking about the trauma. I was finally able to control my thoughts about it. Sometimes, although rarely, the images of that horrible day flash in my mind. I tell myself that I donít choose to think about it and distract myself to other activities. Some Saturdays I go out with my friends and donít even think about it. Other times I look at old pictures and laugh about the many happy times my father and I shared. I can now choose how I want to spend the day.
Ashleyís story reminds me of a line from Dr. Frank Ochbergís Survivor Psalm: I may never forget, but I need not always remember. Ashley worked to establish a new meaning to the day, while honoring the positive memories of her father. She found a sense of peace, that allowed her for the first time to go out with friends and have fun on Saturdays.
Another Survivors Story
Some survivors report feeling especially frightened, or jittery at certain times or dates. Cliff* was run off a road late on a Friday night in November, as he headed home from his swing shift at a computer firm. He was pulled out of his car, robbed, car-jacked, beaten and knocked unconscious. The gang assumed he was dead and left him by the side of the road. A policeman found him and he was transported to a hospital. His doctors told him that the cold temperatures slowed down the damage to his brain. He would fully recover. While Cliff was grateful for the news, what he did not expect is the psychological symptoms that he would experience in the year to come. The weather change to cooler temperatures, the following November triggered an anniversary reaction for Cliff. He became so anxious that he began missing work. Even though he took a different route, he began feeling fearful of the drive home. Cliff felt crazy, because he thought he had dealt with the trauma. He had even quit seeing his therapist months before. Finally, his supervisor told him he could not miss any more work and he went back to his therapist for help.
Cliffs story highlights how anniversary reactions can feel like a relapse into traumatic symptoms. Survivors sometimes wonder if they are ever going to feel better. There is hope and there are things that you can do to better cope with the feelings of an anniversary reaction.
Ways to Cope
1)       Talk about your feelings with a professional trained to assist people with grief and trauma.
2)       Respect your needs. Do you need a healing ritual to acknowledge your trauma, or do you need to rely on friends or family to distract you from thought of the event? Remember there is no right or wrong approach.
3)       Build new memories and meanings for the time frame. Although it takes time to heal, you will eventually get to choose which memories you wish to savor and those you wish to not constantly remember.
4)       Take good care of yourself. Anxiety only gets worse if you are sleep-deprived, hungry or dehydrated. Exercise helps soothe your nervous system. Good self-care is not selfish, it is very important.
5)       Talk to your significant others-friends and family who care about you- about your feelings. Following are some helpful hints for them. Give this article to them to read and then discuss it with them. People do care, although they may not say or do things just right. Be forgiving of them, and let them know you appreciate their efforts to support you.
How Families and Friends Can Help
Honoring the survivorís needs is important. Donít tell them to get over it. Donít tell them that they should be over it. Instead ask them what you can do to make it easier for them. Ask them if they need to acknowledge the day with some type of healing ritual? Or would it help them for you to plan something fun together, to keep them distracted from their suffering? Please understand that there is no right or wrong time-frame or approach to the healing process. They may need time alone, or they may need you to really be there for them, listening and caring. You can make a difference, so donít be discouraged. It takes lots of time to heal from a traumatic event, but healing is possible. Donít give up on the survivor, they need you. Professional help and the support of friends and family is key to the healing process.
Additional Helpful Resources:
Website:  (grief and loss section)
Good Grief : A Constructive Approach to the Problem of Loss by Granger E. Westberg
Awakening from Grief: Finding the Road Back to Joy by John E. Welshons
*Name changed to protect survivorís identity. Angie Panos, Ph.D. is a therapist that specializes in trauma and grief, she has 20 years of experience in helping survivors. She is a board member of Gift From Within. Reprinted with permission. Copyright  1995-2001 Gift from Within, Camden, Maine 04843HTML Conversion Copyright  1995-2001 Source Maine, Belfast, Maine 04915Content may not be reproduced on websites without express permission. Please link instead.
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Helping A Person Who Is Suicidal
by Angie Panos, Ph.D.
One of the most difficult situations for a family member or a friend is when someone close to them expresses statements that suggest they are suicidal. It seems confusing that people, who survived a traumatic event, or a history of traumatic events, find themselves as their own worst enemy, feeling and thinking about dying. Often people who are depressed and thinking about suicide show several of these warning signs:
         Noticeable changes in eating or sleeping habits
         Withdrawal from family or friends
         Fantasies about running away or dying
         Persistent boredom and/or difficulty concentrating
         Drug and/or alcohol abuse
         Unexplained drop in their level of functioning
         Unusual neglect of appearance
         Drastic personality and mood change
         Complaints of physical problems
         A focus on themes of death
         Giving away prized possessions and making wills or burial plans
         Talking about suicide or making plans, even jokingly
         Threatening or attempting to kill themselves
Sometimes before committing suicide, people will hint about or threaten to kill themselves. These threats should always be taken seriously. If they have had a previous episode of depression and a suicide attempt it is very concerning. Most people who commit suicide have made at least one previous attempt. When people are suicidal they feel helpless and trapped. Their normal coping skills and problem solving abilities may be impaired, preventing them from being able to think creatively of the many options they have. They may begin to feel that others will not understand. Usually suicide is devastating to the family and friends left to cope with the loss. However, the suicidal person deludes themselves into thinking that their support system wonít care or will be better off without them. The suicidal feelings may build to the point that the suffering individual thinks it is the only way out, which of course is not true.
Ways to Help
If your friend or family member is talking to you about depression or suicidal feelings, let them know you care. Stay with them and help them call for professional help; donít leave it up to them. When requesting help from a counseling service, please let the receptionist know it is an emergency and ask to be connected through to a crisis counselor who can help. If the friend or family member is planning to or has tried to attempt suicide they should immediately be taken to a hospital emergency room for an evaluation. Family should be advised to remove from the home any lethal, accessible means to commit suicide, such as medications, firearms, razors, knives, etc. Your suffering friend or family member needs to feel that there is hope. They need to feel that people will listen, that things will get better, and that she or he can overcome their problems. So be honest, if you're worried about them, say so. You will not spark thoughts of suicide just by asking about it. With professional treatment and support from family, friends, and coworkers, people who are suicidal can become healthy again.
Additional Information:
For Young Adults: Friendship 911 Collection My Friend Is Struggling With.
Thoughts Of Suicide by Josh McDowell & Ed Stewart
For Professionals: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Suicide Assessment and Intervention by Douglas Jacobs (Editor)
For Everyone: Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison
Suicide: Understanding and Responding: Harvard Medical School Perspectives, Harvard Medical School
Angie Panos, Ph.D. is a therapist that specializes in trauma and grief, she has 20 years of experience in helping survivors. She is a board member of Gift From Within. Reprinted with permission. Copyright  1995-2001 Gift from Within, Camden, Maine 04843HTML Conversion Copyright  1995-2001 Source Maine, Belfast, Maine 04915
Content may not be reproduced on websites without express permission. Please link instead.
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Post traumatic Therapy - Frank M Ochberg - 

Prostitution, Violence Against Women, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder by Melissa Farley, PhD and Howard Barkan, DrPH (*)
Women & Health, 27 (3): 37-49. 1998 by The Haworth Press, Inc.

(Article copies available for a fee from Haworth Document Delivery Service 1-800-342-9678.)

Copyright © Arte Sana 2001. Derechos Reservados. Tťrminos de Uso.