Loss, Trauma, and Catastrophizing

If you’ve been walking this grief journey for any length of time, you are well acquainted with grief. But are you familiar with catastrophizing? Loss, trauma, and catastrophizing frequently go hand-in-hand for many of us who have lost a loved one.   

Until recently, I had never heard the phrase used in this context, but once explained, I could understand and relate to it personally.   

Since your loved one ran ahead to Heaven, do you often feel as though another catastrophe is just around the corner? Do you often feel as if another bad thing will happen any minute? This is catastrophizing.   

Grief expert, David Kessler, posted a video where he admitted to being a card-carrying catastrophizer. As he began to talk, I saw myself in every word. Oh, I hate to admit that I am also one, but it also helps to know I am not alone.   

If you’re still unsure what this is, catastrophizing is when we assume the worst will happen when nothing is really wrong.   

For those of us who catastrophize, we have often seen or experienced a catastrophe – a death, trauma, addiction, and children of alcoholics often find themselves in this place.   

It was reassuring to hear that even medical and mental health professionals often find themselves catastrophizing. If we’ve seen something traumatic, we are left with “catastro-vision.”   

A great example is, “I don’t ever have a headache. I have a brain tumor.” You automatically shift your thoughts to the final scenario which typically always end with a negative result.  

I have been very open in sharing that my father died in a car accident when I was a teenager. Then, my daughter died unexpectedly. It’s easy for me to slip back into the past and what I went through then. If I don’t take control over those thoughts I can easily end up in an anxiety-fueled state.

Here are a few tips on how we can help ourselves manage these moments:  

Tell your mind nothing has actually gone wrong. Tell yourself that if and when there is a trauma, you will show up for it at that time.
• Find ways to calm yourself down. Do something different. Read, watch television, pray, listen to music, go for a walk.
• Reach out to someone you trust who isn’t going to catastrophize with you.
• Train your mind to think about the best scenario.

I know there will be times when this is easier said than done. But, I hope by sharing this information you no longer feel like you’re the only one. Catastrophizing is common for those who have experienced loss and trauma. Hold on and don’t give up. Wishing you all a peaceful week!

Published by pat

Mom. Wife. Honey. Jesus-Girl. Love to travel, cook, make beautiful things grow and spend time with family & friends.

4 thoughts on “Loss, Trauma, and Catastrophizing

  1. Thank you for talking about this! I never heard the word catastrophizing but am thankful for the normalization you brought in sharing it. This is one of the most lingering elements of grief for me. 17 years after Jacob’s death and I still think my husband died anytime he doesn’t answer my call. I’ve gained a lot of tools to function and cope with those thoughts that once sent me into total spiral, but they are still very much there!!

    1. Virginia, I’m so glad this brought some normalization to you. I know it did for me when I first heard about it. We are a work in progress! 🫂💜🫂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: