Trauma Informed Death Notification: The Team Approach

“The loss of a friend is like that of a limb; time may heal the anguish of the wound, but the loss cannot be repaired” – Robert Southey

Losing someone can be one of the hardest things in the world to deal with. It is a kind of pain that one can physically feel all over the entire body. For many, it can be suffering of the worst kind. This presentation offers notifiers the skills and awareness necessary to notify people that someone who is in their life has died. It is taught through a trauma informed, healing inspired lens that relies on the best practice of the “teams approach”.

We believe that it is essential to be human-centric in our approach which means that it in order to be trauma informed, the death notification goes beyond the 10 minutes it takes to deliver the news.   This is a moment of crisis.  We assert that notifiers have a responsibility to create both short term and long-term support- hence the best practice of the team approach.

The first week after a death, the check list of death responsibilities is long-there will be so many questions.  As notifiers we can lift the weight of this burden by being able to provide basic answers (on local funeral services, what is the role of the medical examiner, what will happen next, who to call for extra help…).

In the first few weeks, months and even after the funeral is over, people grieving can experience a real risk of depression and loneliness.  It is possible, at the point of notification, to help set up a formal support net to help people transcend this traumatic experience.

Further, many people who are required to deliver death notifications say that it is the most difficult part of their job. We will discuss the stress experienced by crisis responders, posttraumatic stress disorder, and secondary traumatization.

Research asserts that the moments surrounding a death notification are highly traumatic, and if handled inappropriately, can generate tremendous emotional and psychological harm. Professionals who are trained in trauma informed notification do a great service by minimizing additional trauma and supporting people through the shock and grief that follow.

-to analyze the psychophysiological response to crisis and trauma
-to understand the complicated nature of grief and grieving
-to discuss the special notification of children
-to articulate necessary elements of a  trauma informed, healing inspired notification would look like
-to illustrate the great value in the “teams approach” to notification
-to draw a link between culture and response to news of death
-to develop a basic understanding of industry of death (funerals, burial, autopsy…)
-to understand what short term and long term support looks like