A House Next Door to Trauma: Learning from Holocaust Survivors How to Respond to Atrocity

By Judith Hassan | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Complexity of Trauma

Having raised an awareness of how our personal issues impact on our ability and aptitude to work with severely traumatised people, we can now turn our attention to how trauma affects the lives of the traumatised long after the horror has ceased. Each one ofus will have faced some trauma in our lives, and can thereby understand something of the impact it can make – but what of severe or prolonged trauma such as that encountered during the Nazi Holocaust? To address this question, we first need to look at the complexity of trauma. Rather than trying to define trauma, I would like to break down trauma into some of its component parts. This process will help the reader to shift his/her thinking towards the practical responses which need to be made that are meaningful to those who have undergone the trauma. This aspect will be dealt with in Part II.


The effects of loss, grief and mourning in relation to trauma

Let us start with the familiar. It is difficult for us to go through life without experiencing one or more of the following: loss of health, a bereavement of someone close to us, loss of work, divorce or moving house, to name but a few. Most of us would be aware of the processes of mourning as described by Bowlby (1982). He differentiated four main phases of mourning: numbing, yearning and searching, disintegration and despair, and finally reorganisation. These responses are seen on a continuum, fluctuating back and forth among the phases over a period of weeks or months, and vary from person to person.

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