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Self-Help for Coping with Trauma and Loss

There are many kinds of traumas and losses in our lives. We surely grieve the loved ones that we lose to death. But, we also grieve over other kinds of losses, such as the loss we experience when we lose a certain ability, retire, or end a relationship. In the case of victims of crime, an individual may lose their feeling of safety and trust in humanity. There no specific "right" way to deal with loss and trauma, but below are some suggestions that you might find helpful:

  1. Be gentle with yourself. Realize that youíre only human and that humans have reactions that do not seem logical at times. Be aware of any harsh judgments you are making about your reactions or the reactions of others around you. Each person faces grief and trauma in his or her own way and each person does the best that they can do with it given their circumstances.

  2. Expect to feel anger, it is inevitable. You may feel anger at life, anger at everyone, anger at God, or even anger at the person that was lost (this can create a lot of guilt, but is a very common reaction).

  3. Try to keep your daily activities as normal as the situation allows. Try to keep usual schedules for sleep,  eating, and daily rituals.

  4. Try not to make major decisions, like deciding to move across the country or changing jobs/careers.  It is often very hard to think clearly following a loss or trauma and big decisions require clear thinking.

  5. If looking at the future or even the next week seems overwhelming, consider structuring your days so that you focus on chunks or portions of each day.

  6. While making decisions at a difficult time is not easy, it may also give you a sense of control . If you are inclined to let others take over and make decisions for you, ask yourself if the other person's choice/decision is really what you want and truly your best option (or consider delaying a decision until a time you can think about it more clearly). 

  7. Talking to someone can be very helpful in the healing process. Talk to people you know care about you (and people do care). If itís difficult for you to do that, consider reaching out to a psychologist or other mental health professional for assistance.

  8. You may be tempted to numb the pain by misusing drugs or alcohol. Of course, drugs or alcohol typically will result in further complicating your life. To make matters worse, alcohol acts as a depressant. While it can seem as if alcohol and drugs numb the pain, their use can act to just prolong your pain by stopping the needed flow of feelings.

  9. Try to add pleasurable activities into each day. It may be something very small, like taking a bubble bath or sitting outside and relaxing, or it could be something a bit bigger, like taking a weekend to travel. But try to make sure that you do nice things for yourself (encourage yourself to do so even at times when you might feel that you donít want to do anything).

  10. Loss often leads us to have feelings of guilt Ė that is a universal reaction. But try to remind yourself that although many people feel guilt following a loss, the guilt is often misplaced and not entirely rational.

  11. You may read or hear that there is some "limit" on grieving, such as that "normal" grief lasts one year. This is not necessarily true. Grief (even normal grief) is a long process that has many levels and has no single definition (nor time period). It may help to ask yourself questions such as "Is my grief significantly interfering in my lifeís activities?" or "Is my grief becoming my life?" or "Has my grief become so distressing to me that I have difficulty getting through the day?"

  12. Do not judge yourself by others.  People react different and handle situations in unique ways.  Try not to compare your reactions to those of others.  What makes one person feel better or brings you peace may not seem sensible or appropriate to another person.

  13. Use any tools you believe will help you in coping with the after effects of your trauma or loss. That could be prayer, medication, writing in a journal, staying busy, exercising, or talking to family or friends.

  14. Give yourself permission to consult a mental health professional. Realize that acknowledging to yourself that you need professional assistance when you do is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of maturity and wisdom.


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Dr. McBee maintains a Web site as a service to prospective and current clients. Links provided to third party sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement or verification of the accuracy of content contained in those sites. The material provided in this Web site is for informational purposes only, and nothing contained in this Web site is intended to substitute for assessment or treatment by Dr. McBee or other mental health professional. Although this Web site may be updated frequently, please note that health and research information changes rapidly, and Dr. McBee cannot assume liability for incorrect or out-of-date information that may inadvertently be contained therein.


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