A unique combination of horror and longing: Traumatic grief in post–October 7, 2023, Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

Abstract

On October 7, 2023 (10/7), Hamas militants brutally attacked Israeli towns and villages surrounding the Gaza Strip, resulting in the killing of more than 1100 people, most of whom were civilians slaughtered in their own homes. The killings occurred under highly traumatic circumstances, including shooting, the burning of homes, hunting down people who attempted to escape, and severe sexual assault. Thus, many Israelis today experience a unique mix of both posttraumatic and severe grief reactions. Traumatic grief (TG) is often defined as a condition that results from the death of a significant other and includes symptoms similar to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that are specifically related to the deceased, such as intrusive thoughts and memories about the deceased and hypervigilance expressed by constantly looking for them or cues associated with them. However, whereas definitions, phenomenological descriptions, and clinical illustrations of PTSD are abundant and widely validated, TG has yet to receive formal diagnostic status. In this paper, we aim to reexamine TG in the context of post-10/7 Israel. We argue that TG is a critical concept for clinicians working in Israel and other conflict-exposed areas of the world today, as it accurately captures the painful mix of grief- and trauma-related symptoms. We also suggest potential explanations for the lack of acknowledgment of TG as a formal diagnosis and discuss the possible role of historical events in the formation of new, relevant psychiatric diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-351
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Traumatic Stress published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

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