Working Clinically with Refugees Survivors of Traumatic and Prolonged Grief: Nadeem’s Story

Working Clinically with Refugees Survivors of Traumatic and Prolonged Grief: Nadeem’s Story


Via Zoom

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss; Refugees generally experience multiple losses in their lives, making grief a ubiquitous experience for refugee clients. The nature of the losses may have been personal and traumatic and usually also includes loss of identity, social status, employment, homeland, house and neighbourhood, traditional customary lifestyle and culture. Refugee experiences can rupture the bonds of love and connectedness to family, friends, and community, thus breaking the survivors’ sense of trust, security and justice both at individual and collective levels. Those bereaved may be at risk for prolonged grief, their resiliency impeded by the severity of the event and the perceived maltreatment of human beings as well as cultural bereavement and multiplicity of settlement problems. In this presentation Nooria Mehraby will provide insight into how refugees are exposed to severe traumatic events and multiple losses, subsequently presenting with traumatic and   prolonged grief reactions. She will illustrate this with a case study of Nadeem, a 46 year old Syrian refugee man who presented with symptoms of traumatic and prolonged grief, as well as PTSD, anxiety and depression. He had experienced multiple and traumatic losses including those of his brother and friends as well as the disappearance of his son. Complicating his presentation was the disenfranchised grief and hidden sorrow in relation to his other losses, including the early loss of his mother and the more recent losses of social status, qualifications and country. Longing for homeland and attachment to the place of his childhood was always present.

A safe therapeutic environment was provided for Nadeem where was able to process a traumatic loss both cognitively and emotionally, facilitating the process of grief. Although Nadeem would take many years to really settle into new life that accommodates loss of so many, therapy ended with renewed connections to his wife and children, his faith, his friends and family. He reported significantly reduced symptoms and renewed plans to study and work. Nadeem’s grieving may never fully end but he did find some comfort and acceptance in the midst of the chaos and loss.

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