I have been asked by a reader to “explain the interaction between grief and PTSD”. Her brief question also made reference to “”PTSD symptoms” of flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts” whose content relates to her “death trauma”. There is a lot to respond to in this query.
As with many common words, most of us don’t much pause when we encounter the word “grief”. It has, however, received a detailed and careful consideration in psychology, and I have written in detail about some aspects of this elsewhere. In summary, grief is a variety of a feeling called distress, which is the brain’s automatic response to loss. It lies on the high end of a continuum that runs from minor loss (say, of your car keys) to extreme loss (such as of a child), which can be called “anguish”. Put into words, that continuum might look like this: distress → sadness → sorrow → grief → anguish. In summary, grief is involuntary, fairly serious, and can become very serious.