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How therapy helped Tanya recover from trauma after witnessing her partner's sudden death

Mar 15, 2024

James was only 45 and Tanya was 38. They had been out the night before celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary together and had left their 2 teenage children at their grandparents. 

Tanya woke up to find her husband James clutching his chest and struggling to breathe. He was having a heart attack despite no known history of heart defects or known health problems. 

Tanya immediately called the emergency services and started to try and help him but didn’t know how and started to panic. It seemed a lifetime for her before the ambulance arrived by which time James had stopped breathing and was unconscious; he was in a state of cardiac arrest.  

On the way to the hospital, James passed away and was pronounced dead on arrival. It was his first-ever heart attack as far as it was possible to know and was to be his last. She was in total shock and disbelief that he wasn’t coming back home with her and was so angry with the ambulance for taking so long and at herself for not knowing how to save James. 

The next few weeks were a daze for Tanya, going from business as usual as if nothing had happened to falling in a heap unable to do anything, and suffering crippling anxiety and exhaustion. She would look at her watch several times a day wondering what James would have been doing and just wishing her phone would ring and it would be him saying he was on his way and the whole event had just been a bad dream. 

This went on for several months and she wasn’t able to move on. She started having more nightmares and reliving that morning she woke up feeling fuelled with helplessness and guilt of not being able to save James. The more she tried to get busy doing chores around the home, the more flashbacks she had. Memories of James were in every room of the house and it created constant remembers of what had happened and how sad she was. 

She avoided the bedroom where James had passed away and instead insisted on sleeping on the sofa. She wasn’t able to go back to work or care for her daughter Lucy who had severe epilepsy. Tanya was struggling to sleep and any sound or sight of ambulances would trigger a panic attack. 

She kept telling herself and others repeatedly that she should have saved him, she had let him and everyone else down and she should have been his saviour. She believed that he wouldn’t have died had she acted quickly enough and known exactly what to do to save him. She felt a failure and became depressed and felt everyone, including herself, was blaming her for what had happened. Tanya became lonely and isolated and she lost confidence and motivation to socialise with anyone. 

Tanya’s parents were very supportive and got her and the children to stay with them for a while to help her through this time and ensure the children were being cared for while she was struggling to barely care for herself. Her parents advised her to get professional help and over several sessions using Hypnotic Processing Therapy, Tanya's symptoms subsided, and her confidence and resilience to change things and move forward became stronger. 

Her tendency to avoid talking about James' death paradoxically triggered the memories to surface more often, especially when she was relaxing while watching TV. Hypnotic Processing Therapy helped Tanya to manage her memories in a controlled way. Over a few sessions, the symptoms dissipated and she could talk openly about his death without being triggered, and the emotional intensity of the memories significantly reduced. 

Moving back home to her bed was a huge step for her as was taking over her caregiving duties for her daughters. She was now looking forward to a phased return to work and starting to build her life again with friends and family who could support her moving forward.


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