Collective Trauma and Accumulated Grief among Iranians: Challenge and Treatments
Iranians are overwhelmed with collective trauma and accumulated grief. These psychological distresses can have a dire effect on the society as a whole. Therefore, it is important to understand what footprints they may have on our lives and how to cope with them.

Collective trauma is a psychological response to stressful and shocking events such as wars, terrorist attacks, plane crashes and natural disasters that affects the entire or a considerable part of the society. Experiencing multiple losses by a community on a wide scale, while they feel they have no power to control it, is a manifestation of an “accumulated grief".

Unfortunately, during the last 4 decades, Iranian society has experienced many significant tragic incidents. Here are some examples:

  • the Iran-Iraq war of 1981-1988
  • the Massacre of political prisoners in the 1980s
  • the atrocities committed against demonstrators in November 2019
  • shooting down the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752
  • the violent and brutal responses of the IRI authorities aimed at the Women, Life and Freedom moment.

Each of these catastrophic events has had an immediate and long term effect. Each occurrence has traumatized society and has been stored in our collective memory. In the long run, those dreadful memories will be transmitted from one generation to the next.

Currently, the most part of Iranian society is suffering from accumulative and collective grief, because of the chain of the vicious historical developments they have gone through.

Common social values and goals such as longing for freedom, passion for fighting discrimination, injustice or mistreatment brings members of the community under one social umbrella to share the same feeling about the situation they are in or have experienced.

Because of such common values, when someone loses his or her life for a common cause, the rest of the society feels the pain of losing them. In such cases, people are related to each other by means of their common social values and concerns. That is why, they don't even know the individuals who lost their lives; but still the rest of the community grief their loss. Most people did not know Jina Amini, Nika Shakarami or Kian Peerfalak and Hadith Najafi but the community responded to these losses and strongly felt a common pain and sorrow for losing them.

The Iranian community, during the last several months, has been facing collective grief on a wider scale, which needs to be addressed.

Unprocessed traumatic experiences and grief can lead to emotional dysregulations, surge of stress, lack of motivation, increase the likelihood of illness, PTSD, relationship distress with family members or coworkers and weakening of the immune system.

Coping strategies: empowering self and supporting others

Each person may mourn in a different way. However, we as human beings need each other to relieve grief and overcome the pain of collective traumas. In the context of the current challenging time it is important to take some positive steps to empower ourselves and support others. Here are some tips to consider.


  • Accept the fact that great achievements may require high cost.
  • Have your regular daily routine in place and go on with your social life, family and social network.
  • Instead of dwelling on the past negative experiences, it is imperative to continue focusing on your future goals and plan to pursue them.
  • Attend Public funerals and memorials
  • Discuss life and share the values and aspirations of the lost individuals.
  • Spend time and communicate with those who understand your feelings and frustration.
  • Participate in protests, rallies and promote social justice and dignity for all.
  • Write about the event; highlight its learning lessons and examine g alternative solutions to its barriers.
  • Utilizing social media to express your frustration and display the nasty aspects of the experience that the society has gone through.
  • Make a donation to help those most affected.
  • Check in with professionals for extra support.

Taking such steps encourages your brain to register positive thoughts about your ability and role. Positive thoughts support you to feel that you are strong and capable of taking measures for supporting others and pushing for positive outcomes. Your positive contribution, although small, would be a great asset for society. More importantly, when you feel good about your positive role, you will become more resilient and optimistic. Hope and resiliency increase psychological wellbeing.

Arvin is a Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying) with CRPO; He can be reached at:
[email protected]