Sudden Traumatic Loss Seminar

February 3-7, 2019
Montreat, North Carolina

What is the STLS?

The Sudden Traumatic Loss Seminar (STLS) is a specialized program offered by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program (SCLEAP). It is an off-shoot of the highly successful Post Critical Incident Seminar (PCIS), which has been offered 82 times in 8 states since 2000. The PCIS is an intensive intervention based upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) model created in 1983. It assists individuals to cope with distressing consequences of traumatic incidents and to build resilience for future ones through the use of trained peer support; large and small group work; education about trauma, loss, coping, meaning making, self-medication issues, and family relationships; medical massage; and personal one-on-one consultation with licensed mental health therapists familiar with law enforcement issues, posttraumatic stress, and the trauma recovery method of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Spouses/partners/parents/adult children are invited to attend the PCIS and receive similar services to enable them to understand and support the affected individual and to mitigate adverse impacts upon the relationship and the family. Clinical observation indicates that participation in a PCIS appears to create psychological and social movement for the participants that challenges the progression often found after critical incidents which have been insufficiently processed. It appears that the PCIS offers an experience embodying an unparalleled constellation of “curative factors” that renders it a uniquely helpful experience, unlike any other program in the world.

Through the years, there have been many PCIS participants who attended because of a sudden and traumatic loss in their own life. While feedback indicates that this has been quite useful for such individuals, we have long recognized that there are unique needs created by loss of a loved one under sudden traumatic circumstances which require assistance and information in addition to what is provided in a PCIS. Therefore, after years of planning, the STLS has come into being. It expands upon the traditional PCIS and focuses in a concerted way upon the traumatic bereavement of law enforcement personnel.

What is a sudden traumatic loss and how does it relate to traumatic bereavement and the STLS?

A sudden traumatic loss is one that comes abruptly and shockingly, without warning or expectation. It can be brought about by accident (including deaths from medical error), disaster, suicide, homicide (including deaths from terrorism and war), or from either an acute medical event (such as heart attack or stroke) or acute medical illness (such as from bacterial meningitis or the “superbug” MRSA). All sudden traumatic losses cause what is known as traumatic grief and bring about traumatic bereavement, at least for a while.

The term traumatic bereavement is used when a person’s grief over a death is complicated by the traumatic stress brought about by its circumstances. What happens in such situations is that the death confronts you with both trauma and loss simultaneously. You are personally traumatized in addition to having your loved one taken away. This volatile combination of trauma and loss creates a number of unique complications and extra challenges in the aftermath of your loved one’s death. These are over and above what is seen after an expected death from natural causes. They can be quite serious and have the ability to negatively affect your functioning in your personal and professional lives, either temporarily or long-term. Many problems come should you – or those who seek to help you – mistakenly assume that you are merely dealing with “normal” grief. You are not. Traumatic grief is very different and much more complicated.

Despite the potential negative impacts of such deaths, there is an enormous amount that can be done to alleviate the difficulties and to support and assist survivors. People who experience traumatic bereavement can and do live healthy lives after losing their loved one, they just need more information, support, and time to do so. Building upon the traditional components of a PCIS, the STLS has been specifically designed to focus upon traumatic bereavement and to pull together the elements that have been identified to enable you to best cope with your sudden traumatic loss personally and to reduce its impacts upon your professional work.

What should I expect at the STLS?

At the STLS, you will be with other law enforcement personnel (sworn and non-sworn) and their accompanying adult family members, who are currently dealing with the loss of a loved one through a sudden traumatic death. As well, you will be with specially-selected law enforcement peers who have confronted such a loss in the past, along with a cadre of STLS instructors, mental health professionals, and chaplains who have had training and experience in helping survivors cope with such loss. This means that you will be surrounded with people who not only understand what you are going through now (or have in the past), but know that individuals can go on to have healthy and productive lives notwithstanding the very real difficulties posed by traumatic bereavement, and who have the skills to help facilitate your best possible coping with your loss.

During your four days at the STLS, you will be listening to a number of speakers, as well as to your fellow participants and the peers. You will be invited to participate in a number of one-on-one and group activities. No one is forced to do anything. You also will be given the opportunity to have a medical massage to address any stress that is being carried in your body.

Who should attend and what is the cost?

We invite those who have experienced a sudden traumatic loss nine months prior to the start date of the STLS. Some participants will come with several sudden traumatic losses.

We invite those in the SCLEAP Member Agencies and the wider law enforcement community, who have suffered sudden traumatic loss. Examples include deaths from:

  • Accident (including deaths from medical error)
  • Disaster
  • Suicide
  • Homicide (including deaths from terrorism and war)
  • Acute medical event (such as heart attack or stroke)
  • Acute medical illness (such as from bacterial meningitis or the “superbug” MRSA)

Costs will be announced later in 2019. Monitor the web site for updates at

Sudden Traumatic Loss Seminar in South Carolina

Date: February 3-7, 2019

Location of Seminar: Montreat Conference Center, Montreat, NC

For more information and questions about the STLS, contact:

Beverly Coates, Cell: 803-606-3120, Work: 803-252-2664

Eric Skidmore, Cell: 803-206-8961, Work: 803-252-2664

Comments from participants in recent STLS

STLS Team from February 3-7 seminar.

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