In the present study, we investigated the phenomenological characteristics of distant trauma memories and the relationship between the vividness of trauma memories, the centrality of event and symptoms of posttraumatic stress in two groups with different types of trauma exposure, namely survivors and bereaved, from the fire on the passenger ferry, Scandinavian Star, 26 years earlier.
More than two decades after the fire, the traumatic event was represented as a vivid, emotional recollection for many of the victims. For both the survivors and the bereaved, a higher degree of vividness of trauma memories and centrality of the event were associated with higher levels of posttraumatic stress.
The present findings show that even very distant trauma memories can be represented as vivid recollections. Furthermore, the findings suggest that both vividness of trauma memories and event centrality may contribute to explain how posttraumatic stress reactions can remain present over a very long time.