When a loved one dies unexpectedly, many families feel overwhelmed with shock and denial. It may be difficult to comprehend, but there are ways to cope with grief in healthy ways. If families don’t let themselves mourn their loss, it may turn into complicated grief or even masked or delayed grief.
Mourning a sudden loss can be challenging, so we’ve created this reference guide to help make things a little easier.
Grief of an Unexpected Death
Psychologist and author Dr. Therese Rando, Ph.D. discusses 12 insights about grieving the loss of a loved one. In terms of coping with an unexpected death, her seventh insight comes into play: “The circumstances of your loved one’s death will have a profound influence on you.”
Rando says that when death occurs unexpectedly, it also brings about a type of personal traumatization. This personal trauma is due to being caught off guard and temporarily being unable to process what happened.
It also may bring about these reactions and feelings:
- Heightened emotional reactions
- Distress over not being able to say goodbye
- Obsessing over the events and conversations leading up to their death
- Self-blame for their death (even though it’s out of anyone’s control)
- Intense feelings of disbelief
Rando also brings up secondary losses, which can be a variety of things, such as the loss of the relationship. This person may have been a life partner, family member, best friend, or another close relationship. Or, a secondary loss can refer to physical possessions, such as a house if it can no longer be afforded. This is especially painful and stressful when the grieving person was unprepared for their loved one’s passing.
How to Cope with Grief
Rando emphasizes that coping with grief is NOT about letting go of the deceased. It’s about creating a special way to honor their memory while learning how to live life without them. Families can memorialize their loved one through making a memento such as a photo wreath or a memorial candle. Or, they can create a memorial tradition, such as a monthly family dinner to serve the deceased’s recipes.
Making funeral plans and other arrangements for an unexpected death can be overwhelming. But those grieving should still allow themselves time to accept the death and mourn their loss. Grief shouldn’t be underestimated and everyone needs to determine a way to grieve that’s right for them.
Check out this article about healthy ways to grieve for some ideas.
Those grieving can turn to trusted family and friends, but they may not relate unless they’ve gone through a similar experience. They can provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, but those grieving should seek professional guidance if needed. Loved ones also can help those grieving by making sure they have meals and other necessities.
What other healthy grieving tips do you have? Share them with us in the comments!