Emotional Wellbeing

Mandy Kloppers

How to Get Over the Sudden Loss of a Loved One

Dealing with the loss of someone you love under any circumstances can be incredibly difficult to navigate, and losing a loved one can evoke a range of emotions.  

However, when the loss is unexpected or sudden, it can be even more difficult to process and to overcome. For example, a sudden heart attack or a car accident death can blindside you.  

There are differences between expected and unexpected loss.  

Some of these differences include: 

  • There’s no time to prepare with a sudden loss. This means you can have end of life conversations with the loved one, or ask what they might want in terms of a funeral service. You don’t get that last chance to tell the person you love them.  
  • There may be concerns about the final moments of your loved one’s life and whether or not they felt afraid, alone, or in pain.  
  • Sudden loss can leave you reeling and asking questions such as why it had to happen.  
  • There are stages of grief we often talk about that accompany any loss, but with a sudden loss, you have to go through a state of shock first.  
  • You may never get that sense of closure that you’d like to have with a sudden loss.  

If something happened that was intentional, such as a suicide or a murder, it can leave many why’s unanswered. Those unanswered questions can leave you stuck in certain parts of the grieving process.  

So how can you get past it, even though sudden deaths create more hurdles to the grieving process? 

Shock May Overshadow Grief 

What you have to realize in a situation such as sudden death, is that it’s likely that your shock will be a more powerful emotion in the early days. You probably won’t feel sad at first, and that’s okay.  

Your brain has to accept a loss, and that takes time because you didn’t have time to prepare.  

Some people initially feel numb or emotionally shut off.  

Another emotion that may occur at first is anger or perhaps outrage.  

It’s important that you deal with that if it’s something that you’re feeling. You may have to fully work through anger to get to the grief.  

Overcoming Self-Blame 

Another feeling that you’re more likely to experience due to a sudden loss, as opposed to one that’s expected, is self-blame.  

Not everyone who experiences an unexpected loss will deal with self-blame, but some will.  

For example, you may feel like you should have seen it coming, or you should have done something to prevent it.  

If you’re going through this following an unexpected loss, keep in mind that it’s your brain trying to take back a sense of power or control that you felt was taken from you. 

Talk It Out 

When you’re dealing with an unexpected death, find people you trust and talk to them whenever you need to. Yes, you may want to take time to be by yourself with your thoughts, but don’t bottle it up.  

A good place to start is joining a support group for people who have been in a situation similar to your own.  

Understanding that you aren’t alone in your experiences and feelings can be very valuable.  

If you aren’t comfortable going to a support group or talking to people close to you, talk to a professional. A grief counselor can be a great resource for you to help you understand that what you’re feeling is “normal.” 

Try to Be Participate in Regular Activities 

It’s going to be very tough, and many people dealing with a loss of any kind have so many effects, including brain fog and trouble concentrating. You’re likely going to experience sleeping and eating disturbances too, but as much as you’re able, try to participate in normal everyday activities.  

Don’t push yourself too hard, though.  

Be gentle on yourself and do what you can, no matter how slow the process, to get back into the daily groove of your life.  

Sometimes with loss, we want to find a path to follow as we cope with our grief. That’s simply not possible, however, because while there are phases of grief, each person’s feelings and experiences are unique.  

Do know that with a sudden loss, your grief timeline is likely going to be longer than someone dealing with an expected death. Take your time, work through your emotions, and know that you will eventually be able to move on with a sense of peace, as far off as that may seem.  

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash