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Coping With a Sudden Loss

When there is an unexpected death coping with that loss can be difficult. This post is an attempt to help bring some direction.
Coping with a sudden loss
Grief-sicken young woman covering mouth with napkin while trying to hold back her tears

The loss of a loved one can be expected or all of a sudden out of the blue. When it happens suddenly and unexpectedly a life that was once stable can instantly seem chaotic and uncertain. Your regular routine can be completely gone leaving you confused and unsure.

You’ve had no time to wrap your head around what’s happened before you have to make funeral arrangements. When coping with a death is the last thing you expect to be doing, here are a few things that can help.

Understand That Grieving is Different for Everyone

There’s no right or wrong way to grieve no matter what the circumstances are surrounding the death. It’s okay if you aren’t going through the “normal” process. When a death is sudden it’s a shock. This can prolong the denial stage of grief. You may even withdraw and disassociate yourself with what happened.

Like it or not, the pain has to be confronted. Acknowledging a loss and reacting to it is a natural part of the grieving process.

Understand Acceptance Can Be Harder When a Death is Sudden

When someone dies suddenly there’s usually a lot of questions and disbelief. Unanswered questions can make it difficult to accept that a person’s gone. In the Kubler Ross grief model the fifth and final stage is acceptance. Understand that getting to that point can be a challenge no matter how resilient you are.

Accept Support and Help From Others

During the initial shock of suddenly losing a loved one a support system is critical. Leaning on your friends and family makes the process much easier than trying to go it alone. When someone offers to help take them up on it so there’s one less responsibility you have to worry about while you’re grieving.

There are also support groups that meet in-person and online. This can be particularly beneficial if the others in the group lost a loved one suddenly in the same way. The support group gives you a sense that others understand exactly what you are going through, which is a relief in itself.

Talk It Out

One reason support groups are such an effective coping tool is because it gives you a chance to talk out what you’re thinking and feeling. Doing so can help you make better sense of your emotions and provide relief. Simply getting things off your chest can help release the anger and allow you to face the pain.

When to Consider Grief Counseling

When someone dies suddenly we sometimes forget that the family members, friends and coworkers of the deceased are dealing with more than the loss. Their whole life could have changed overnight. It’s enough to overwhelm anyone.

Even if you’ve never felt like you needed counseling before, when someone close to you dies unexpectedly nothing is like it was. If you find that you are having difficulty accepting what has happened or feel an inability to move on, it’s important to speak with a mental health professional.

It’s not uncommon for people to battle depression and anger issues after a loved one dies suddenly. This could lead a person to cope in unhealthy ways such as binge eating or abusing alcohol.

Mental health professionals that specialize in grief counseling are trained to help identify sources of distress after a death as well as healthy coping mechanisms that can help you manage your emotions. The primary goal of grief counseling is to help you accept the reality of what’s happened and cope with all of the changes. It’s a vital form of support that is provided through most health insurance plans.

If prolonged, negative emotions aren’t addressed it can turn into something known as complicated grief. This is when you don’t go through all of the stages of grief or try to bypass the process altogether. It may seem like self-preservation, but in actuality it can prevent a person from getting past their grief. It’s a situation that often leads to alcohol and substance abuse.

If you or a loved one are having difficulty coping with the loss you can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).