Dealing with Sudden Death
March 5, 2019 | By: James Thibadeau
Although we know death is unavoidable, dealing with a sudden death can make the experience that much more difficult. A sudden or unexpected death is just that – a death that happens without warning. Sudden deaths can happen for a variety of reasons. It can happen as a result of someone causing harm to themselves or others accidently or on purpose.
Medical complications can often cause sudden deaths. For instance, an underlying medical condition could result in death when no one was aware the person was ill. Or, the death might seem sudden or unexpected if the person or their family didn’t want to share with others that the deceased was in poor health.
Whatever the case may be, a sudden or unexpected death may be difficult to manage, but it is possible. You must first understand that going through this experience will be different than other deaths that have occurred in your circle of loved ones. Below, we’ve offered some helpful information and tips for dealing with a sudden loss.
How does unexpected death differ from expected death?
It’s never easy losing someone you love. When a sudden loss occurs, it hurts because there is no time to prepare yourself. If your loved one is battling a long-term illness and expected to pass, it doesn’t make their death any easier to manage. But it at least gives you time to prepare yourself mentally for the inevitable. And for some, an expected death can offer closure because the deceased is no longer in pain or suffering.
A sudden death can also leave the surviving families filled with questions that are left unanswered. How did this happen? Why did it have to be them? Could this have been prevented? Questions like this can flood your mind when dealing with sudden death.
An unexpected death can also result in what we call traumatic grief. While the “Stages of Grief” are often used to outline the grieving process, a sudden loss can throw a wrench in the grieving process. You might find yourself in a state of shock, numbness, or disbelief. For many, you cannot begin to heal and move forward until you have accepted what has happened. Traumatic grief can delay this process and make it harder to find peace and closure.
4 tips to deal with sudden death
You must understand that dealing with loss takes time. The process of finding acceptance and moving on will be emotionally challenging. But by working through your feelings in a healthy and productive way, you can eventually come to terms with what has happened.
When starting to address a sudden loss, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.
Stay mindful that you will initially be in a state of shock and disbelief
After learning of a sudden death, a state of shock and disbelief may overshadow any feelings of grief. Refusing to accept a loss that you did not expect is normal. Essentially, one might compare the feeling to having a rug pulled out from under you. This shock and disbelief can cause a state of numbness or emotional shutdown.
Safely express your anger (in a healthy way)
The abruptness of a life altering event like an unexpected death will likely cause feelings of outrage or anger at some point. We suggest releasing this anger but in a healthy and safe manner. Many believe that it’s important to “power-through” the anger so grief can begin. But when dealing with sudden death, your anger needs to be expressed and acknowledged before calming and beginning to grieve.
Try to find answers, but accept that you might not
You may find yourself searching for answers when dealing with a sudden death. When a tragic life event happens, many of us need to search for the answers as to “why”. This often goes one of two ways. The first being, you tirelessly search to find answers. Or alternatively, you fill in the blanks yourself. Even if your “answers” are false, many find comfort in believing they are true rather than facing the reality of the unknown. However, even if it may feel uncomfortable, you need to accept that you can search for answers, but they may not exist and eventually you need to move on.
You may feel guilt, but you can’t change the outcome
something” or “I should’ve been there” may begin to surface. If you find that you’re pointing the blame at yourself, understand that this is not your fault. You have to come to terms with the fact that you could not have done anything to change the outcome or prevent it.
If you are currently dealing with a sudden death, please accept our sincerest condolences. We hope this blog post gives you some understanding about traumatic grief and gives you some insight into the emotions you will feel. The healing process will be difficult, but remember you will eventually work towards peace and acceptance.