Coping With an Unexpected Loss of a Loved One

| End-of-Life Resources

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Although we appreciate that death is part of life, the unexpected death of a loved one is still distressing. When grieving, you are likely to experience a range of emotional responses that can affect your physical and psychological well-being.

While no one can comprehend the pain you are going through, there are some things you can do to make the mourning process easier. But before we delve deeper into this, let’s see what it means by an unexpected death.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Meaning of sudden or unexpected death

An unexpected death can happen via a medical event such as a stroke, blood clot in the lungs, fatal heart problem, acute aortic aneurysm, or even from COVID-19 related complications.

Other causes of unexpected death might be suicide or trauma such as work, car, sporting accidents, violent attacks, or natural disasters. Also, in some instances, where an individual has been terminally ill and getting long-term care, their demise may still happen in a manner that appears unexpected to their family.

Usually, people who have had their loved one die due to an unexpected death are challenged to deal with an array of emotions, which may be amplified by the randomness of the death. That is, everything around them changes suddenly, which challenges their emotional worlds.   

Grief reactions in the case of unexpected death

As we mentioned earlier, when coping with an unexpected loss of a loved one, you can experience physical and emotional symptoms. Some people experience the majority of these symptoms, while others may experience only a few. In other words, people will grieve differently.

Here are a few common physical symptoms of grief you may experience.

  •  Crying
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stress
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pain
  • Loss of appetite

Here are common symptoms of grief you are likely to experience:

  • Feelings of isolation
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Guilt
  • Worry or anxiety
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Spiritual struggles or questions

If you lost a loved one suddenly, try doing this.

Here are some tips to help you get by with the unexpected loss of a loved one:

  1. Allow the grieving process to take place

Grief and bereavement is a process. You cannot set a time limit for grieving. Instead, allow yourself to undergo the stages of grief as they crop up. In her book, “On Death and Trying,” Elisabeth Kubler-Ross highlighted the five stages of grief. Every stage is unique and may not be experienced in order. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  

Also, a book by the name “Finding meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief” by David Kessler can be a great comfort in assisting you to appreciate that you are not alone. In it, he discusses how the death of his son due to an overdose led to depths of grief that he has never experienced before or known exists.  The book also offers several practical tools to help you recover.

  1. Take care of yourself

While mourning, it is easy to overlook your physical needs. Never do that. Get enough sleep, rest, bathe, wear clean clothes, and eat well. Even if you have to request a few days off, exercise, keep up with yoga, or meditation. These basic things are usually critical when grieving.

  1. Gather support

Although there may be instances when you wish to be left alone, it is crucial to identify a support group around you for those moments when you need company. Through a grief support group, you can share feelings and thoughts with those who have undergone a similar loss. Family and close friends can also be a source of emotional support and physical needs if required.

The loss of a loved one usually leaves a large gap in the survivors’ lives that can be, at least momentarily, be occupied by friends, family, or a support team.    

  1. Seek professional help and counseling

If you are experiencing extreme physical and psychological symptoms of grief, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Rather than letting symptoms exacerbate or develop into a mental health issue, consult a counselor, therapist, or psychologist. Similarly, if your loved one has died a wrongful death, it may be worth looking into legal support and advice to ensure the tragedy doesn’t spiral into financial misfortunes.

They are experts in such matters and can assist you in working through the feelings and emotions you are dealing with.   

  1. Get back into regular routines

After some time, you need to get back into your everyday routine. It may sound harsh; however, getting back to life can help ease your grief. There comes a time when you have to accept the reality of things – no matter how unpleasant they are. By practicing acceptance and returning to your daily routine, you will feel more peaceful and “normal.”

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

The fundamental lesson within

Here is the truth of things: when your loved one passes away unexpectedly, you are brought to the realization that tomorrow is never promised. This awareness can always help you remember what is vital in life, so you don’t lose sight of those things, which are significant to you.  

It is ironic, but one event of unexpected death is all that it takes to appreciate life more.  But all said and done, grieving is part of life, and every new day offers another step towards healing.    

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