Sudden Death: Reflections to help you process, cope and move forward

When death is expected there is time to prepare. Time to process the coming loss and let it sink in. But sudden death can be very different. Whether accidental, traumatic, violent, associated with disease or some other event… sudden death is a world-changing, highly emotional and distressful time.

Immediate and overwhelming grief

Often sudden death results in intense feelings such as being overwhelmed – unable to cope, confused, agitated, despairing, helpless and being out of control. You can be left with a real sense of disbelief as you think ‘this can’t be real’, ‘it can’t be happening to me and my family’. It can feel like you are wandering around in a fog, a daze. This is a very normal reaction.

No opportunity to say goodbye

With no time to prepare for loss and say goodbye, words are left unsaid, important things are not done and business is unfinished. Regrets can be intense and longlasting. Many thoughts beginning with “If only …”. These can be overwhelming if you allow your mind to dwell on them.

Your world changes

Perhaps you feel less safe, insecure, emotionally and personally abandoned, angry, immobile in the face of what has happened and what is to come. You might fear the future and worry if you have the personal strength and ability to cope with this.

You may ask the big questions

Why me? Why did God let this happen? Why our family? What did I do to deserve this? Who is to blame for this?

There may not seem to be any answers. Nothing makes sense right now. And then there are the immediate decisions: You can’t think straight and there is the funeral to organise, arrangements to make, so many decisions, people to contact and no idea where to start! There may also be police reports, a Coroner’s investigation, lawyers, insurance companies, media reports and other parties involved … all this is added intrusion to deal with.

Don’t try to do it all by yourself

You may find your friends and relatives don’t know what to do or how to talk to you about the situation. Maybe you can tell them what you would like them to do. Give them a task. They’ll feel useful knowing they are doing something worthwhile for you. You may have to show them that you are okay talking about what’s happened and that you want them to speak openly to you.

Allow yourself to grieve

It’s alright to cry and be overwhelmed. Try not to bottle up your feelings. Now’s the time to tell a close friend that you’re struggling. If you are feeling really overwhelmed, unable to act or do what needs to be done… talk to your doctor, community health service, local church pastor or a registered psychologist or counsellor. There are people who understand what you are going through and are there to help you through it.

We invite you to visit our Resources page for details of available grief support should you be struggling with the sudden death, or even expected death, of a loved one.

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