How to Cope With an Unexpected Death

How to Cope With an Unexpected Death

Most people plan a life surrounded by the people who are important to their life. It is rare that part of living is planning for an unexpected death, because that only happens to other people. When someone dies without warning there is always unresolved grief, anger, guilt and unanswered questions. One day your life is normal, you got up, had breakfast, the kids went off to school, you went to work and the next minute, someone you love is gone, without warning. There is no way to prepare for this but there are ways some to cope with it.


Allow yourself to mourn. That means what you feel is what you feel. Give yourself permission to be angry, sad or numb, realize that it is okay and healthy to fully experience these emotions. Sometimes we can feel pressure from others who tell us that we should “Move on”, “Get over it”, or “It will be okay”. Well, it’s not okay and moving on is when you get over a break up, not because someone has died. You will never get over it, you should never get over it. You lost something important and without warning and no one can tell you how you are supposed to handle it.


Talk about it. We tell stories about events that are important and exciting. We will unabashedly share the details of that trip to Paris or our daughter’s wedding. We love to share experiences that evoke positive emotion, even when our audience is evidently bored or uninterested. Your grief is just as real as that, yet we tend to shy away from sharing these painful things to save others from being uncomfortable. Talking about your sorrow is healthy and if you can’t talk to your friends and family, find someone else to tell your story to.


Get involved. Get involved in the funeral. Writing a eulogy or preparing a speech (not that you have to actually give it) can be very liberating in releasing some of the heartache you are feeling. Go through pictures, help dress the body, experience everything you can especially when you know it will be difficult. This is your chance to feel raw feelings and say goodbye, even when you were not prepared to.


Give yourself time. Life will never be the same as before, understand and realize this. It is a long hard road to healing after any death, yet when a death is sudden it can take even more time to heal and come to terms with the reality that this person is no longer here, and no one can tell you how long that will take. Don’t force the process or convince yourself you are fine because you are not and that is okay.

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