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  • Writer's pictureGrief Specialists

Coping After a Sudden Loss

The unexpected death of a loved one can feel hugely overwhelming

Coping After a Sudden Loss

You may have heard us say this before but it's important to note that everyone experiences grief differently, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Sudden loss can be especially challenging.


If you find yourself reading this article after a sudden loss, let’s take care of you first with seven steps to deal with the initial shock:

  1. Take care of yourself: Try to get enough sleep, eat well, and engage in physical activity to help regulate your emotions.

  2. Allow yourself to feel: Allow yourself to feel and express your emotions, including anger, sadness, and fear. It's okay to feel overwhelmed and to need time to process your thoughts and feelings.

  3. Connect with loved ones: Reach out to family and friends for support and comfort. Talking about your feelings and experiences can help you feel less isolated and less overwhelmed.

  4. Practice relaxation techniques: Try deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to calm your mind and body.

  5. Seek professional help: Check out our Find a Specialist section to find the right grief professional for you, to provide support and guidance in coping with your loss and managing symptoms of shock.

  6. Avoid making major decisions: Wait until you are feeling more stable before making any big decisions, such as moving, changing jobs, or making major life changes.

  7. Allow yourself to grieve: Grieving is a normal and necessary part of the healing process. Don’t try to suppress or ignore your feelings, but allow yourself to feel and process them in your own way and at your own pace.

The unexpected death of a loved one in whatever form it takes comes as a huge shock. It can feel hugely overwhelming. Death is never a singular event. Along with the physical death of the person is the loss of the future with that person. There is the inability to say goodbye.


You might have things you wish you had said, and maybe things that you wished you hadn’t. But now that person is gone, and your life has changed forever. And you’ve got to get used to the idea that the physical presence of that person has gone, too.


Research published in the Journal of Loss and Trauma found that people who experience sudden loss often report higher levels of grief intensity compared to those who experience expected loss. Sudden loss and expected loss differ in terms of the nature and process of grief. Here are some reasons why you can’t compare a sudden loss with an expected loss:


Timing: Sudden loss is unexpected and occurs without warning, while expected loss occurs after a prolonged illness or when death is anticipated.


Shock: Sudden loss often leads to shock and disbelief, while expected loss may involve a gradual process of accepting the inevitability of death.


Anger: Sudden loss may elicit feelings of anger and frustration, as people struggle to make sense of the sudden loss. Expected loss may involve a process of saying goodbye and coming to terms with the loss.


Guilt: People may experience guilt in both sudden and expected loss, but sudden loss may involve additional feelings of guilt related to missed opportunities or not being able to prevent the loss.


Preparation: Expected loss allows for time to prepare emotionally, while sudden loss often leaves people feeling disoriented and overwhelmed.


Support: People may have had time to put their affairs in order and say goodbye in the case of expected loss, whereas sudden loss can leave people feeling isolated and in need of support.


Recovering from loss and adapting to a new reality are separate but equal. While most people make the transition to the new reality in their own way and at their own pace, better information about the emotional element of recovering from loss helps speed up the ability to recover from the pain.


A Grief Specialist can provide support, guidance, and resources to help you with the bereavement process. Our Grief Specialists can help to identify and manage difficult emotions, provide practical advice, and offer strategies to cope with the pain of loss.

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