What To Do When Someone Dies
An Unexpected Death and What to do in the Coming Days
Last updated 9/11/2021 at 4:33pm
Sometimes death comes without warning. The most common causes are heart attacks, and accidents. But sometimes, people just die without warning-in their sleep. We are going about our lives and suddenly, with the unexpected loss of a loved one, everything has changed for us. It changes you forever. The news arrives, and time stops.
There are few things in life as devastating as the sudden death of a beloved friend or family member. As your world changes forever and you're flooded with a profound sense of loss, you feel like you're adrift and disconnected.
"How could this happen? It can't be true!"
A sudden death shatters our sense of security and leaves you feeling that the world can end at any minute.
We prefer to believe that our loved ones are going to live forever. We assume that accidents and illnesses don't apply to them. So, when tragedy strikes suddenly, we go into shock. Our entire being vibrates with: Why? and What and I going to do without them?
A sudden death shakes you to the core. You can't turn away from it; you can't reason with it. You just know that life will never be the same without them.
Processing death: The five stages of grief
There have been five stages of grief identified with the processing of death. While these stages are not universal, and they don't occur the same for everyone, they can be useful in dealing with your loss.
1. Denial: You experience shock and disbelief, usually accompanied by numbness, detachment, or disassociation. You may focus on facts or keep busy, anything to delay experiencing the pain and despair the loss of your loved one has caused you.
2. Anger: Rage comes out in you. You may direct your anger at doctors, friends, spouses, siblings, society, or even yourself. Anger can trigger a crisis of faith, rage at your Higher Power that they would permit such a horrible thing to happen. You may even feel angry at the deceased for abandoning you.
3. Bargaining: To ease the pain of your loss, you try to bargain with it. You may make sudden changes or promises, such as, "I'm going to be a better person." or "I'll honor his or her memory by changing my ways." But such grief-driven promises are hard to keep. Bargaining helps to soften your anger and is your first attempt to come to grips with the loss.
4. Depression: After passing through denial, anger, and bargaining, the painful reality of the situation sinks in. Depression can push down on you until you collapse under the sheer weight of it. Everything feels pointless. Exhaustion overcomes you. You may fall back on self-destructive habits such as over-eating, sleeping, or isolating from others. Such patterns existed in your life before the loss and frequently increase during the depression stage.
5. Acceptance: You begin to accept your new existence. You recognize that, although everything has changed, you just have to get on with it. You start to find inner peace. Perhaps you take comfort in memories, rather than feel depressed or hurt by them. You may dream about your loved one or talk to him or her in your mind. You start to look for new relationships.
The stages of grief can last months or years. Everyone passes through them differently. To help yourself recover, consider the following suggestions:
1. Seek Support from friends and family. They can be a great comfort after a loss. Accept whatever relief that they can offer and don't be afraid to ask for more.
2. Reach 0ut to others. Enroll in a bereavement group, or find a religious community or meditative practices that offer you peace.
3. Maintain self-care by keeping active. Explore new habits like exercise, swimming, or yoga. Find a way to step outside your feelings of loss by being more creative. Take a class, go to an inspiring concert, or indulge in a craft.
4. Find Meaning to YOUR life. Books can be a great comfort in helping you to realize that you're not alone. They also offer you some tools to help you recover and find new purpose.
5. Start Fresh by taking that first step to moving on. Do you let grief shrink your life and hold you hostage or do you try to move forward? Perhaps you can decide the best way to honor your loved one is to live a happy life yourself for the time you have.
No one fully recovers from the sudden death of a loved one. We all are changed by such losses. We don't give up the battle just to go on. A grief that is honored and processed fully, frequently gives birth to a greater appreciation and commitment to living a better more fulfilled life.