Sudden Loss of a Loved One

By Kristin Binder

Losing a loved one may be an inevitable part of life, but that makes it no less painful an experience to endure. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, the already complicated emotions of loss are compounded by feelings of never having had a chance to say goodbye or prepare for the death, and an overall sense of things being left unfinished, or unsaid.

In the earliest days after unexpectedly losing a loved one, it is common to feel as if the loss is surreal. Many people describe this time as feeling like they are stuck in a bad dream or watching someone else. Though nothing can take away the pain of loss, there are a few steps that can aid the healing process.

First, be kind to yourself and all that you are going through. Every emotion: sorrow, guilt, anger, pain, disappointment, despair, the feeling of being robbed, a sense of feeling numb, even humor, are okay.

Remember that there is no timeline for grief, nor a right or wrong way of dealing with the emotions of losing a loved one. Don’t pressure yourself to be strong or to move on, or beat yourself up if you are hurting.  Allow yourself your feelings without judgment.

Find someone to talk to in a setting that feels right for you, whether it be a grief counselor, a local or online grief support group, or reaching out to family and friends. The burden of grief is heavy, and not one that you have to carry alone.

Finally, remember that it is okay to ask for help. Losing a loved one unexpectedly can make normal day-to-day tasks feel overwhelming and difficult, especially if these tasks were handled by the person you lost. When family and friends offer you their help, accept it.

Coping with the sudden loss of a loved one takes time and hard work. The early days may feel overwhelming, but by being kind to yourself about what you are feeling and allowing yourself the time to grieve, by finding someone to talk to about how you are feeling, and by accepting help with tasks that feel overwhelming, you can begin the healing process.

These are steps towards healing, but as Rabbi Dr. Earl Grollman says, “the only cure for grief, is to grieve.”

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