Sudden death is often a grief which some individuals fear they’ll never survive; however, it is a natural grief experienced by many. The grieving process may take time, but it is important to understand that everyone goes through the stages of grief. The different stages are: Guilt, Anger, Resentment, Depression, and of course Grief. The stages are as essential to comprehending sudden death as understanding the stages are to understanding cancer or heart disease. Grief, friends, family, colleagues, and help can all be of assistance as the grieving griever struggles through the complicated emotions that have arisen as a result of the unexpected death of an elderly parent.
Guilt. This emotion arises immediately after the death of a loved one and is characterized by feelings of guilt (over having allowed someone to use drugs) and rejection (over not allowing the bereaved family to grieve properly). While this reaction is appropriate in most cases, individuals experiencing post bereavement depression often experience feelings of guilt and rejection, which perpetuate feelings of grief.
Anger. Anger is commonly expressed during the actual grief period and can lead to symptoms such as increased stress and depression. The loss of a loved one can trigger anger due to feelings of incomplete or inadequate responses. Others who do not experience death or losing a loved one might express anger for perceived wrongdoings, perceived slights, or perceived disrespect for the individual who died.
Resentment. Resentment is often paired with depression as people struggle to deal with the grief reactions associated with their loss. Resentment is typically expressed by expressing feelings of "shame" and "humiliation" toward those who are mourning. Although resentment is a normal expression of grief reactions, it can be destructive because it can keep loved ones from helping the other survivors heal. It can also prevent the lossee from accessing healing resources such as support groups and grief counseling services.
Traumatic grief. People experience a variety of emotions when a friend, relative, or member of the family dies. Although death is often considered a peaceful event, some grieving process remains even when death has taken place. The loss of a loved one is traumatic, especially if it happens suddenly. Because death is such a sudden occurrence, people experience traumatic grief reactions such as sadness, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, fear, flashbacks, nightmares, and thoughts of revenge.
Post Bereavement syndrome. Bereavement is often a complex experience that involves feelings of guilt, anger, shame, fear, and denial. Because of these intense feelings, many people mistakenly believe they are beyond help. Sadly, many who have lost a loved one think they are beyond help and this then leads to post-bereavement syndrome. This condition makes it possible for bereaved to fall into a state of untreated depression.
Other common reactions include a tendency to isolate oneself, avoiding situations that remind them of the loss, isolating themselves in quiet, dark corners, and expressing their grief by repeatedly denying, minimizing, or punishing themselves for experiencing loss and grief. This pattern of behavior can ultimately destroy a person's ability to move forward in life and negatively affect their relationships. It can also lead to drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, suicide, and other health complications.
Grief reactions are natural and normal when people experience sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. The challenge comes when a sudden traumatic loss continues or becomes worse after the initial loss. Ignoring grief reactions can only make the situation worse. The best way to cope with any tragic event is to accept the reality that death happens, learn how to deal with the grief, and support loved ones. Don't let death overwhelm you.
Steve Schafer is the founder of TheEulogyWriters and is probably the most prolific eulogy writer (and, no doubt, the best) anywhere. He lives in Michigan and has been writing eulogies for well over thirty years. The articles in this blog are designed to help people through the process of losing loved ones.