Stages of Grief and Loss After SUDDEN DEATH - What NO ONE Tells You!

Losing someone close to your heart is painful. For those of you who don't know, my father recently passed away from sudden death. Despite being an experienced clinical psychologist, nothing in my years of training prepared me for dealing with grief and loss after my father's sudden death. That's why I decided to talk about the stages of grief from the perspective of losing someone suddenly.
 
You might have heard of the 5 stages of grief - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. And often, when you lose someone suddenly, there is an additional initial stage of shock.
 
When you lose someone, you go through these stages of grief, but the process of going through these stages is not as simple as people often think. And that's true for most grief and loss situations, but even more so when you are grieving a sudden death.
 
Another thing to keep in mind is that we don't go through these stages in any set order. At times you might jump ahead to acceptance and then might find yourself dealing with anger again. Instead of swimming in one direction, grief is more like floating with the current of the water. It's a very personal process, and you will go through it in your own way because that's what you need to do to find your own peace with reality.
 
So let's get into the nuances of these stages of grief, and then I'll share some things about the grief process that sadly no one ever talks about.
 
Often the first stage of grief when you lose someone suddenly is the shock stage, where it's hard to even wrap your head around what just happened. It seems unreal, like a bad dream that you desperately want to wake up from. But as time goes, you realize that this dream is now a reality, and that's when most of us enter the stage of denial.
 
The denial stage is where you know the reality, but you are not ready to deal with it. You want to run away from it. Often people try to distract themselves from the painful reality that you lost someone dear by focusing on their work or simply trying to "not think about it."

I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.
J.R.R. Tolkien
It's also typical for all the shock and sadness of the loss to bring up anger. This could be anger or guilt towards yourself, anger towards the person who passed away for leaving you or causing you such pain.
 
It's in this stage that many people try to comfort you by saying things such as "stay strong" or "it will be okay." And while these things are well-intentioned, they rarely bring comfort to a grieving heart. In fact, for some people, the anger may even be directed towards others around them for not being able to soothe their pain.
 
There is a lot more to grief than what people from the outside can ever understand. And because of this, going through this process can feel even more lonely - because it's hard for others to understand your unique experience with grief.
 
I'll talk more about this in a moment, but let's finish go through the remaining 3 stages of grief first.
The next stage is bargaining, where you try to make deals in your head. You revisit different scenarios and think about all the things you could have done differently to avoid this outcome. In sudden death situations, the bargaining stage can be even more difficult as people often get stuck in all the ifs and buts scenarios.
 
But, somewhere in this bargaining phase are hidden strong feelings of guilt as well. It could be guilt for what you did or didn't do, or it could even be guilt for simply knowing that you are still alive and going through your life - sort of like a survivor's guilt.
 
We find a way to blame ourselves for things beyond our control, even if deep down you know that we were not responsible for what happened. But, it's also important to remember that there's nothing to gain from holding on to these thoughts.
 
Death is as real as life itself, and when all these other stages fail to bring relief, you are forced to face reality and all the sadness associated with it. This stage is called depression and often paves the path to the ultimate stage of acceptance.
 
Acceptance: This stage doesn't mean that you no longer miss the person, but instead, you find acceptance that you will always miss them, but life will also keep going.
 
Going through these stages of grief is a very personal process that looks different for each person. But there is still a lot more to grief than meets the eye - There's a lot more that goes into grief than just going through these stages.
 
So here are three things that I want you to know about going through the grief process.
 
The first thing is that, of course, you miss the person who is suddenly gone from your life, but you're also grieving what the person brought to your life.
 
You miss the comfort the person brought to your life or the memories that you cherished that you can't enjoy now. You may even grieve all the plans and hopes you made - that are left unfinished - and won't find closure now. Whatever it might be, recognize that as a second layer of your grief - That you're grieving the person, but you're also grieving the impact of them leaving on your own life.
 
This realization helps break free from the tendency to stay in the past and go through all the ifs and buts, or just staying with the memories. It enables you to ground yourself in the reality of the current moment, even if it's unpleasant.
 
The second thing that I want you to know is that you will have to force yourself to break free from the loop of sadness and constant grieving. Remember that grieving isn't just about sorrow and crying. Even while grieving, you still experience all sorts of emotions. You will smile and chuckle when remembering a funny memory. You will cry with some other memories. While you have let grieve, it's also important to not give in to the momentum of negative emotions and just stay there. You cannot withdraw from everything else in your life.
 
So allow yourself to grieve. Being sad is okay, and so is crying - but you'll have to watch out for the extremes. And one thing that can help you find the balance is identifying specific thoughts associated with your grief - Identify which memories you are remembering. Paying attention to them will help you ease your pain. And on top of that, every time you talk about them with someone, you take a tiny step towards the eventual acceptance stage.
 
The last thing that I want to remind you about the grief process is to continue leaning in on people around you while you go through the process. While they won't be able to make your pain go away, they can provide you the emotional support to go through it. And with time and support from your loved ones, you will eventually find peace and acceptance in this new phase of your life.
 
Because one of the toughest realizations in grief is that time and life keeps going, and our only option is to accept and adapt. Which is exactly what my next article is about, where I share a powerful strategy that can help your grief process, so read that article (or watch the video) next.

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