Sudden loss. In an instant your world is forever changed. A knock on the door. A phone call. The words that will forever be etched into your mind. No time to prepare. No goodbyes. No last I love you’s. Shattered. Your life, as you have known it, will never be the same.

It is normal to feel:

  • Shocked
  • Disoriented
  • Confused
  • Helpless, powerless, immobilized
  • Numb
  • Sickened, (to feel faint, nauseous, a rapid heartbeat, sweaty/hot, shaky/cold)
  • Overwhelmed, (disorganized thoughts: who to call, where to go, what to do…)
  • Panicked
  • Intensely vulnerable
  • Mentally and physically exhausted
  • Agitated, angry, frustrated, scared

Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and ask them to be with you as your support person. Write down any and all questions. If you are able to on your own behalf, ask an emergency response person, a medical professional, social worker, clergy, funeral director for guidance, direction, what to expect. If you are not able, ask your support person to act on your behalf to get your questions answered and your needs met.


  • Breathe, (slow deep breaths)
  • Drink water, (avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol)
  • Eat small amounts of food, (whatever feels tolerable)
  • Sleep, (If you can not sleep try to rest, to breathe, to be still, even for a moment)     
  • Let family and friends support you

It is important to sustain yourself during times of sudden loss and grief.

It is human nature to want to, to need to, understand why the sudden loss occurred. To understand how the sudden loss occurred. To figure out what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the sudden loss from happening. Unfortunately, there are times when there will be no answers. Sadly, even when there are answers, it will be difficult to accept that your loved one has died.

Be patient, compassionate and flexible with yourself. Everyone processes, understands, expresses, tends to, and moves through grief differently. Know that you will not stay in deep grief forever. There will come a time when you will feel sad, still, and yet you will find the courage, the strength, and the will to move forward. To heal. To be present without the intensity of searing pain and hopelessness. There will come a time when you will remember your loved one for who they were and how they lived, instead of how they died. You will find ways to honor and remember them well. You will find the capacity to live again.

If after two months the intensity of your emotions remain constant or you begin to experience:

  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Painful thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty doing daily tasks
  • Difficulty caring for yourself, (or others whose care you are responsible for)
  • Difficulty accepting the death of your loved one

Get help. Asking for and receiving help takes great self-awareness, strength and courage. Call your primary care physician, clergy, or Hospice and ask for support, guidance, and a referral to a bereavement counselor.

If you are experiencing depressive or suicidal thoughts call The Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. It is confidential. It is free. A trained crisis worker is available 24/7. You will not stay in deep grief forever. Never give up hope. No matter how dark, how hopeless, or how powerless and overwhelmed you feel…never give up hope. You will find your way through the darkness. One step at a time.