Helping Someone In Grief

The experience of grief is different for everyone, and it has no timetable. Grieving, however, is a necessary part of the coping and healing processes. — Jacqueline Pearce, MSEd, MHC

Dealing with the death of a loved one is always challenging emotionally, and it can take a significant amount of time to reach the stage of acceptance and rebuild a life with a “new normal.” However, when the loss is abrupt and unexpected or accompanied by violence and horror, the impact is intense to the bereaved cognitive, physical, psychological and emotional status. These past few years, the world has seen various events that can be categorized as horrifying and senseless death such as mass shootings, terroristic activities, plane crashes, massive vehicular accidents and natural disasters like hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes. Whenever we are put in a situation where we can provide support to bereaved family, friends, and coworker who has been affected by the sudden loss.  It is ideal to take note of the facts about the effects of sudden and unexpected death to the loved ones left behind and how to help them deal with this type of tragedy.


Shock And Belief Might Initially Camouflage The Grief

It is normal to initially be in the state of shock and denial about the situation. Overt expressions of sadness are not often seen around this time because there was no time to prepare or time to begin the grieving process slowly. Oftentimes, people who had experiences of sudden loss explained that they felt like a rug was pulled under them. The manifestations of disbelief are emotional shutdown and number which needs to be validated by oneself and others.

…for some people who have previously struggled with acknowledged or unacknowledged depression, the death of a significant other can be the catalyst that brings depression to the foreground. — Joseph Nowinski Ph.D.

 The Abruptness May Invoke Outrage And Anger

Create an accepting and safe environment where expression of hostility towards the situation will be encouraged. It is believed that a person needs to express and undergo the stage of anger to get to the point of grief. The magnitude of rage is usually in connection with the degree of violence or senselessness of the event. Anger, when suppressed and not adequately expressed or addressed, will manifest in destructive ways.

 A Need To Answer The Unknown Details

By nature, humans are uncomfortable with uncertainty and the unknown. It is our innate nature to seek for answers, reasons, and meaning of something. Loved ones will either endlessly attempt to find a solution and fill in the blanks. Health experts and close family members should be mindful of how these blanks will be filled since most of the time –guilt, self-blame, what-ifs, etc.—are utilized in trying to find an explanation of the death.


Induce Self-Blame To Those Left Behind

It is the default response of those loved ones left behind to question oneself if they could have done something to prevent the tragic ending of his/her life. If they have seen clues and signs from the universe or God about the impending death. If the tragedy was a punishment of wrongdoings? All of these questions and doubts lead to blaming one way or another.  This happens as an attempt to claim power and control over the situation. The most challenging part to come to terms with is the fact that there will be no amount of self-blame and guilt that will alter the outcome.

Often, the people who show up and truly step into the puddle of grief with you will not be who you expect. —  Jade Wood, MA, LMFT, MHSA

Finding Meaning In Life And Death

Through these experiences of death and loss, one will reflect on the circumstances regarding his/her own life and its purpose. It is also an opportunity to dwell on the gift of life and the swiftness of death. Though, the experience of death is heartbreaking; the tragedy will be an excellent epitome of the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to come together in grief and healing.