Sudden death is shocking! We don't believe it, it will take time for the impact to fully sink in. Our lives are severely disrupted and often we don't have any idea of what to do next. Our grief will, of course, be most intense in the first days. Often those grieving a sudden death experience additional bewilderment and anxiety as they try to process and accept the sudden death of a loved one.

Grieving a sudden death is often different from an expected death, because there was no preparation, no chance to process the situation beforehand. All of the emotions of grief arrive very suddenly as well. Sudden death also poses challenges to our sense of control, it reminds us that our world is unstable and that we are never fully in command.

Later, reality will present itself in small doses as we process the loss. We have to learn how to do things the deceased once did for us and that we now must do for ourselves. We may need help learning to manage the house, take care of the children, and locating a job.

Avoiding excessive use of alcohol or sedatives is wise. Eating well and taking good physical care of yourself is also important. Seek help from friends or professionals when you need to talk or when you need advice on matters that cause you concern. 

Wisdom from the past invites us to prepare for the future. There are many important life events that we should and do prepare for. Some, like weddings, or buying a house are pleasant and we eagerly look forward to gathering information and planning for them. Others, like death and funerals are more difficult to think about ahead of time. They are no less important! 

Your lawyer, accountant and funeral director can help you plan for your & your family's future. If you don't have any of these, that's OK. There are many websites out there to help you figure out what you can and should do to prepare for your death. The most prominent website is the rather crassly (but aptly) named, http://getyourshittogether.org. Created by a young woman who lost her husband in an accident, only to discover that they weren't prepared at all. She spent 3 years straightening out their financial life after the passing of her husband and decided to do her best to help other people to not fall into that same trap. Take a look at the Get Your Shit Together! checklist http://getyourshittogether.org/

Seven Ponds (http://www.sevenponds.com) has extensive materials for both planning before death as well as a step by step guide for what to do both before and after a loved ones' death. Seven Ponds also has a lot of information on alternatives to traditional funerals including cremation and natural burial. 

 It's important to consider the challenges that your loved ones will face after you die. Your death will be hard enough without having to deal with the financial and legal repurcussions should you die without a will.

My name is Dr. Donald Steele, I have studied grief and bereavement for over 30 years. My interest in grief counselling began with a conversation with a good friend who went to mortuary school. At the time there were only a few people dealing with grief and bereavement. Little research had been done. He told me his professors taught about grief and encouraged them as funeral directors to do grief counseling but gave few strategies. It seemed like a reasonable pursuit for me to attempt to create strategies and better understand grief to help not only funeral directors but the grieving themselves as well as ancillary professionals such as nurses and even speech or physical therapists.

My friend noted that he heard two things at almost every wake. 1) What can I do to help? and 2)  some variant of "If there is ever anything they need let me know"  He noted how he thought this odd that the visitors would speak to him about this, as he was unlikely to be very involved in people's lives after the funeral. He decided he would keep a calendar book handy at wakes. When people indicated they didn't know what to do but that they were willing he would take out the book and say, "there is something you can do. How about setting a date and time with me when you will go visit the bereaved family "  That was it.  It was simple and powerful because all it required was a visit and no special skill or obligation. 

Later in my own conceptualization I used the mantra" Be there and listen". People need people and company and they often need to talk and relive their loss and the emotions that come from it. It is incredible how effective it can be to simply allow a person to talk it out.

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    As part of my doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, when information on grief, bereavement, death and dying was scarce, some colleagues and I began group work with the bereaved. Out of that work grew interviews with widowers, training with funeral workers, clergy, social workers, hospice and medical personnel. 

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    Copyright 2013, Dr. Donald Steele, Ph.D.
    NOTICE: All content within this blog is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The author is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this site. The author is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.