The grief of a sudden death is one of the most difficult grieving journeys. Grieving the loss a loved one due to an accident or murder is best approached consciously, and with guidance.
I don’t like to compare pain. However, there is such righteous anger, shock, dismay, and confusion any time death happens due to these events. The death is complicated, thus making the grieving process complicated.
Walking through the cacophony of emotions is debilitating. The agonizing cries of a mother who lost her son to a fishing boat accident still ring through my memory. I recall her stating she felt the news was like someone had deliberately punched her in the stomach. The news of her son’s accident and death loss was brutal to hear. It was also brutal to tell.
If you’ve ever been told, or had to tell someone about death due to an accident, you know what I mean. You most likely still hold the memory.
When I was told of a sudden death of a loved one due to an accident, I remember wanting to yell into the phone, “Look! This is NOT a funny joke! Knock it off!”
I soon realized it wasn’t a joke. It was a fact I had to face. – A fact of life – And death.
The experience of having difficulty accepting that the news is not a sick joke, is a fairly common one. Of course, the reality will eventually sink in and be faced.
When You Are The Messenger
It is important to remember the adage, “Don’t shoot the messenger” when you are the messenger. Expect people to become confused and angry. Be patient with the loved ones. And be patient with yourself as the messenger. There is just no perfect way to give bad news. It hurts. Telling the news with as much care and compassion is all you can do to alleviate unnecessary pain.
10 Principles For Traumatic Grief – The Great Rip Off
When walking through a sudden death, try to remember these practical tips to go through the complicated as consciously as possible. The pain will still be there. It just might help prevent further injury.
1. Remember when I shared, “When tragedy happens, people go into their hearts. When people go into their hearts, they go out of their minds.”? This is a time to keep that principle at the forefront of your mind. People will say awkward and awful things to each other. Try to keep in mind, they might not ever say those things without this trauma. The inability to speak when traumatized is a strongly documented fact.
2. Clarify what is being said – A misunderstanding will be very easy to have happen during traumatic grief. Asking for clarification when you believe something hurtful has been said can help to prevent conflicts.
3. Talk softly and as calmly as possible – When people are stressed, their heart rates often go up. When a heart rate is over 100, it creates a physiological experience of not being able to hear each other correctly. It also has been proven people often say things they don’t remember saying when their heart rate is over 100.
4. Take a Time-Out – People will be asking you questions or giving you information regarding the accident or murder. Do not be afraid to ask for space and a or “time out.” Emotional overload is very easy to occur. Taking the time you need to breathe and clear your mind will be important.
5. Self-Care – Take care of yourself. Grief from an accident or murder is definitely a marathon. Drinking water, going on walks, not using alcohol or food more than usual, maintaining a healthy diet, staying connected to people – These actions will help you to sustain yourself emotionally and physically for the long haul.
6. Sleep – If necessary, go to a doctor for a sleep aid. Often times, traumatic deaths will cause nightmares, spinning thoughts, and sleeplessness for the loved ones. Please do not allow this to go past two or three days without calling a doctor for a sleep aid. Remember sleep deprivation is the first method used in torture. Allowing yourself to be further tortured by not getting enough sleep will only prolong the grieving process.
7. Put off resolving conflict – Things will be said. Actions will be done. Disagreements will happen during this time. This is not the time to resolve major conflicts. If a major conflict has to be resolved, use a mediator. A professional counselor, chaplain, pastor, priest or mediator will often spend a brief time assisting with mediation in order to prevent years of division between family members or friends.
8. Changes – Please do not make sudden changes during the first year, perhaps two years, of the grieving process. Marriage, divorce, moving, quitting a job – All of these changes would be better decided after you have walked through this grieving process. Marriages that occur while going through the grieving process often are not successful. Couples find three or four years down the road, their commonality was the grieving process – not the common items contributing to long-term compatibility.
9. Therapy – If the above methods of self-care and relationship guidance just seem impossible for you to practice, please get help from a grief counselor who specializes in trauma. As an EMDR therapist, I use techniques to “bring down” the frazzled nerves of my clients who are walking through traumatic deaths. Just a little relief through trauma therapy can help to not get stuck in the complicated grief.
10. Court – If there are court proceedings due to the death, decide for yourself what your role in the proceedings will be.Talk with someone who is not involved in the case – an unbiased party who has experience in court proceedings. Often times, investigations and court proceedings are considered the Second Trauma for the surviving loved ones. If you decide to participate in the proceedings, please get assistance from a professional. You can be referred to professionals in your area through such organizations as Victims Witness Assistance or Domestic Violence programs in your area.
Walking through the death of a loved one due to a traumatic accident or murder is nothing short of brutal. No one should walk through this experience alone.
There is help. You will get through it. Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself.
And, remember – The one rule of grief is – You Make The Rules.
The above is helpful advice, given not as professional counseling, but as someone who has walked through and walked others through Traumatic Grief. If you wish to contact me to determine whether I could help you or refer you to another resource, please do so at 530-268-3558 or kate@katepieperlmft. I am your reluctant tour guide through The Soul of Grief.