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Sudden Unexpected Death


What may I feel after the sudden unexpected death of a person?

After a sudden unexpected death, you may experience shock and confusion. You may go over and over the events around the death in your mind. You may feel that mistakes were made, and feel guilty or angry. You may feel the need to help others cope with the loss. You may experience any of the following:

  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or helpless
  • Constant tiredness, frequent crying, and trouble enjoying things or having fun
  • The need to hold onto the person's memories and belongings
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking clearly, or making decisions
  • Problems eating, such as poor appetite or overeating
  • Sleeping too much or too little

What can I do to cope with the loss?

The pain of the grief process can be difficult. You may feel angry, sad, or confused. Anything that might remind you of the loss can trigger these feelings. Events, anniversaries of special times, birthdays, and holidays may also bring these emotions. The following may help you cope with the death of a loved one:

  • Give yourself plenty of time and rest: Allow yourself time to heal. Grief is not something you can rush. It may take years to heal from your loss. Ask your family, friends, and caregivers for help.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings: Try saying what you really feel or share stories of the person. Often just talking to someone you trust, or crying when you need to can be a big help.
  • Find support: A counselor or support group may help you deal with your grief and find ways to cope with your loss.

How will I know if I am unable to cope with the loss?

You may be having a difficult time with the loss of your loved one if:

  • Your sadness and grief continue for a long time.
  • Your grief is delayed or very strong.
  • You hide your true feelings or pretend that everything is okay.
  • You begin to fail in relationships, job, or school.
  • You start behaving recklessly, such as abusing drugs or drinking alcohol heavily.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You cannot eat, drink, or take your medicines.
  • You feel depressed or sad most of the time, or these feelings do not go away.
  • You need to talk about your problems and feelings.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You are anxious or restless even after you take your medicines.
  • You feel that you cannot cope with your condition.
  • You have problems sleeping.
  • You have trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.