Dealing With Grief: A Step-By-Step Guide For Emotional Healing After the Unexpected Death of a Loved One

Losing someone you love unexpectedly is like having the ground ripped out from under you. It’s a profound shock that leaves you lost and heartbroken. If you’re reading this, you may be in that very place right now, but you are not alone.

This guide offers a step-by-step approach to emotional healing after an unexpected death. By understanding grief and learning how to cope and eventually move forward, you can find a new way to live with your loss.

What Is Grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s an emotional suffering we feel when something or someone we love is taken away. The pain of grief can be overwhelming, affecting every part of our lives.

While grieving, you may experience a range of emotions:

  • Sadness – A deep sorrow that often feels unending.
  • Guilt – Wondering if you could have done something to prevent the loss.
  • Anger – Feeling mad at yourself, others, or even the deceased.
  • Fear – Worrying about your future without your loved one.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the most well-known model of grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying

She described five stages of dying and grieving:

  • Denial – A feeling of shock and disbelief.
  • Anger – Frustration and helplessness.
  • Bargaining – Wondering if anything could have been done differently.
  • Depression – Deep sadness and longing.
  • Acceptance – Coming to terms with the loss.

As you face your own grief, you will likely hear about these stages from others. However, this DABDA model has faced much criticism because the stages were created without much evidence, and they are often applied very strictly.

In the 1980s, Bowlby and Parkes created a different model, adapting Kubler-Ross’s model to emphasize that grief is not a linear process. 

Their model has four phases:

  • Shock and disbelief – the initial numbness and unresponsiveness in the face of a new, stressful situation.
  • Searching and yearning – questioning the reason for this new reality while trying to undo it.
  • Disorganization and repair – depression and apathy while experiencing acceptance of the new reality.
  • Rebuilding and healing – overcoming the sense of loss to feel in better control with a renewed sense of identity.

Other models of grief may or may not mirror your experience more accurately. Remember that everyone grieves differently. You should not feel like there is something wrong if you do not experience these stages or emotions. 

Coping and Healing From the Loss of a Loved One

There is no right way to cope with unexpected loss. Grief and healing look different for everyone, and there is no specific timeline for how long it may take. Here are some helpful steps you may take to begin the process of emotional healing. 

#1. Take Care of Your Own Needs

While grieving, it can be difficult to look after yourself. You may not see the point, or you may throw yourself into taking care of other family members at your own expense. Consciously make the decision every day to practice self-care, even when it’s hard to accomplish even the most basic tasks. 

Stay hydrated and do your best to eat a balanced diet. Try restorative activities like yoga, meditation, or even taking a walk in the morning. Physical exercise can help you not only stay healthy but get better rest, especially when it’s hard to quiet your mind. 

Grief can take a toll on your body as well as your mind. Taking care of yourself and making sure your physical needs are met can help you process your emotional grief in a healthier way. 

If your loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence or a crime like assault, speaking with a personal injury lawyer is a good idea. Grieving is hard enough without the stress and anxiety of mounting bills. You should also be able to take time off work to cope with your loss.

A wrongful death claim can help you recover compensation from the at-fault party. This money can be used to give your family time and space to grieve.

#2. Get Comfort and Understanding Through Counseling and Support Groups

Sometimes, the weight of grief is too heavy to carry alone. Seeking help from a therapist or counselor can offer support and guidance through the grieving process. 

You may find it helpful to join a support group for people who have experienced similar losses. There are general grief support groups for people who have lost a loved one for any reason, whether it was due to a car accident, crime, illness, or other natural causes. There are also support groups for people who have suffered specific losses, such as the loss of a child due to cancer or an accident, a loss from suicide, or the loss of a spouse. 

Here are some support groups in Phoenix that may give you the comfort and understanding you need. 

Sharing your feelings with those who understand can help ease the pain and allow you to process what you are feeling. 

#3. Process Your Grief By Learning From Others

Many people find it helpful to read books about grief and how to move forward after a loss. 

Here are some suggestions: 

  • It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay by Megan Devine. She describes a way to live alongside your grief rather than trying to conquer it. 
  • Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief by Tom Zuba. He discusses his discovery that grief is a teacher, not an enemy, after the loss of his family. 
  • The Lessons of Love: Rediscovering Our Passion for Life When It All Seems Too Hard to Take by Melody Beattie. Melody describes how she was able to rebuild her life with the help of friends, family, and inner resources after the loss of her son. 
  • Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working through Grief by Martha W. Hickman. These thoughtful exercises can give you daily strength and comfort. 

These books may help you explore new ways to view grief and coping strategies to start to rebuild your life.

#4. Give Yourself Permission and Time To Grieve

Remember that grief takes a different form for everyone, but acceptance is at the heart of the process. Accept that your feelings are valid; you may not be ready to resume your normal activities, and that is okay. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do, whether it’s crying, screaming, or spending time alone. 

#5. Find Outlets To Express Yourself and Remember Your Loved One

As you move through your grief, you may find it helpful to engage in activities that give you a sense of purpose or allow you to express yourself in a way that is freeing. This may be journaling, painting, volunteering, or even traveling to new destinations. 

When you’re ready, you may find ways to honor and remember your loved one, whether it’s putting together a photo album, continuing the activities you enjoyed together, or completing a shared dream. 

Seek Support and Remember That Healing Is a Journey

Losing someone unexpectedly is a journey no one should have to take. While it may seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, know that with time and support, you can learn to find happiness again. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate through grief and honor your loved one’s memory along the way. 

Keep finding light in the darkness, and remember that healing is a journey, not a destination.

Contact the Wrongful Death Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers For Help

Wrongful death cases can result in substantial compensation, leading defendants to aggressively defend against them. They will almost certainly hire an attorney, so you should too. Thankfully, many attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, so you only pay if you win.

If you’re coping with the loss of a loved one from an accident, consult a wrongful death lawyer to understand your legal rights. If you need legal help, contact our Phoenix personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.