Coping with Sudden Death

By Therese Rando, Ph.D.

Sudden DeathIn both sudden death and anticipated death, there is pain. However, while the grief is not greater in sudden death, the capacity to cope is diminished. Grievers are shocked and stunned by the sudden loss of their loved one. The loss is so disruptive that recovery almost always is complicated. This because the adaptive capacities are so severely assaulted and the ability to cope is so critically injured that functioning is seriously impaired. Grievers are overwhelmed.

If you are such a griever, you probably are suffering extreme feelings of bewilderment, anxiety, self-reproach, and depression, and you may be unable to continue normal life. You had no preparation and no time to gradually absorb the reality that the world was about to change dramatically.

Instead, there was a sudden destruction of the world you used to know...



Dr. Therese Rando, author of How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, is a psychologist in Warwick, Rhode Island, where she is the Clinical Director of The Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss. Having published 70 works pertaining to the clinical aspects of dying, death, loss, and trauma, Dr. Rando is a recognized expert in the field and has appeared on numerous television programs, including "Dateline," "CBS This Morning," "Today Show," "Good Morning, America" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Image by Tim Teebken / Getty Images


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Comment by Linda on September 28, 2010 at 7:53am
On November 26, 2009, Thanksgiving night, I lost my precious son James, he was 21 and pure joy!! In his last year of college, we were very close,, talked everyday!! I miss my kid so much!!! He made me laugh when no one else could. He loved for me to massage his temples as he laid in my lap. I miss the touch so bad!!! I can not believe it has been 10 months since I touched him. They wouldnt even let me near him at the accident, I just wanted him to know I was there and that I love him so much!!! He died before I could see him, it is so freaking sad I can hardly stand it sometimes.
Comment by Stef on April 22, 2010 at 3:08am
On July 9th, 2009 I married Mark. This was my 3rd marriage and into it I brought my 3 daughters, ages 15, 10 & 8. He had never been married nor had children. In October 2009, my exhusband and father of my 3 girls died suddenly, unexpectedly and tragicly. The hardest thing I've ever had to do was tell my children...
On April 12th, 2010 while on our 1rst "family camping trip" my husband Mark passed away in his sleep. Once again, sudden, unexpected & tragic...
Im numb yet in pain, Im weak yet stronger than ever, I'm scared yet have faith. One thing I know He was loved.
They say everything happens for a reason although it may always not be clear what that reason is...
After the death of my Father in '91, if not before, I always tell my family and close friends I love them every time I say goodbye to them. Over the phone and in person, many times in one day often. I do this because we never know when we may never see them again and I never want to wish that they knew I loved them....THEY WERE LOVED! They are loved, missed n not forgotten.
Comment by Janie on February 19, 2010 at 5:36pm
I lost my ex-husband, who I was still dating and don't know why he was my ex really, on October 18, 2009. His funeral was on the 21st, my birthday. He was killed in an auto accident unexpectedly. I am having a hard time dealing with it. He was my best friend and was always there for me no matter when or what it was I needed. He told always told me how much he loved me and worshiped me and I see now that he really did. I did not see how much he did before and all he wanted was for us to be married again, but I wouldn't. Why couldn't I see before how much he really loved me? He called me the night of the 17th saying he wanted to see me and talk to me, but I had plans with my kids and the next morning he was killed. I can't shake the feeling of wanting to know what he wanted. I miss him so much and I don't know what to do without him now. I feel so lost and alone and I don't know how to deal with him being gone. I cry everyday and I have become obsessed with making flowers for the cemetery and making sure that there are always nice fresh flowers. I miss him every second of every day and I am so lost without him.
Comment by Angela M. on January 21, 2010 at 1:52am
The hope of the bible is my hope also and I will read John, Matthew, Acts, and the Psalm; thank you for the promise of Jesus. Julie I love your faith. This is my youngest son, he died January 1, 2010 I miss him so.
Comment by Julie on January 18, 2010 at 6:40pm
He is with JESUS.
Comment by Julie on January 18, 2010 at 6:38pm
my husband just died on thursday.
Comment by carolyn on July 24, 2009 at 5:01pm
correction her estate is worth over four hundred thousand dollars, not 400 hundred dollars as i stated above. my heart is in so much pain.
Comment by carolyn on July 13, 2009 at 7:34pm
i have been trying since feb.14th 2009 when i learned that the woman on the news that was murdered outside of her north west side home was my ex lover. she was murdered after she had gotten off of her second shift job; she was going home before she had to head back out to go to her third shift job. she was shot to death in what the cops say was a robbery. i am so troubled by this. i learned at her funeral that she wasn't happy in her present relationship. i learned that she was tired of taking care of a house full of people that didn't work. i dated her in 1985. we reconnected for about four months in 2006. i left her to go back to a 15 year relationship to give it a second chance. she cried and told me that i could always return to her. we talked every year in jan. on our birthdays except for 2008. i decided not to call her because i knew that she would ask me if i was single and want to be back with me. i had decided that once my relationship ended for good in march of 2007 i was through with love. however, i did decide to call her jan of 2009 to say happy birthday and she wanted to know if i was single. i told her yes that my relationship had ended in march of 2007. 34 days later she was murdered. how do i deal with the feeling that she may have given her unhappy relationship notice that she wanted out and was murdered in a staged robbery. her family believes that something happened and that for some reason she must have told them that they had to leave and they killed her. i live with not only the pain of her being gone but the pain of what if i hadn't called. i know how much she always loved me. i constantly wonder did my call get her murdered? it makes more sense then the robbery that her current lover tried to convey to the cops. she wanted to know if i was single and 34 days after learning that i was she is murdered. she owned her home and i know that she would have given them a 30 day notice. my heart is in so much pain with this death. she worked so hard and now this lover is trying to get her hands on her entire estate worth over 400 hundred dollars. my gut tells me that they killed her and her family believes the same. how do i heal and how do i let go of the guilt that my call might have made her make a move that sealed her fate that night.
Comment by Steve Cain on June 27, 2009 at 5:25pm
The only words I can say at this moment are I understand this totally.

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