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What are some responses to a sudden loss?

The loss of any loved one can be sad and even tragic, but losing someone suddenly in a motor vehicle accident is very different than losing someone due to old age or a chronic condition. When you have time to prepare for the loss, then the response to grief is often more managed and sometimes even healthier.

Perhaps one of the most common reactions to a sudden loss is shock. Shock responses of various types can extend into the first month of a loss. Screaming, shaking, loss of appetite or the inability to sleep are all shock symptoms that can occur, particularly in the immediate hours and days following a sudden loss. Shock can also cause physical symptoms, including stomachaches and digestive distress, aches and pains in the body, heart palpitations, stuttering and fatigue.

These immediate shock symptoms usually subside within a couple of days, but if they extend beyond that period, it's important for friends and family to attempt to try to help the person in shock. Help might include supporting them during this time, providing and caring for them or encouraging them to seek professional assistance with their feelings. Even after the first few days, sudden loss can cause ongoing emotional, physical and mental problems. These symptoms, which include insomnia and thoughts of regret, can be present anytime a loss occurs, but they are especially common when someone didn't have time to say goodbye or when a loss is especially shocking.

While it's probably a good idea to limit important decisions during this time of shock, it's not always possible to do so. Instead, when you face legal or other concerns, work with professionals who can help guide you through decisions. For example, if your loss is due to a wrongful death, consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer who can help you understand options for financial compensation.

Source: SuddenDeath.org, "Sudden bereavement: responses in the early weeks," accessed Sep. 16, 2016

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