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Dealing With Unexpected Loss

Dealing With Unexpected Loss

When someone you love passes away suddenly and unexpectedly, it can be deeply distressing. An unexpected loss is one of the most significant tests for our capability to cope. After such an event, we can feel a variety of complex feelings including disbelief, confusion and guilt. While these feelings are common in any circumstance when a loved one passes away, a sudden death can intensify our grief and complicate the process of moving on.

Tips for Coping

Like any time we are grieving, it takes time to heal when a loved one passes away unexpectedly. The best thing you can do during such a difficult time is to surround yourself with family and friends. Avoid repressing any feelings, instead talk openly about them to other loved ones and write down your thoughts and feelings. Don’t hesitate to seek professional support when you need it from psychiatrists or organisations such as Beyond Blue. All of these tips can help you manage some of the following feelings common after an unexpected loss.


An unexpected loss means there is no time to “prepare” or slowly grieve the predicted passing of a loved one who may be old or suffering from a terminal medical condition. When someone dies unexpectedly, we can feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us and we are unable to process what’s happened. An initial refusal to accept an unexpected or horrifying loss is understandable. These feelings can often manifest as an emotional shut down or numbness, which needs to be validated in the same way as other forms of grief.


An unexpected loss can cause more anger than usual and we need a safe and accepting space for this to be processed. Oftentimes, anger needs to be expressed before grief can be accessed after an unexpected death. Anger that is not safely expressed can manifest in other destructive ways, such as through alcohol and drug abuse.


Unexpected loss can also evoke feelings of self-blame to a greater extent than usual after the death of a loved one. It’s common to experience feelings that you could or should have done something more. Self-blame is often a way for our brains to try and reclaim the sense of control that the shock of an unexpected loss can take away. One of the hardest things to come to terms with after an unexpected loss is accepting that you could not have changed or prevented the outcome.

Trying to Find Meaning

A desire to find meaning is common after an unexpected loss, especially in cases of tragic accidents or horrifying events such as murder or terrorism. Part of why it is so hard to cope after an unexpected loss is because they are senseless. Attaching your own meaning or explanation to tragic events is a common way of trying to cope. Even explanations or interpretations that are unreasonable can feel better than not knowing why something awful occurred.

Experienced Maitland Funeral Directors

At Fry Bros Funerals, our experienced funeral directors can provide you the support you need after a loved one passes away, including guidance arranging a funeral and referrals for support services. Call us for services across Maitland, Newcastle, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and all surrounding areas on 02 4933 6155 or contact us online.

97 New England Highway
Maitland (Rutherford), NSW 2320

61 Port Stephens Street
Raymond Terrace, NSW 2324

Acknowledgement of Country

We are in the country of the Worimi, Gamilleroi, Wonnarua, Gweagal, Darkinjung, Biripi and Awabakal peoples.
Fry Bros respectfully acknowledge their Elders, celebrate their continuing culture and the living memory of their ancestors.