Stages of Grief after the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Stages of Grief after the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Stages of Grief after the Sudden Death of a Loved One

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento wrongful death lawyer. A sudden death of a loved one can be one of the most shocking and traumatic experiences to go through. If someone you love died suddenly, it’s likely you will face several different stages of emotional grief.

The Five Stages of Grief

According to world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who authored the book On Death & Dying (1969), there are five stages of grief you may experience: being in denial, feeling anger, making bargaining statements, showing depression and finally acceptance. These are all part of the grieving process. Not everyone will experience them in this order and each person will experience them differently.


Denial is the initial shock. You can’t believe your loved one is gone. You’re unable to accept the death and expect your loved one to walk through the door any minute. This is a natural feeling because the death is unexpected. In the denial stage, it’s normal to wonder how life will continue in this new state. Once the shock and denial fade, the healing process will begin and other feelings may appear.


Once you start to accept the death, anger may set in. It’s common to feel anger after losing your loved one suddenly. You may look to blame others for your grief. For instance, if you lose a child to cancer, you may be angry at the disease. You may also be angry at God for not healing him or her. Mental health counselors encourage this stage of grief. They say it’s a natural reaction and perhaps a necessary one. They agree that the more anger you feel, the quicker it will disappear and the faster you will heal.


In this stage, you may find yourself making “what if” or “if only” statements. “What if I had not let him drive home so late, the car accident would have never happened.”  “If only the cancer was diagnosed sooner, treatment would have stopped it.” You want to go back in time to stop the accident from happening or find the tumor earlier. These statements can cause you to blame yourself and make you wonder what you could have done differently.


After failing to bargain, depression sets in. You’re incredibly sad because you’ve finally realized that your loved one is not coming back. This is a natural part of the grieving process. It’s okay to let yourself feel the sadness. During this stage, you may withdraw from reality. You may feel there’s no meaning in life and may not want to get out of bed. You may even have suicidal thoughts and wonder if there’s a reason to go on.


During this final stage, your feelings may start to stabilize. You may come to accept the fact that your loved one is gone. It is a time of adjusting back to reality. There may be good days and bad days but the bad days seem to be few and far between. You may start engaging with friends and family again. You may begin to move forward and grow into your new life.

Watch YouTube Video: 5 Stages of Grief and the Grieving Process. Counselor Carl characterizes the Five Stages of Grief as a natural process that allows us to gradually work through the pain of loss.

There are many other stages of the grieving process but these are the famous five stages of grief. But recovery from grief after a sudden death of a loved one is possible if you allow yourself to heal.

Take Your Time with the Grieving Process

Coping with the loss of a loved one who died suddenly is the hardest journey you can take. But there is no time limit on the grieving process. You may go days or weeks without feeling anything and then something triggers your memory and you may feel the emotions all over again. No matter how you go through the grieving process, it’s important to be patient with yourself. Healing happens slowly over time. There is not a normal period of grieving. While you are grieving, remember that it’s perfectly fine to talk about your loved one often. He or she was a significant part of your life and should always be remembered.

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Wrongful Death Lawyers in Sacramento

I’m Edward Smith, a wrongful death lawyer in Sacramento. If you have lost a loved one in a wrongful death accident, call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for friendly, free legal advice. You can also reach me on online.

I am honored to be among some of the best trial lawyers in the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. We have successfully won over $1 million-dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients. You can view some of my verdicts and settlements.

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