How To Cope With The Pain Of Unexpected Loss


How To Cope With The Pain Of Unexpected Loss

The journey through the initial shock and following season of pain after the unexpected loss of a loved one is an incredibly difficult one. It is one of the most painful things human beings have to endure.

Just as every human being is individually different, every passing of a loved one is a singularly unique occurrence. If you have suffered a recent unexpected loss, it is not possible for us to understand what you are going through or what is to come. It is our heartfelt hope however, that these words will help you on your journey through the next minutes, days, and years.

Our relationships, especially the longest and closest ones, are part of us. They define who we are and how we live our life. When these relationships are suddenly gone, it is the unexpected loss of our close loved one combined with the loss of self which hurts. On a physical level, it’s comparable to being in an accident and losing an arm or a leg. It is unspeakable, it hurts deeply, and we are forever changed. Let’s begin by talking about that pain and its relationship to grief.

Pain and Grief

Grief is the whole of what we feel inside as a result of experiencing a loss. The loss of a loved one exceeds our ability to measure or quantify. The void in our life is even more significant than the individual who has passed, extending well beyond the person; it is composed of daily actions and events, sights and smells; it includes things we planned to do and memories we expected to make. The loss of all these things stir a multitude of feelings inside, and these feelings create pain. They hurt deeply. It often hurts beyond what we believe we are capable of bearing. Because grief is an internal condition, only you can know and fully understand your grief. Your grief can not be known or judged by others.

As humans, we instinctively avoid pain as it is associated with injury. We judge pain as a bad thing which is to be avoided for our health and safety. This is true for the pain of physical harm. It is also true of people or events which cause us emotional pain. The pain felt during the grieving process is different though. Grief is a healing process. It is a journey back to the place in life where we can function normally once again. Achieving healing does not mean we will never be sad or lonesome. It simply means we are able to actively participate in life once again. The pain can feel unbearable, but because grief is a healing process, it must be embraced if we are to find our way back to a functional life.

With All You Are Feeling – Lean In and Let Go

“Let Go” is not about letting go of your loved one. On the contrary, it is about acknowledging you are in deep pain because you loved deeply. It is a myth that keeping your feelings bottled up will help you heal faster. You need to recognize your feelings as normal and let them out. Are you in denial? Embrace your denial with passion; it is serving an important purpose. Have you burst out in sobbing tears? Shamelessly let them flow like a river. Are you depressed? Be gentle with yourself and stay there for a season, knowing it will not last forever. Are you angry? Go ahead and allow yourself a good cleansing outburst. As long as no one is harmed in the process, it is a good and healing release.

Silent Expression – A Life Journal

Writing is not everyone’s thing, and that is ok. If you do enjoy writing, starting or continuing a life journal can be a cathartic tool for expressing all you are feeling. You can write about yourself; about all you are going through. You can write about your departed loved one; recalling everything about them and how they impacted your life and the world around them. If you are hesitant to pour out your emotions to others openly, your life journal could be your safe place; your private refuge of complete openness and honesty with no judgment. Don’t worry about good writing or bad, just write. Getting started may be slow or uncomfortable. Realize that this is normal. Just begin, and it will get easier as you go.

Family and Friends

Those who have suffered painful trauma, both physical and emotional, heal the most quickly when they spend face-to-face time with those who care about them. This is a proven fact. It is also established that those who isolate themselves take longer to recover, and some never do. When dealing with unexpected loss, the feeling of being left all alone can seem like our new life reality. The company of others reminds us that we are not alone. Knowing this, be open to the nearness of those who know you best.

Family and friends will want to help but often will not know what to do. Give them things to do, even if you could do those things yourself. Are there any tasks which feel overwhelming or crushing? Asking for help with these tasks will lift a tremendous weight. They will be pleased knowing they are helping and you will be comforted by the love of others. Asking them to sit silently with you is worthwhile. In difficult times the silent presence of others can speak as powerfully as words.

Are there people near to your life which you feel safe sharing your feelings? Spending time with these close confidants will help you heal. The emotions of grief are frightening and confusing which can create awkwardness in connecting with others. If a friend or loved one is at a loss for words or says something hurtful, this awkwardness is likely the cause. Assume their heart is in the right place and they want the best for you. If their heart is in the right place, they will want to know if something they said or did caused you pain.


If you are part of a faith community or faith traditions, they can be a familiar source of comfort and a safe environment for healing in times of grieving. Prayer, meditation, reading spiritual writings, or gathering with your local community can all be sources of support and comfort. A faith community can help you keep the memory of your loved one alive and at the same time, begin adjusting to functioning in environments where your loved one is absent.


Finding your purpose or meaning can be one of life’s greatest joys. However, that joy can also instantly disappear as a result of a sudden loss. When losing the source of our purpose, it often seems impossible to ever regain our joy again. During this difficult time, consider not placing on yourself the burden of trying to find happiness once again. Instead, seek out a purpose; a reason to get out of bed each morning. Are there any skills or hobbies you have wanted to pursue? How about your departed loved one? Is there any work they left undone which you could carry on in their name and memory? Are there any charitable or help organizations which you would like to be a part of? Taking the first step is the most difficult. Moving forward into the unknown can be scary, and stepping into a new season of life can seem like you are leaving your loved one behind. The truth though is our loved ones always want the best for us. They want us to be healthy, happy, and whole. Moving forward in life with purpose honors their desires for us. Be patient and take it slow. You don’t have to take the plunge all at once, just take one small step at a time.

Additional Grief Resources

We hope these words will bring you some help and support during these difficult times. We have additional resources which we would love to share with you. For information about Grief Support Groups or helpful readings on grief and loss, please visit us at or call (321) 521-4468. From all of us at Green Hills Memorial Park