The Grief Process Following a Tragic Death

Normal grief is depression. It is sadness. It is bargaining. It is anger. It physically hurts. It is loneliness and isolation. It makes us question our faith. Actually it makes us question everything we thought we believed. It builds fear within us. It highlights that I could die, too. It is all of these things and more rolled into one huge emotion we call grief. 

Sudden death by accident, suicide and certainly by violence intensifies those normal grief responses. Everything we feel with normal grief is as if we are being held under a magnifying glass, everything is more intense, hurts more. Part of grieving is questioning how this can happen. Why me? Why her? Why him?

How to say goodbye? That is a hard question because with all that I have written above we will each say our goodbyes in our own unique way, expressed in our personality, and generally within the rituals of our culture. 

What I have found to help us with the unfinished business that sudden death (violent death is generally sudden) brings is to write the person who has died a letter. There is power in writing, channelling thoughts from mind through the fingers, pen onto paper. Write everything you have wanted to but didn’t say, everything that your heart needs to say. Write a short note or pages but write about the positive times and about the challenging parts of the relationship. Write everything you wish you could say but now can’t. 

If there is a visitation put the note with the body in the coffin. If you can’t be there give it to the funeral director to put with the body. If the funeral has already occurred, even years later, write your letter then burn it and scatter the ashes to the wind.

There are no words, no prayers and actually no actions that can ease the pain the death of someone we care about brings. The pain will always be there. I offer that how well we go on living, what we do to make a difference can be our tribute to the life ended too soon.


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