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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Healing through shock Dealing with grief after sudden death

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Death is an unwelcome part of life no matter when it occurs. However, when death happens suddenly, it becomes even more difficult for people to cope with the loss. With the recent violence in the city along with a tragedy to an Indianapolis family while on vacation, dealing with unexpected death and the grief that follows has been top of mind in the recent weeks.

“The hardest part of starting this job has been attending all of these funerals,” said Shonna Majors, newly appointed director of community violence reduction. Majors has attended multiple funerals so far and sees the effects these deaths have on family and friends. “It never gets easy seeing families going through pain especially due to violence. It’s tough in my position so I can’t imagine what they go through.” 

Those who experience the sudden death of a loved one often suffer from extreme feelings of bewilderment, anxiety, self-reproach and depression. The person who is grieving may not even realize all of these emotions are happening, according to psychologist Dr. Guykesha Gardner.

“Many people don’t know that they’re experiencing symptoms of grieving when they first start experiencing it,” Gardner said. “Grief affects all facets of your life and not expressing what’s going on can really take its toll.”

Unexpected death isn’t always related to violence. Recently, nine of the 11 members of the Coleman family died when a duck boat sank in Branson, Missouri, in July. The family was on vacation when the duck boat they were riding in was caught up in a squall and sank. Tia Coleman and her nephew, Donovan Hall, were the only survivors. Coleman’s husband and children died in the accident.

Survivors could feel guilty about living through the tragedy, known as survivor’s guilt, making coping with the loss exceptionally difficult. Therefore, it’s vital survivors of tragic incidents have a strong support system. Traditionally, the stages of grief are: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance but Gardner feels the only true difference between sudden death and a gradual passing is the order of how you go through the grieving process.  

“When a sudden death happens anger is usually the first step instead of denial because of the initial shock of the passing,” Gardner said. “When you have someone passing due to sickness and age you can prepare yourself to go through the stages, but when people die and you’re not prepared all of those steps are thrown out of order.”

Whether you’re experiencing an unexpected loss or were prepared for the death of a loved one due to illness or age, there are places to help you cope through the grieving process, Gardner said. 

Contact staff writer Dontre Graves at 317-762-7848.

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