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Struggling with unexpected loss

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I'm more sure why I am writing this, but I am not sure where else to turn. I feel like theres a certain amount of time that everyone (work colleagues, friends etc) are really sympathetic and then after that you feel like you really have to answer to the 'how are you doing' question with 'better' or it just gets awkward. And the people who feel the same as you, your family, somethings it's too hard to talk to them because if you say what's on your kind it might upset them if they are maybe having a night where they are doing better. Or are already struggling and you make them feel worse.

2 weeks ago, I got a phone call that my nan had passed away. She was very healthy, the last person I ever expected to lose. She went into hospital on the sunday, was sent home with a diagnosis of nothing more than anxiety, then dropped dead 2 days later.

I have been broken ever since. I cannot breathe, I cant sleep and I cant think. People are dying of covid all the time, people are getting murdered in the street by police, and I can't care about anything other than the fact that I'll never see someone who was my best friend ever again. I am such a passionate person, wanting to help others and make a difference and I feel like any spark I once had is gone.

There are a thousand reasons I can list as to why this hurts so much; the suddenness, the fact it could have been prevented if they had done a certain test, the fact she was the glue that help my family together or the fact that I was robbed of so many months with her because of lockdown. But the thing I feel most at the moment is that I will never feel happy again. Not truly happy and content, because she was a massive part of my happiness and I feel like something will just always be missing now. I'm also terrified of forgetting her and never wanting to try and remember her face or voice and not being able to picture it with complete accuracy. I can't face living in a world where she doesnt exist. Even though my world is filled with other people I love so so much, I just cant see now how life goes on.

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Hi, I am so sorry for your loss, it's very hard to absorb, let alone process when sudden death touches us.  I lost my husband unexpectedly/suddenly 15 years ago and it took me a few years to process his death, years more to find purpose, as he had been that, and years more yet to build a life I could live again.  (I might add every friend we had disappeared on me right away.)  You say you don't think you can be happy again.  Right now it feels that way, but the truth is we are more resilient than we realize and it is possible to be happy again.  It will never be the same as before, I won't lie to you, your life as you knew it before is gone excepting the wonderful memories and legacy she left you, those will be with you always and I find comfort in them and in knowing my husband changed my life forever...no one can ever take away the love we share, not even death.

In the beginning I felt as you...I did not see how the sun could go on shining and people could just go about their lives as if nothing had happened when for me everything had changed!  This is the way it feels to us most closely affected by their absence from our lives. 

I wrote this article about ten years after my husband died, of the things I've found helpful over the years.  Two life-changers for me were learning to take a day at a time and the other is looking for joy in every day.  It won't be the same as it way, but in looking for what good there exists, we won't miss it when it comes and it changes our outlook to one of living in the present and gratefulness.  I hope you find something helpful for now and perhaps something else later on, as our grief journey does not stay in this intensity, it evolves.  It's a slow process, so be patient with yourself and treat yourself with the same kindness you would a best friend...you ARE your own best friend!


There's no way to sum up how to go on in a simple easy answer, but I encourage you to read the other threads here, little by little you will learn how to make your way through this.  I do want to give you some pointers though, of some things I've learned on my journey.

  • Take one day at a time.  The Bible says each day has enough trouble of it's own, I've found that to be true, so don't bite off more than you can chew.  It can be challenging enough just to tackle today.  I tell myself, I only have to get through today.  Then I get up tomorrow and do it all over again.  To think about the "rest of my life" invites anxiety.
  • Don't be afraid, grief may not end but it evolves.  The intensity lessens eventually.
  • Visit your doctor.  Tell them about your loss, any troubles sleeping, suicidal thoughts, anxiety attacks.  They need to know these things in order to help you through it...this is all part of grief.
  • Suicidal thoughts are common in early grief.  If they're reoccurring, call a suicide hotline.  I felt that way early on, but then realized it wasn't that I wanted to die so much as I didn't want to go through what I'd have to face if I lived.  Back to taking a day at a time.  Suicide Hotline - Call 1-800-273-8255
  • Give yourself permission to smile.  It is not our grief that binds us to them, but our love, and that continues still.
  • Try not to isolate too much.  
  • There's a balance to reach between taking time to process our grief, and avoiding it...it's good to find that balance for yourself.  We can't keep so busy as to avoid our grief, it has a way of haunting us, finding us, and demanding we pay attention to it!  Some people set aside time every day to grieve.  I didn't have to, it searched and found me!
  • Self-care is extremely important, more so than ever.  That person that would have cared for you is gone, now you're it...learn to be your own best friend, your own advocate, practice self-care.  You'll need it more than ever.
  • Recognize that your doctor isn't trained in grief, find a professional grief counselor that is.  We need help finding ourselves through this maze of grief, knowing where to start, etc.  They have not only the knowledge, but the resources.
  • In time, consider a grief support group.  If your friends have not been through it themselves, they may not understand what you're going through, it helps to find someone somewhere who DOES "get it". 
  • Be patient, give yourself time.  There's no hurry or timetable about cleaning out belongings, etc.  They can wait, you can take a year, ten years, or never deal with it.  It's okay, it's what YOU are comfortable with that matters.  
  • Know that what we are comfortable with may change from time to time.  That first couple of years I put his pictures up, took them down, up, down, depending on whether it made me feel better or worse.  Finally, they were up to stay.
  • Consider a pet.  Not everyone is a pet fan, but I've found that my dog helps immensely.  It's someone to love, someone to come home to, someone happy to see me, someone that gives me a purpose...I have to come home and feed him.  Besides, they're known to relieve stress.  Well maybe not in the puppy stage when they're chewing up everything, but there's older ones to adopt if you don't relish that stage.
  • Make yourself get out now and then.  You may not feel interest in anything, things that interested you before seem to feel flat now.  That's normal.  Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a wee bit now and then.  Eating out alone, going to a movie alone or church alone, all of these things are hard to do at first.  You may feel you flunked at it, cried throughout, that's okay, you did it, you tried, and eventually you get a little better at it.  If I waited until I had someone to do things with I'd be stuck at home a lot.
  • Keep coming here.  We've been through it and we're all going through this together.
  • Look for joy in every day.  It will be hard to find at first, but in practicing this, it will change your focus so you can embrace what IS rather than merely focusing on what ISN'T.  It teaches you to live in the present and appreciate fully.  You have lost your big joy in life, and all other small joys may seem insignificant in comparison, but rather than compare what used to be to what is, learn the ability to appreciate each and every small thing that comes your way...a rainbow, a phone call from a friend, unexpected money, a stranger smiling at you, whatever the small joy, embrace it.  It's an art that takes practice and is life changing if you continue it.
  • Eventually consider volunteering.  It helps us when we're outward focused, it's a win/win.

(((hugs))) Praying for you today.


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Thank you so much kayc. Your words really help. Since my nan passed my mum was also rushed into hospital with the exact same symptoms but which turned out to be anxiety. As they had sent my nan home with 'anxiety' the day before she died, this is so scary. And now my grandad is in hospital too, probably because of the stress of it all. It's hard to see it all as anything but a bad dream, but I will continue to use the above advice and resources and just take each day at a time. Thanks again.

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Oh no!  I'm so sorry.  That's a lot to take at once.  Try not to let your mind go to the what-ifs, take it as it comes and no more.  It is undoubtedly the stress of losing her and hopefully they'll get the anxiety under control.  I know anxiety can mimic heart attacks but doesn't mean you have heart issues, they should be able to tell with testing at the hospital and treat them accordingly.  I have anxiety and much can be done to help it...I am on medication that takes the edge off, making it easier to cope, do self talk, some use lavender scentsies but I don't care for the smell (it has a calming effect).  Soothing music helps, meditation/prayer.  Good luck to all of you, please keep us posted!

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