Shock, Confusion, Revenge: 7 Tips for Dealing With Sudden Death
One of America’s favorite mob bosses passed away yesterday.
51-year-old actor James Gandolfini, perhaps best known for his Emmy award-winning role as the conflicted crime boss Tony Soprano on HBO’s wildly successful hit The Sopranos, died yesterday (June 19, 2013). Gandolfini was visiting Rome, Italy when he reportedly succumbed to a heart attack. Gandolfini was scheduled to to arrive in Sicily on Saturday to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival.
Gandolfini was 51 years old. He had plans for this weekend. He was married and had two children.
Death doesn’t care, though, does it?
I admit, I hoped Gandolfini’s death was just another celebrity death hoax, similar to the Paul McCartney, Eddie Murphy, and Lil Wayne death hoaxes over the years. Sadly, it wasn’t. Gandolfini is dead.
Why has Gandolfini’s death been so newsworthy? Why have people, like me, wished it were a rumor?
Probably because it was so sudden.
Death is hard to deal with, but sudden death might be even more difficult. Sudden death is unexpected. Untimely. We’re not prepared for it and all at once we’re dealing not only with death and all the grief that accompanies it, but also the shock of unforeseen loss.
In the wake of James Gandolfini’s death, I’ve compiled a list of tips for dealing with sudden death that will help those of us who are still here. These resources might help you if you’re dealing with sudden death now, or ever in the future.
1. Seek help. Don’t try to go it alone. Whether it’s support from your family and friends, or professional help from a grief counselor, seek help if you feel you aren’t coping normally. Seek help immediately if you have thoughts of harming yourself or someone else. Seek help, period.
2. Embrace the grieving process. Maybe not a warm and inviting embrace, but an embrace nonetheless. You can’t cope with death overnight, and avoiding it only prolongs the pain and confusion you eventually have to deal with. Psych Central outlines and explains five stages of loss and grief ; learn them, and learn how to work through them. You might also refer to what the British Psychological Society says about the grief process, including information on adjusting to the new environment and emotionally relocating the deceased.
3. Expect delayed reactions. Grief stages aside, because of the sudden and unexpected nature of the death, shock and confusion might overshadow other common emotional reactions (such as sadness and anger) for a while. Be prepared for when the shock wears off and that first wave of anguish rolls in. Virginia Tech outlines other grief experiences you can expect.
4. Handle practical matters. Sudden death knocks the wind out of us; however, no matter how frozen the world feels, it’s still turning, and there are still matters to handle. Create a list of tasks you must complete, like the Taking Care of Practical Matters list VictimLinkBC provides. There are lots of things to do, and you’ll probably feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family members and friends.
5. Take care of yourself. No, I don’t mean head to the spa (well, not right away); I mean, care for yourself. Eat well, get sleep, bathe. Wear clean clothes. Comb your hair. Even if you have to take a few days off, keep up with your yoga (if you’re a yogi), meditation, or exercise. These incredibly basic things are often the first things to go when we’re dealing with any kind of grief. Psych Central’s Take Care of Yourself When You Have Depression outlines nine ways.
6. Revenge ideation might happen. Depending on how your loved one died, you might want revenge. For example, if someone murdered your loved one or killed him during a drunk driving accident, you might want revenge on that person. Or, if your loved one died from lung cancer or from a job-related accident, you might want revenge on cigarette companies or the employer. You don’t want to act out your revenge (and if you seriously do want to–as in, you have a plan and you’re going through with it–seek help immediately), but understand that your initial desire for revenge is normal.
7. Mourn at your own pace. Everyone has a mourning period, and everyone’s mourning periods are different. Your mourning period might be a few weeks; it might be a few months. Don’t rush it, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s time to “get over it already.” However, if you ever feel you aren’t progressing in a healthy way (for example, it’s been months or a year and your grief or mourning is affecting your ability to take care of yourself, maintain relationships, or perform job duties), consider talking with a professional about pathologic grief.
Please understand, these are just suggestions. Everyone’s experiences are unique to them; we all handle death–including sudden death–in our own ways.
Have any of you experienced the sudden death of a family member or other loved one? How did you cope with it? What advice can you offer others?
Sparks, A. (2013). Shock, Confusion, Revenge: 7 Tips for Dealing With Sudden Death. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/celebrity/2013/06/shock-confusion-revenge-7-tips-for-dealing-with-sudden-death/