**This is an incredibly emotionally-challenging topic, and we ask you to please use your judgment as to whether this is an appropriate article for you at your personal stage in the grief journey.**
The grief experience is complex even in the most straightforward circumstances. That already-difficult experience can be compounded by a sudden death. The process can be even harder yet on those who have lost someone due to choices their loved one made.
Some of the challenges families face in circumstances of a sudden death are explained in this brief overview by a grief educator. The questions of how to best remember the life of someone who has died suddenly – and how that memorialization can also help the family heal – is an important one.
Please know that we at Sol Levinson & Bros. are here to be a resource, to help find ways to honor a life and a relationship in the way that best reflects your loved one, and to provide memorialization that meets your needs. If that means taking a little more time to carefully craft a service, or to provide the family a little time to gather together and regroup before being surrounded by community, we are here to help. If you are concerned about finding a sensitive way to share a loved one’s life story, we work with many members of the clergy who are compassionate and understanding.
How your loved one dies does not take away your need to grieve.
As funeral directors, we have found that the initial reaction of family members in these situations is often a survival instinct – to shut down and handle the final arrangements for the person as quickly and privately as possible. That may serve an immediate need, but sometimes that instinct makes the grief experience harder and more complicated in the long run. Just as with the importance of the stages of mourning in Jewish tradition to honor a loss and transition slowly back into the world, a funeral or memorialization is important to acknowledge and honor the loss a family is experiencing. As a recent Connecting Directors article noted, “When a loved one dies under tragic circumstances, some families choose to not have a funeral. They may be embarrassed and worried what others will think due to how their loved one died. Regardless of how someone died, there are, very often, memories worth commemorating.” (“NFDA Addresses Tragic Deaths in New Public Service Announcements.” NFDA, National Funeral Directors Association, 25 March 2019, www.nfda.org). How your loved one dies does not take away your need to grieve.
There are many articles that talk about and provide resources for various types of sudden loss and grief. Whether the death is due to an accident, overdose, suicide, heart attack or other causes, the family’s needs are incredibly important. Below is a list of some articles and videos that address these issues. There are also many local resources for survivors of different types of sudden death. Jewish Community Services is the main Jewish organization in Baltimore that can help direct people to bereavement support groups or other assistance, and you can reach them at 410-466-9200 or see their services on their Emotional Well Being page.
**Warning: the videos and articles can be intense and may be upsetting for those who have experienced these types of loss. Please be sure you are with someone supportive when you watch or read them.**
The National Funeral Directors Association recently created some PSAs for those experiencing certain types of sudden, traumatic loss.
When a Parent Dies of an Overdose”
When a parent dies of an overdose, it can lead to strong emotions, especially among children. Having a funeral gives the family the opportunity to remember their loved one and the good times they had with other family members and friends. A funeral offers a time to gather, grieve and support one another.
“Remembering A Good Friend Who Made Bad Decisions”
We may not always agree with the life decisions made by our loved ones, especially if they involve illegal activity. A funeral provides the opportunity to come together and reflect on a loved one’s entire life history and remember the good times you had together.
- The Center for Loss has a writeup on the importance of funeral rituals to promote the healing process.
- Dr. Therese Rando shares some of her own experience with her husband’s sudden death and delves into some of the emotions and sticking points that are common for survivors of a sudden loss.
- CNN has article on the ongoing trauma of sudden loss.
- The “Sudden: Supporting People After Sudden Death” website has many resources on this topic. This article covers many typical responses in the early weeks after a death.
- This article shares thoughts from international grief expert, Doug Manning, and others about why everyone deserves a funeral.
- Center for Loss has an article specifically on healing when someone dies of a drug overdose.