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The Horror and Heartbreak of Discovering a Loved One's Death

Category: 

Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Mar 10, 2017

The Horror and Heartbreak of Discovering a Loved One's Death

There is no greater horror than finding the body of a loved one after s/he dies. A young person lost to suicide; an elderly relative, gone peacefully in the night; the middle-aged victim of a natural death or an accident—regardless of the cause, the shock of discovering the death of someone you love leaves a scar. At best, it's a memory that sticks with you. At worst, it can have lasting effects on your psyche and your soul. Coping seems almost impossible, but you can heal. Once the dust has settled and you've followed the proper protocol connected to reporting a death, you will have to face your feelings and your memory.

It's Not the Time to Be Alone

Even if you want to isolate yourself and avoid other people, now is not the time for solitude. Being alone is potentially dangerous, simply because your thoughts are understandably dark and bleak. No one who hasn't been in this situation can possibly imagine what's going through your head right now. You don't have to talk about what you saw. You can explicitly request to discuss other things or state your desire not to talk at all. That's fine, and the people with whom you surround yourself will understand. The important thing is to ask for help, support, and companionship. Don't face this by yourself.

Find a Counselor Immediately

You need to do this. You might not think it's necessary, that you can cope by yourself, or even that you're not affected. You are. Grieving experts and individuals who have shared this unfortunate, heartbreaking experience agree that it's critical to find someone you can talk to as soon as possible after the discovery. Don't wait. Moreover, talk to your counselor or therapist as often as you need to, even if that means having five appointments each week at first.

Your Grief Will Be Different

This is one of the reasons you need to look for a therapist immediately. You've heard us say that grief is a universal emotion and that it typically follows the defined phases of grief. You also know that we stress the unique, personal aspect of bereavement. All of that applies to the type of pain you will feel following your heart-wrenching discovery, but there's also an edge of trauma involved that intensifies your emotions.

PTSD Is a Concern

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is regrettably common among people who are the first to discover a loved one's body. It doesn't happen in every case, but it occurs in many, particularly if the scene is disturbing or grisly. This is another reason why you need to seek professional help. The discovery might have long-term effects on you.

Trust that everyone who knows and loves you wants to support you. What you've gone through is awful, and it's something no one should ever have to see, but you can get through this. Your grief will mellow, the panic and the horror will fade, and the healing will come.