How to handle the sudden death of a parent

The passing of a parent is difficult to bear, even in normal circumstances. But, when one of your parents has died suddenly, your emotional and physical responses are going to be that much stronger due to the traumatic nature of your bereavement.

Unfortunately, many people have had to deal with the sudden death of a parent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, what makes handling the death of a parent who died unexpectedly even more difficult is that many of the traditional rituals that we, as a society, engage in to mark a person’s passing and to honor their life, are not available to us during this most challenging of times.

While individuals are unique in how they respond to the sudden and unexpected death of a parent, suddenly bereaved people often display the symptoms of shock and disbelief — from screaming to shaking, to an inability to talk or move, eat, or drink. These symptoms may be accompanied by strong physiological responses such heart palpitations, diarrhea, stomach pains, and jumpiness, and be more intense and longer-lasting.

In the weeks to follow, many of these initially strong physical and emotional reactions will start to fade and will be replaced by feelings of sadness, anger, and even guilt.

Take your time

The psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the five distinct stages of grief that people go through after the loss of a loved one — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

After the shock and disbelief that are symptomatic of Day 1, there are a number of additional thoughts, feelings, and reactions that you are going to experience in the weeks and months to come. 

It’s not uncommon to feel regret, anger, fear, and guilt. Many people are plagued with insomnia and nightmares, and feelings of isolation and abandonment. However, at some point in the grieving process, you’ll come to a point of accepting the reality of the situation and that you need to move forward with your life.

It’s very important to remember that, when dealing with the sudden death of a parent, how you process your grief and pain is unique and that you need to take whatever time you need to deal with your sudden loss. 

Family support matters more now than ever before

Having the support of your family and friends is so important and can make all the difference for you when it comes to how to handle the sudden death of a parent. This is especially true when it comes to the steps that need to be taken after the death of a loved one.  

There is a lot of paperwork involved, and it is hard to deal with that on your own when you are experiencing all of the emotions that go hand in hand with the grief process. Your family members can help locate important documents that are necessary for the settlement of your parent’s estate, such as a will or living trust. But, will you or any of your family members know what to do if you can’t find the original living trust documents?

Your best option is to contact an estate planning attorney who can provide you with options on how to proceed. Contact the Law Office of David W. Foley, San Diego estate planning attorney, to schedule a free consultation.

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