Catapulted into Grief: What to Do Right After a Loss

March 17, 2023

Knowing how to navigate the grief at the onset is key to beginning the healing process. Here are 3 truths to hold onto when the death of a loved one derails your life.

When someone loses a child, or experiences a traumatic breakup, divorce, or a job loss; or a loved one dies unexpectedly, their mind and body undergo almost immediate changes that the person experiencing this sudden pain doesn’t understand, much less know how to navigate. 


We are hardwired for survival and in the face of grief, those experiencing it often don’t even realize they are in the thick of it because they’re in “survival mode.” Their brains and bodies immediately go into overdrive and do whatever it takes to ensure they survive the event—since the brain cannot decipher between the threat of a tiger chasing you through the wilderness and the stress of excruciating heartbreak. 


Here are a couple of tips for anyone new to the fresh, open wound of a devastating loss that will help you navigate the sea of changes—physically, emotionally, spiritually, and more—without going under yourself. 

3 Things to Know When You First Experience a Loss


  1. If your brain and body feel “out of order,” faulty, or shorted, that’s because they are. When loss is fresh, it feels impossible to process even the most basic information or act on the simplest of instructions. So when people rush to give you books, pamphlets, or suggest healing podcasts to help you “move on,” it’s not by chance that you literally can’t take the information in—you’re experiencing what feels like a systems failure because your body is reacting to the devastating loss that just happened to you and “shutting down” in an effort to help you survive the event. Understanding the many complex changes your body undergoes when grief strikes can help you make more sense of the unimaginably difficult situation.

  2. It’s completion—not “closure”—that will jumpstart your healing process. Oftentimes those in our support systems will say things like, “You just need to find closure,” which can actually be very triggering for someone who lost a child, for example, who could never dream of “closing” the window on their memory.

    When Erica, now one of our grief counselors, lost her son, she went to a grief class. She was angry and expecting to hear—like she’d been told by others—that she needed to “find closure.” Instead, she was offered help with completing her relationship with her son. Completion—not closure—is the best way to reframe the foreign idea of “moving on” without your loved one.

  3. While we all process grief differently, we all react to grief in one of three ways. We either resist it (most common), avoid it, which is different from resisting because it is usually accompanied by finding different things to avoid it with, or we react to it.

    When we resist it, we may think we are avoiding going down the rabbit hole of grief, but it still overtakes us. When we avoid it, we pick up a few bad habits along the way that make healing even more out of reach such as drugs, alcohol, “staying busy,” and more.
    When we react to it, we start blowing up over every little thing.

    The reality, regardless of how you approach grief, is you must have a safe place to talk about your grief and you must allow yourself to feel the feelings associated with that grief. 

Help with Handling Grief Right When it Hits

If you just suffered an unbelievable or unexpected loss and don’t know where to go from here, you are not alone. We see you, we know you’re hurting, and want to offer you a safe place to share your story and feel supported in your healing journey. Contact us today to set up a free discovery call and spend some time with us – we’re here for you. 


Sharon Brubaker is a certified Life Coach and credentialed Grief Specialist who, along with her team, teaches women who are grieving how to process their thoughts and emotions. To learn more about navigating grief within the family, listen to the full podcast episode here or download my free e-Book, The Griever’s Guide, which equips you with the tools to live life after grief; because no griever should have to navigate a broken heart on their own. 

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