Sherlock Can’t Save Me Now: When Grief Gets You Stuck in Detective Mode

March 3, 2023

Are you stuck in detective mode? If you’re obsessing over the details about a loved one’s death, it may be holding you back from healing. Learn why this reaction to loss may be stunting your grief recovery.

“What was the time of death?”

“What did his last text message say?”

“What color were the bricks two paces to the right of the scene?”

Detective mode. It’s a natural part of the grief process. But getting caught up in the details of your loved one’s final moments can keep you from finding peace.

If you’re finding yourself obsessing over what may or may not have happened at the time of a loved one’s death, this blog post is for you. We’ll explain why detective mode is so addictive and how it does–and doesn’t–help us in our healing.

The Nancy Drew Effect

When someone dies suddenly, tragically, or unexpectedly, there are so many unknowns. Of course you wonder what happened, or how it could have been prevented or avoided. But this phase of the grieving process can become addictive. Call it the (Insert Favorite Famous Detective Name Here) Effect.

Why? Because grief is incredibly overwhelming for the nervous system. Your mind and body can go into a state of shock to protect you from the trauma of the loss. Grasping for “clues” is your brain’s way of trying to keep you safe by doing everything it can to find answers. It’s your mind’s way of trying to find control in an uncontrollable situation.

Why going into Detective Mode holds you back

This might not be easy to hear, but the truth is that obsessing over how exactly your loved one died can be a form of denial. As you do your best Sherlock Holmes impersonation, you’re mentally enacting a scenario on a loop that keeps your loved one alive.

There are a lot of details about your loved one’s death that even the best of detectives may never be able to uncover for you. If you’re holding yourself back from moving on until you get all the answers, then you may be holding yourself back for good.

The answer to your grief

Imagine you were able to find all of the answers to your questions. Imagine you were able to see every detail of every moment played out like a movie. Now that you have those answers, does it change how you feel? Does it change the fact that you desperately miss the person you lost? Does it change how much you love them? Does it change how bad it hurts?

If the answer to all those questions is no, then you realize it may be time to let go of detective mode. When you accept that you only know what you know, you have the space to attend to your heartbreak.

If the answer to all those questions is still yes, then maybe detective mode is really serving you right now. There’s no shame in this. Like we said, it’s a natural part of the grief experience. Our brain desperately wants to create order out of the chaos.

But if detective mode has gone on for a matter of months, or even a matter of years, you may be feeling that detective mode isn’t serving you AND you can’t seem to get out of it. That’s where a grief recovery group or grief recovery specialist can help. Once you get unstuck, you’ll see that you don’t need all the answers in order to heal.

We Can Help You Process Grief

If you are replaying every detail about your loved one’s death in an effort to find answers or even hope, 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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