First - an unexpected death - whether from illness, accident, suicide or other cause - has to be the worst form of loss you can experience (my point of view). You've not had a chance to say goodbye, or to say that you didn't mean what you said or that you wish you would have been there more - or even sorry for not calling more. You MUST REALIZE THIS - you CAN still say those things - you CAN. Just because someone has passed on - DOES NOT mean you can't speak to them - they are still with you - in your memory, in your heart - they are part of you because you keep them alive in your memory and your heart. SO - because they are still alive in you - you can have a quiet conversation with them - and they will hear you. THIS IS THE METHOD OF COPING I USED, AND STILL DO, EVERY DAY. (In fact, I'm ashamed to admit it - but I talk to my brother more now, that I did when he was alive.)
Second - FORGIVE YOURSELF - for not being there, for not doing more, for not calling more etc. etc. etc. Your loved one isn't physically here to physically forgive you - but they do forgive you. BUT YOU HAVE TO FORGIVE YOU. If you feel guilty about how you lived your life before in regard to your lost loved one - CHANGE YOUR LIFE - confess your 'sins' to a priest (if you're Catholic) - do your penance and AMMEND your life. Your loved one doesn't want you to constantly blame yourself for not being a better friend, sister, brother, parent etc. - they WANT YOU to forgive yourself.
Third - YOU MAY HAVE QUESTIONS - that need answers before you can get on with your life. IF the death was due to a swift, sudden illness - you may wonder if there was more you could have done - a 2nd opinion, some new technique, or wonder drug - 2nd guessing in these instances will not bring you peace. Trust is what you need - in your (or others') decision(s), in God's plan - knowing that whatever decision(s) were made were made out of love and genuine caring and concern for their wishes and beliefs, so trust in God and let it go - and PRAY for the grace to let it go and trust. Prayer is a powerful tool in these situations.
IF the death was due to them taking their own life - YOU WILL OF COURSE have questions - more than with any other form of death. BEFORE YOU ASK THE QUESTIONS YOU WANT THE ANSWERS TO - take it to PRAYER - pray for the grace to find the answers you are looking for - and if you don't then to have the grace to accept the unknown and move on. ONCE YOU HAVE PRAYED for these things - but before you ASK - examine your life - in relationship to your deceased loved one - and see if you can find the answers or a hint there, often you can. Hindsight is often 20/20 - and you see things in a new light and wonder how you could miss the signs. THERE IS OFTEN NOT A NOTE in these instances - so you will most likely want to know WHY - and YOU WILL NOT LIKELY FIND AN ANSWER if there's not a note - BUT IN EXAMINING YOUR OWN LIFE AND INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR LOVED ONE - you will certainly see things you didn't see before which may be some sort of answer. Either way - YOU HAVE TO PRAY for the grace to be able to understand and move on. There's not a time limit for this 'step' - it may happen over a couple hours, days, months or maybe longer. THE HARD COLD FACT OF LIFE IS THIS ... LIFE IS UNEXPECTED - THINGS HAPPEN THAT YOU CAN'T CONTROL AND YOU DON'T KNOW HOW LONG YOU ARE ON THIS EARTH FOR - ONLY GOD KNOWS - SO WE PRAY FOR UNDERSTANDING AND THE GRACE TO HELP US DEAL WITH THE THINGS THAT COME OUR WAY. God really won't give you more than you can handle - NO MATTER HOW IT FEELS RIGHT NOW, TRUST ME - I KNOW - THATS WHY HE TAUGHT US TO PRAY FOR HIS HELP - TIMES LIKE THIS.
Four - All the 'experts' will tell you there are 5 steps to grieving - but I will tell you - no matter how your loved one leaves you - you won't be interested in 'steps' - you will go through the steps - denial, anger, bargaining, depression & finally acceptance. The order is an individual thing-from experience-except for the acceptance part - which is what we're trying to get you to here. A little bit about each of the steps-to help you recognize them more easily: DENIAL-common sense-no one wants to believe that someone they love has died-and depending on how they died, you may even go through a HOPE step-where you hope its a case of mistaken identity. DENIAL doesn't last too long-as you are quickly hit with the physical realization of the situation. ANGER -Think-who are you angry with? Your loved one for leaving you? God for taking them? Yourself-for not being there? Its natural & the only thing that I can say that will help you-is to PRAY for the grace to stop being angry -because-RATIONALLY-what GOOD does it do anyone? Did you know that ANGER is a contributor to many illnesses that can become chronic & serious health issues if not dealt with? Is that good for you? PRAY & offer it up-ask for help with your anger from God-he may not answer in just the way you want-but he will answer your prayer-you just have to keep an eye out for it. BARGAINING-This is the step that I STILL STRUGGLE WITH every day-its been about 9 months now. I call this the "IF ONLY" stage-it seems to fit better. This sort of goes along with the "talking to your deceased loved one" I mentioned in step 1. But also goes along with talking to God. I DON'T THINK I'LL EVER STOP THIS ONE & thats okay, its healthy sometimes to wonder about 'if only I could have one more day'-because of the 'if only' you can't ever really have-at least not on this earth, it helps you change how you treat everyone in your life-as if today might be the last time you see them-to cherish every moment. DEPRESSION-this one I'm not sure that I've really fully experienced yet-its more an underlying theme-yet not full blown depression-just a somber-sad little note in each day-it doesn't interfere, rather keeps me grounded in the precious gift we've been given by God & not to take life for granted. ACCEPTANCE-this is different than UNDERSTANDING. I ACCEPT that he's gone-but I don't yet understand. I PRAY DAILY for that still.
Five - The ONE THING - besides PRAYER (and the rest of the family) - that has helped me survive this - is HELPING OTHERS. Reach out to others who are in need - may not be even related to you - or may be hurting too from the loss - either way - giving of yourself - when you are hurting is a very cathartic and loving thing to do. I'm not sure of the 'technical' lingo - but the act of giving of yourself seems to release a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. (Or so I believe - from my own experiences.) I volunteer at our Church, and the community center with the senior citizens. I have elderly neighbors and those who are less fortunate than myself. I'VE FOUND THAT PUTTING OTHERS BEFORE MYSELF - HELPS ME SURVIVE MY LOSS. ITS SOMETHING ABOUT REALIZING THAT THE WORLD DOESN'T REVOLVE AROUND YOUR SCHEDULE OR LIFE - AND IT HELPS YOU KEEP YOUR FOCUS OFF THE PAIN, AND SLOWLY - IT FADES. OTHERS CAN SENSE YOUR PAIN AS WELL AND AS YOU HELP THEM - THEY TRY TO HELP YOU - THEY ASK YOU FOR FAVORITE MEMORIES, AND THINGS LIKE THAT - THIS HELPS YOU TO LET GO OF THE PAIN A BIT AND REMEMBER THOSE STORIES AS YOU TELL THEM TO YOUR NEIGHBOR OR SOMEONE AT CHURCH - AND YOU FEEL LIKE IT WAS JUST YESTERDAY YOU WERE PLAYING BASEBALL WITH YOUR BROTHER OR WATCHING HIM OPEN HIS CHRISTMAS GIFT. ITS GOOD.
Some other things that will help you survive - and maybe even thrive and become a better, more attentive, loving person - writing - in a journal; blogging; talking to a priest or a trusted friend; examining your life and striving every day to not let the opportunities that may have passed you by in the past - pass you by. THIS IS THE REAL KEY - SIEZE THE LOST OPPORTUNITIES - AND MAKE THE MOST OF THEM.
THE ONE THING TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS - is - There are things left unsaid and undone, RIGHT? DON'T EVER LET SOMETHING GO UNSAID OR UNDONE - in using this one piece of advice - you will not only find peace, but you'll let your loved one have peace too.