Shock and Suffering

The initial reactions to the death of someone you care about are often painful, but they can also be confusing and even frightening. Therefore, it may be helpful to know what kinds of reactions are common, perhaps even necessary parts of healing from a loss or trauma.

SHOCK: the initial reactions to learning about or experiencing the death of a loved one. These first reactions serve as a form of self-protection when faced with emotional overload. Shock may include:

  • Disbelief, denial
  • Numbness, going through the motions
  • Confusion, bewilderment
  • Isolation, withdrawal

SUFFERING: the intense emotional period when the realization of the loss begins to sink in. Suffering may include:

  • Intense sadness
  • Longing for and missing the one who has died
  • Depression and sadness about other things that may seem unrelated


  • Resentment, feeling cheated, not fair
  • Anger at the one who has died
  • Anger at other things or people, anger at God


  • Fearful about your own well-being or the well-being of others you care about. Fear about the uncertainty of the future
  • Fear of the depth of your own feelings


  • That you are alive and the other person is not
  • That you didn’t do more while that person was alive
  • That you should have seen this coming

Wanting to undo (attempts to cope with feeling so powerless)

  • “If only”
  • Getting philosophical
  • Getting back to business