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More and more people are dying due to “unnatural” causes. Although the loss of a loved one for any reason can be traumatic, sudden death due to school shootings, church shootings, nightclub shootings, mass transit shootings, home invasions, road rage, a pandemic, or random acts of violence, is an “unnatural death” making the loss more traumatic and the grief (seemingly) never-ending. When a parent loses a child, or a child loses a young parent, the loss and related grief can be more mentally damaging than when a senior, or terminally ill elder, dies from natural causes. No one is emotionally prepared to accept the death of a loved one, however, sudden death due to acts of violence can cause long-term physical pain and affect mental well-being. Through grief counseling, the licensed therapists and counselors of Improving Lives Counseling Services can help ease the psychological pain associated with the loss of a loved one.


Though recent research has identified specific grieving patterns and studies have identified grieving styles or types, no two people grieve the same way or experience the same psychological effects of losing a loved one. Some spouses, now widows, refuse to get out of bed, shower, brush their teeth, or dress. Others have little to no appetite, reject discarding their clothes or belongings, and shut themselves away from family and friends. Some people avoid places they enjoyed as a couple, their favorite restaurants, activities they did together, and their favorite TV shows. In contrast, others rush to their favorite places, surrounding themselves with things and activities that brought “them” joy as a couple.

In a New York Times article titled, “After His Death, I Didn’t Cook Anymore: Widows on the Pain of Dining Alone,” women shared stories of how difficult it was to take over the cooking, to avoid crying at the grocers, or to have a glass of wine alone. Mealtime and bedtime offered the greatest challenges. Parents who have lost a child often leave the room exactly as it was for years, sniff clothes they refuse to donate, or put an extra plate on the dinner table knowing the seat will remain empty.

Grieving for someone lost due to violence can make it especially hard to cope with the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and cognitive responses. Some gain weight, others lose weight; some walk hunched over, refusing to make eye contact; others experience leg, back, and shoulder pain. A perfect house becomes cluttered, a yard and garden ignored; home maintenance, bill paying, and even going to the mailbox cease. They just want to know why? Why their husband, why their wife, why their child?


It’s not unusual for the bereaved to play the blame game, to wish they had done something different, had paid more attention, had started a conversation, or saw it coming. Even wishing it had been them instead of their loved ones is normal. A recent study found: “…even 18 years after losing a child, bereaved parents reported more depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, more health problems and were more likely to have experienced a depressive episode and marital disruption.” Some couples are able to form a stronger bond and create a new beginning while others grow apart, often blaming one another; unable to support one another, to parent remaining children, or grieve together as a couple or family.


The bereaved often suffer shock, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and, for many, loathing. Grief can prevent them from viewing the body, attending the funeral, or communicating with family and friends. They may use skepticism to protect them from the emotional pain of the loss, avoiding family, thus reinforcing disbelief.

Religious faith can play a role in whether or not the bereaved seek counseling. Some are more comfortable turning to someone who knows them and/or the person they lost. Others feel “consistently upset and preoccupied with the person who has passed away, to the point their relationships and work suffer for months on end. Such a reaction is known as “complicated grief.” Often, these bereaved turn to family, friends, and religious leaders, however, a recent survey found turning to someone known or who knew the deceased, can stifle the conversation, preventing open, honest communication – how they really feel.

Contact Improving Lives Counseling Today

The licensed professional counselors, therapists, and clinicians of Improving Lives Counseling Services give the bereaved the opportunity to speak openly, not only about how they feel, but how they felt about the loved one they lost. By creating a safe environment for open, honest communication, and using exposure therapy, they help the bereaved “incorporate the death on a deep level.”  Using trauma-informed, evidence-based, age-appropriate treatments, we treat children, adolescents, adults, and seniors who experience grief following a loss. Call us today.