Loss is very often hard.
But it hits harder when it’s a loss that “shouldn’t happen.
There are certain losses that as painful as they are, we can sort of anticipate. We can kind of steel ourselves for them.
Those losses can still hurt, very much— but at least we have some emotional warning.
Then there are losses that come out of nowhere.
When we lose someone or something that we “shouldn’t.”
When we weren’t prepared— had no inkling that we’d need to be prepared to lose that person or thing at that time.
Dealing with any kind of major loss at any time can be tough— but getting hit with an unexpected loss can really throw our emotional world into chaos.
Many losses feel unfair. Many losses ARE unfair.
But to get hit with a loss we “shouldn’t” have to endure— not now, not in this way— can feel infuriatingly unfair…and it can disrupt our lives in profound ways.
We know, as a general principle, that life isn’t fair.
We know, as a general principle, that life isn’t even guaranteed— that every day, every minute, might be our last, or the last for someone we care about.
Nobody reading this is under the delusion that anything lasts forever.
But there are certain losses that we’re just not ready for.
Grieving an unexpected, unpredictable loss is a different task than normal grief.
In addition to experiencing and expressing our feelings of pain at the loss, we’re also stuck with all of these feelings of fury and disbelief surrounding how sudden and unfair the loss was.
You’ve likely heard of the traditional stages of grief— denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance— and it’s true that many people experiencing loss do go through these stages (though the sequence of those stages tends to be a little less rigid than we previously realized).
When a loss is unexpected, however, we tend to spend more time in the “denial” and “anger” stages than we otherwise would.
You’re not wrong to be angry.
You’re not wrong to be in shock.
You’re not wrong or immature to be “stuck” on how unfair a sudden, unpredictable loss is.
One of my favorite song lyrics is by John Lennon, who wrote in his song “Beautiful Boy” that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
It’s all too real.
We need to know that the pain we’re experiencing is very valid.
We need to know that there’s no rapid resolution to our grief— especially if the loss we’re grieving was sudden or unexpected.
We ned to know that this process, of coming to terms with what we feel and need, is going to take exactly the time it takes.
I very often write about how patience and self-compassion are non-negotiable skills in recovery— and nowhere are those skills more necessary than when we’re hit with complicated grief.
If you’re reading this and mourning a complicated or unexpected loss, the last thing you want to hear may be “this takes the time it takes.”
I wish I had different news for you.
What I can tell you, however, is that you’re not the first or the last person to feel pain like this.
Unexpected loss sucks in a particularly awful way.
There are no “rules” for how to navigate any of this.
Just stay with those wounded parts of yourself— however long this takes.