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Guest columnist: Healing after sudden death

Riviera Insider guest columnist Karen Lang“Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.” Albert Camus

After the tragic deaths in Nice on July 14th and many who were severely injured, parents, family, friends and the community are left asking, “How will I survive this immense loss?” Sudden death is one of the most difficult types of grief to live through, and as each person starts to pick up the pieces of this tragedy, it is crucial to understand there is a way through.

Nathan our only son was nine years old when he was hit by a car and killed. On the day he died, my life changed forever.

The shock of these deaths and life changing injuries will take time to absorb and to understand.  No one imagines they will face the death of a child or a loved one. In the devastation of this truth, you may believe that no one else has felt this much pain and as your journey begins without them, it can be difficult to believe you can.

In the beginning it will feel like a bad dream that you want to wake up from. You will desperately want to believe that your son, daughter, husband, partner or parent will walk through the door again and that life can return to normal.

There are many layers of grief after sudden death. Understanding your feelings around your loss will help connect you to others, and begin to normalise your grief.

In the early stages of grief, you may feel overwhelmed as your emotions emerge within. There will be anger at the driver for taking your loved one’s life and their future. There may be feelings of injustice at the unfairness of it all and you may want someone to blame.  

There will be sadness and heartache imagining a life without them and there may be guilt for anything that was left unsaid or not done before their death.

You may play the ‘what if…’ game, going over and over in your mind all the ways your loved one could have avoided this tragic event and if you did survive, you may have feelings of guilt that you did. Once we let ‘what if…’ in, it can consume us and these constant thoughts can exhaust us.

There were times after our son’s death when people said, “I could never cope in your situation,” or “This is my greatest fear, I don’t know how you do it.” Unfortunately, we do not get to choose how our life unfolds, but we do get to choose how we respond to it.

After hitting rock bottom, I knew I had a choice. To stay locked in my sadness and anger, never accepting his death, or to take one step at a time, learning to accept all my emotions and letting them go over time.

What helped me move through the emotional layers of grief was to create space around my feelings.  This meant making time each day to be still, acknowledging how I felt and understanding my needs.  It was accepting there would be good days and very difficult days, as I learned to nurture these feelings.

When I knew what I needed, I was able to ask for support and this helped others support me. 

Grief takes so much energy from us, and so it is vital to rest, reconnect and take time to get your strength back. Research has shown that spending time in nature and in stillness can help us find peace amongst this immense pain.

Outside, I could breathe more freely. Nature gave me solace during my grief and helped me process my feelings and learn to work with them, rather than resist them.

 It is a practice over time. When you slow down and allow yourself to feel your emotions and learn to breathe through them, you will begin to feel lighter and stronger to face another day.

Be patient as you work through your grief. Grieve in your own way, and in your own time.  Connect with people who understand your journey and always seek support when you need it.  Together we can heal.



Karen Lang is a counsellor and a meditation teacher.  She runs workshops on Grief and lives in Australia.  Karen’s book ‘Courage’ is to help those who face grief understand they are not alone, and to give strategies to find a way through.

If you would like to buy  ‘Courage’ please visit the website for details: