Chapter 4: When death is sudden or unexpected

The challenges of a sudden death

When a death is sudden and unexpected, children aren’t prepared for the death. They:

  • Must make sense of a lot of new information while grieving and possibly in shock as well.  
  • Lose the opportunity to say goodbye or share other special messages.
  • May have unresolved issues with the person who has died. For example:
    • They argued the last time they were together, and didn’t have a chance to make-up. 
  • May start to experience the world as a less safe place and worry that another sudden tragedy could happen at any time. 
  • May experience significant family stress, transitions and secondary losses such as loss of income and moving to a new home or community.
  • May face the involvement of the criminal justice system and the media.
    • Learn more in this chapter. 
  • May have to deal with the curiosity of friends, community and media.
    • Learn more in this chapter. 
  • Depending on the nature of the death, may feel stigma, shame and lack of support from community, family and school.

The 4 Cs

Whether a death is expected or unexpected, children worry about the 4 Cs. 

Can I CATCH it? 

Did I CAUSE it? 

Can I CURE it?

Who will take CARE of me?

Each of these concerns needs to be addressed whether or not your children are voicing them.

Learn more in Module 2 The 4 Cs.