Worrying symptoms after the early weeks

After a sudden bereavement, it is normal for someone to experience upsetting emotions and physical reactions. You can read about some of these expected reactions here.

These reactions should subside over the first few months. However, if they do not, and are extreme, or are getting worse, or new reactions are emerging, then it is right to worry. It is time to seek professional help from a medical practitioner who is qualified to assess the person’s condition and obtain the right treatment if they are diagnosed with a mental health condition.

It is not unusual to be diagnosed with a mental health condition after a sudden and shocking event such as an unexpected death. Conditions include grief disorders often referred to as complex, or prolonged. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is also a possibility.

The good news is that mental health conditions arising from sudden, traumatic bereavement can be treated through talk-based counselling by an expert, experienced in helping people who have been bereaved in this way. This care can enable people to recover from their mental health condition, and go on to deal with their grief in a normal way.

For example, here is a list of some symptoms that may be experienced by people who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD can occur after a shocking event such as a sudden death. The person may:

  • re-experience what happened, through flashbacks and nightmares
  • seem very angry and irritable. They are hyper-vigilant or jumpy
  • have moods that alter a lot, in negative ways
  • avoid talking about what has happened and appears numb or removed from things
  • seem to have difficulty with their relationships and other people
  • have physical symptoms that may be associated with their mental condition, for example a stutter or inability to speak

It is not your job to assess someone’s mental health. But you can help them to seek help, and to understand that mental health conditions can be common after a sudden death. It is a sign of strength to identify and acknowledge that reactions are not going away, or worsening, or emerging; and to seek professional help to recover. This is important for a bereaved person’s wellbeing, and enables them to go on to deal with their grief in normal ways.

Contact a Sudden case worker to help someone get an assessment of their mental health needs.

You can also read our longer guidance on mental health disorders.