What Is Shock? - Shock Symptoms After a Bereavement

Everyone tells you that you will feel shock after a major loss. But what is shock? And what are the symptoms of shock?

Shock feels like a numbness, a fog, a disbelief. It is the body’s way of protecting us from early pain. It can last days or weeks with the bereaved unable to cry. Others are unable to stop crying. Both are natural reactions to grief.

While it is usual to feel shock after any death it can be particularly great for a sudden death, one involving violence or the death of a child. No parent expects to outlive their children.

People feel as if they are functioning on autopilot. It is a protective mechanism which protects us from the early pain of loss. Once the fog lifts then we start to feel the pain more, although the severity will vary greatly from person to person. Some people will feel as if everything is going on at a distance, that they are observing what is going on from afar.

sea sand and sky to calm the mind after the shock of bereavement

Take extra care when you are suffering from shock symptoms

This fog can last anything from hours to weeks or even months. Shock is our way of protecting ourselves from the pain of grief. It is a normal reaction.

If you are in shock, think about letting others drive for you for a while. Even weeks later, if you find that you have arrived somewhere and don't remember the journey, it might be better to go on the train, or get a friend to drive you.

What is shock - a way of coping......

The early days following a bereavement are very busy with organising the funeral and phone calls to and from friends and agencies take up a lot of time.

Shock is a sort of coping mechanism to get through the first period of bereavement. It is different in everyone, some can’t cope and hand over to the family, others get very busy and manage by organising everything.

It is best to try and get involved as much as you are able, as you may regret not doing it afterwards. Try to make decisions and choose poems, hymns, flowers that your loved one would have liked. Even if you are doing it through a haze of confusion. You will be pleased you did, and it will give you comfort to realise that you are coping.


Virginia Lloyd expresses the feeling of shock so well as she describes the funeral of her young husband of 47 who died of cancer.

“…..I appreciated their hugs and kisses but was removed from the gestures, as if it were someone else the mourners embraced. A friend held an umbrella over my head as I stood outside the church, but I was somewhere else entirely”

“It felt as though I were acting in someone else’s drama….none of it made sense, yet it was happening. I remember a feeling of slight concussion, that I was not actually there in the moment, but somewhere just behind it or in front of it. Not in it. Not actually present to fully experience the act of John’s burial. But being forced to see it nonetheless.”

This quote is from The Young Widow's Book of Home Improvement. Click on the book below to read reviews of the book.


How I coped with the shock of grief

When my husband died, I kept busy, went to bridge, went out with friends, organised my finances with the help of my children. But when people say how well I did, I always say, yes, but I wasn't really there for about 5 months. I was in a sort of different dimension.

And then one day I woke up and realised that I had coped and that life was still going on.

Now the road to acceptance begins and there are pathways of grief to travel but you have proved to yourself that you can and will cope, for you, your loved ones and the rest of your family and friends.

Related Pages: 

What are the Emotions of Grief?

10 Ways to Cope with Grief

> > What is Shock?

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Memorial Magnolia Tree

The Magnolia is one of the earth's oldest plants, with a spectacular flower which dates back 95 million years.  What a beautiful specimen to commemorate a life. 

These trees are grown by the foremost magnolia nursery in the USA and they will send a variety most suited to the recipient's climate. 

The flowers in spring will bring joy to the bereaved and help to heal their heart.

Only available in the USA. 

For Memorial Trees within the UK, click here

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