Chapter 3: Challenges you may face

Loss of sense of control

I've been there
Susan shares about how Lee's death has helped her to realize the preciousness of life and how she lives to make the most of life.(3:22)Video transcript
Joanna speaks about how she tries to make changes in the system that will help other families.(3:22)Video transcript
The grief expert says
Alex speaks about how a death that was "random" often impacts people's sense of safety in the world for some time.(3:22)Video transcript

How could I not have known that he was thinking of ending his life? What did I miss? I should have been paying more attention.

What if she had taken a later flight?

If only I had not let him take the car that night.

Both death and traumatic experiences challenge the idea that you are in control of your life. Perhaps you’re feeling fearful and powerless, or that you have no control over what happens. You may feel unable to protect yourself or your loved ones.

If you witnessed disturbing events, such as attempts to resuscitate the person who died, or saw or heard things, such as severe injuries or someone crying out in pain, you may have been left with images or memories that continue to trouble you. You may now have knowledge about death and dying that you didn’t have before.

You may be trying to make sense of something senseless and questioning whether you could have somehow prevented the death. You may feel guilty or blame yourself. You may become focused on thoughts of “what if” or “if only.”  

What may help

  • If you’re struggling with a sense of either loss of control or failure to protect someone, it may take some time before you’re able to accept the reality that no one has complete control over the things that happen. This doesn’t mean that you have no control or that you’re a “failure.”
  • “What if” and “if only” thoughts can be very persistent and intense, but they are part of the process of trying to make sense of what has happened and regaining a sense of control over your life. In time, you may begin to see your questions as a heartfelt wish that things had happened differently. This may allow you to be a bit gentler with yourself.
  • Consider that many of these questions are often connected to larger, profound ones. Take time, and give yourself permission to explore the ways your experience may help you to create new meaning in your life and relationships.

​​ Helpful resources