Sudden unexpected death: intervention with the survivors

Ann Emerg Med. 1986 Jan;15(1):54-7. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(86)80488-7.


Sudden unexpected death is a traumatic event for surviving family and friends. When the survivors learn of their loss, they react with turmoil and disbelief. Intervention with the survivors is essential to facilitate a normal grieving process. To provide emergency staff with guidelines, we review the dynamics of grief and discuss intervention in the following six phases: contacting the survivors; arrival of the survivors; notification of death; the grief response; viewing the body; and the concluding process. We conclude with a discussion of intervention with children.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Crisis Intervention*
  • Death, Sudden*
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Medical Technicians
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology