Grief and loss is married to death and dying. The stages of grief can be seen as running parallel to the stages of dying. The dying person must let go of everything in her or his life, from the material to the physical process of breathing. In tandem, the grieving person must let go of having the person they love, admire, and depend on.
When someone has a life threatening disease, they may go through a time of fighting for life. Many times this works, and life continues. Sometimes, the fight is not successful, and there is a shift from fighting to dying. The grieving person is in the position of following along. Neither the dying person nor the grieving person can control what happens.
Helplessness is a very difficult feeling. Usually, when someone dies, we ask ourselves (or sometimes torture ourselves) with what more we could have done. The “what if” thoughts can continue for quite awhile. In death by accident or suicide, the helplessness can be overwhelming.
A first step in working with helplessness is to talk to others about it. The feeling cannot be “fixed” but it is better to have share it than be all alone with it.