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I’m trying to find a verb or idiomatic expression to refer to something that happens suddenly and unexpectedly, upsets and overwhelms you like a bolt from the blue. For example, a shocking event in your life...

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The idea of some sudden, unexpected and upsetting thing is expressed by the verb TO BLINDSIDE.

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blindside:

BLINDSIDE

transitive verb

1: to hit unexpectedly from or as if from the blind side

// blindside the quarterback

2: to surprise unpleasantly

// We were all blindsided  by the news of her sudden death.

Cambridge Dictionary https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/blindside?q=BLINDSIDE+ gives the similar definition of 'TO BLINDSIDE' :

  • to surprise someone, usually with harmful results:

// The recession blindsided a lot of lawyers who had previously taken for granted their comfortable income.

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