Dealing with Grief
Dealing with grief after an accident in which a loved one dies is tragic, sudden and completely unexpected. You could be having the best day and then everything changes. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why these accidents happen, but the grief is an experience that is hard to explain to someone that has never had to suffer the news that their loved one is gone.
The pain feels heavy and all-consuming, gripping our bodies and our minds. We stumble to find the words to explain why this happened and try to cope with the feeling that our loved one was taken too soon. We often live with the regret of not getting to say goodbye and the many other things that we wish we had said and done.
Shoving the grief down and not experiencing it is a mistake. It won’t just lift and go away, although someday you will feel better. Unfortunately, processing the emotional states of sadness and loss is something your body needs to do to move forward with health.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the writer of the book On Death and Dying, describes five emotional states of being that happen after a traumatic event like a deadly accident. There is denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then finally, acceptance.
As the survivor, you may experience all of these stages for various periods of time. Recognizing them might help you move towards peace.
The unexpected nature of accidents allows denial to flourish. We can’t believe it. Gathering as much information about the accident and what happened, can help you move past the coping mechanism of denial of the event.
Anger is a healthy and natural response and part of the grief process. People can feel mad at the world, angry at themselves, even enraged at God or another spiritual entity. If the accident was a result of someone’s else’s fault, like a drunk driver or irresponsible employer who didn’t follow safety recommendations, then the anger will be fueled towards that person. Make sure your anger doesn’t consume you. You need alliances, not alienation in this time of need. And you need to have a clear head to make useful decisions, especially if there is someone responsible. You may have to pursue a lawyer or deal with corporate representatives and need to make rational choices.
A tool we all do, hoping in our mind that a different outcome could have been possible. Bargaining isn’t going to solve anything at all- it is an escapism tool, and eventually, you need your mind to focus on more useful things.
Depression can be overwhelming. You may not want to move at all after such devastating news. Shutting down and conserving energy is something your body does to create homeostasis after being rocked by such grief. If you need to do nothing, allow yourself that time. But eventually, you have to get back into the world. Deep breathing can help lift spirits and release deep seeded grief. (Check out YouTube, yoga classes or a search engine to find specific breathing guidelines)
Not easy, but we arrive at accepting the new reality of life without our loved ones. You will make it through this even though it might be the hardest thing you have ever done. Celebrate the life they had and the times you had together with a sense of profound gratitude for it all.
Once you get to the point of acceptance, you have to look to how to care for yourself through loss and grief. Leaning on people and finding a community of people you trust and love will help you replenish and get through this rough time.
When you surround yourself with a village of support, you realize that you are not alone. You may look for and join support groups in your area to help you connect with others that are going through similar situations. These groups often provide much-needed comfort and advice. Now is the time to ask for help. Don’t go through it alone. Leaning on people will help you get through this tragic time and may give you glimpses of the possibility of peace with the suffering you are feeling.