When Loved Ones Are Killed in Accidents: How Do You Cope?

When Loved Ones Are Killed in Accidents: How Do You Cope?

Losing a loved one can be an extremely traumatic experience. Despite being a natural reality of life, it is likely that feelings of shock, confusion, sadness, and depression may result. A tragedy occurred recently in Weld County when a four-vehicle crash resulted in the death of three family members. Sheila Sinclair was traveling with her six-year-old son and two daughters’ ages three and one at the time of the accident. Sinclair and the two older children were killed in the crash.

Family Attempting to Cope

Kassidy’s father decided to donate the 3-year-old’s heart, liver, and kidneys to those in need. A local child apparently received the heart in a transplant at Children’s Hospital. Family members hope the recipient will “inherit some of her adventuresome nature”. Arabella, the 1-year-old who survived the crash, has provided the family with a reason to endure.

Coping With Death

In the U.S., there are slightly over 2.5 million deaths nationwide each year. Over half of women and 10% of men have been widowed by the age of 65. Bereavement refers to the overall response to a person’s death. Grief is a mental and emotional response to these types of events. The term mourning refers to social responses to death that may be associated with cultural or religious backgrounds. Traumatic grief is a complicated condition that persists beyond six months after the death.

Three Stages of Grief

Approximately 15% of those bereaved find themselves depressed one-year after the event. A Psychiatric Times article authored by Paula Clayton, MD, defines three phases of grief:

  • Numbness: Resulting from the initial shock, where the person may only complete necessary tasks or routines.
  • Depression: Lasting for a period of weeks or months, symptoms include restless feelings and overall irritability.
  • Recovery: Begins several months after the death when the individual begins to accept the death and starts functioning normally.

Coping Strategies

Research suggests after losing a loved one, a period of mourning is necessary. Often this leads to a renewed outlook on life that generates a new sense of purpose or meaning. Some of the key strategies to consider include:

  • Discuss your feelings with friends to gain a better perspective.
  • Accept the reality of the situation and the way you feel.
  • Tend to your needs and those of others.
  • Maintain good eating habits, get rest, and consider regular exercise.
  • The process of expression, often by sharing stories involving the deceased, tends to comfort most people.
  • Maintain photos of happy times or consider making a donation to the person’s favorite charity.

Resources for Surviving Accident Victims

The best resource for those grieving may be other people who knew and loved the deceased. There are a host of external resources available to victims depending on the circumstances. For example, if your loved one was killed in a drunken driving accident, consider reaching out to your local Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter. The individuals associated with the group may be others who have experienced similar losses. The organization has a victim hotline and likely some local advocacy. The Denver District Attorney’s Office offers assistance through their Victim Services and Advocacy Network. Denver also has a Center for Trauma & Resilience that supports individuals coping with traumatic events and has programs that may be beneficial for you.

Filing a Claim for Wrongful Death

A civil action of wrongful death seeks to secure reasonable compensation for those who lose a loved one resulting from someone’s negligence or reckless conduct. In the first year following death, a surviving spouse is permitted to pursue a claim. If the party was not married, then the children or another designated party may file. Some potential damages that may be recovered include funeral expenses, lost future income and benefits, and those associated with grief, loss, and emotional stress.

Losing a loved one in a completely unexpected event can be devastating for family and friends of the deceased. When the incident was caused by the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your losses and trauma. In these often complex matters, it is critical to retain an attorney who will seek to protect your best interests according to the law.