Surviving the sudden and untimely death of a loved one may be the most difficult thing family members may ever have to face. Grief is sudden, overwhelming, suffocating, and crushes the heart and soul of those who remain behind, leaving them with questions of “why” and how it could and perhaps should have been avoided. If the death was violent or negligent, these feelings are compounded leaving the family in emotional disarray.Gone are the dreams shared with that person, or the hopes envisioned for that child. People tend to replay missed opportunities to love as they dwell over childish fights that occurred, and ruminate on the everyday reality of taking that loved one for granted. It begins a cascade of brokenness that if untreated, can lead to illnesses, dysfunction, and abuse among the surviving members.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not uncommon, especially among the parents of young children who die prematurely as a result of an accident. Losing a spouse is no less traumatizing. Feelings of guilt, shame, anger, or self-loathing may lead to suicide, alcoholism,drug abuse or isolation.
Because sudden death of those under the age of 50 are uncommon, most family members feel unique and alone, not understanding how to cope or get the help they need to regain control of their emotions and physical well-being to see that they can expect a productive, fulfilling, and happy future.
There is hope for those who have lost a loved one suddenly and untimely. Allowing yourself the opportunity to grieve properly is important so also is how you align yourself with professionals, as well as family and friends, including legal representation, who will support you through the painful process of recovery and help you regain control of your life. Though your loved one is gone, your life does not have to end, and you do not have to be a slave to grief and sorrow.
The Stages of GrievingWith the sudden loss of a loved one, a friend, or a figure that you may not have known personally but loved and respected, like a civic leader or a prominent athlete, grieving will and must be a part of the process toward healing. Resolving all the competing, yet seemingly disparate emotions is important so that a sound mind may be regained, and you can go on living and loving.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross codified the stages of grieving in her book “The 5 Stages of Grieving.” While a simple Internet search will reveal a variety of number of stages for grieving, most simply follow her model, which we will briefly outline here.
1) Denial – Sudden shock at the news of a loved one’s sudden death is so intense that denial of the event occurred is prominent. It can be both a conscious and unconscious denial that the death even occurred, and is considered a temporary defense mechanism employed by the brain. Some people are incapable or unwilling to leave this stage, believing that if they deny this reality that somehow the individual will walk through their door.
2) Anger – Once denial has been broken down, the next stage is anger. Anger finds its manifestation in words and phrases like “why me?” “It’s not fair!” and a desire to know who is to blame for the loved one’s death. Anger can be turned inward so that the surviving member can take responsibility for the death – “If only I had been there!” Those in this stage of rage can often be difficult to console and reason with, and may be a challenge to live and communicate with.
3) Bargaining – We tend to bargain with God, another person, or even ourselves in this stage. We realize that our anger is eating us up, so we try a different tactic by negotiating a way out of our grief. Making deals to either bring someone back, or, to retain a part of the past in an ever-present way, or to buy additional years of our own lives, occurs at this stage.
4) Depression – It is during this stage that accepting the death begins. Depression sets in, and with it, hopelessness and a loss of reason for living and going on. Disconnection with others is common, and darkness comes over the soul of the individual as they realize that their loved one is not coming back. Sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty are natural feelings at this stage. These are actually good signs, though they may not seem so to those caring for the grieving person.
5) Acceptance – In this final stage of grieving, the individual begins accepting the event by coming to terms with the fact that their loved one will not be returning. Once they enter this stage, they gain clarity, and are able to start putting the pieces of their lives back together, and begin moving toward a healthier lifestyle and rejoin the rest of the world.
When Sudden Death OccursLosing an elderly parent does not diminish the pain and grief that you may feel and experience. However, losing a loved one unexpectedly, whether it is a spouse or child, is often a greater shock and doubly more difficult to deal with. You must go through the stages of grieving. You must also, however, investigate whether or not the death could have been avoided, and if there was negligence from another individual or entity.
A Wrongful Death AttorneyThe sound advice of legal counsel in helping put the pieces of the painful puzzle together will help bring about the clarity you need to make an informed decision about how to pursue a legal remedy. It is not uncommon for the wisdom and objectivity of a personal injury lawyer to actually help the grieving person or family move through some of the stages. Wrongful death is commonly defined as death caused by another person’s negligent actions.
Jack Leader, a personal injury attorney in Rock Hill, South Carolina with Elrod Pope Law Firm, says that the following are the most prevalent wrongful death types of cases:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Bicycle or Pedestrian Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Defective Products
- Workplace Accidents
- Medication Errors
Most states allow only blood relatives, or certain individuals through marriage, to pursue wrongful death lawsuits. When a family member, common-law partner, guardian or caregiver dies, the surviving individual suffers a grievous and tangible loss. In that respect, wrongful death statutes protect the families of those individuals.
Each state sets their own limits of what can be awarded. Generally, the court attempts to award a restitution amount for the loss of the individual. This can, of course, include medical bills and funeral expenses. It also attempts to cover the loss of income the person would have provided if he or she had lived. Punitive damages could be awarded, as well.
ClosingGrieving is necessary and will occur whether one presses through the stages of grieving or not. However, it is unwise to magnify and elongate the suffering by not seeking help through the process from family, friends, a licensed counselor and, even, an attorney. Working through these emotional stages will help stabilize your being, and bring about renewed hope for your future. Finally, hiring a wrongful death attorney should be a part of the process as well. They can help you recover lost wages, medical expenses, and more, while helping bring about part of the legal closure you will need in your healing process.
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