Losing a loved one in a sudden accident is heartbreaking, and something you can never truly “move on” from. The grief felt after a wrongful death can be overwhelming at times, but it can be comforting to know that most people go through the same stages of grief, albeit at their own pace. Here are the 7 stages of grief people experience after losing a loved one, and what you can do if your loved one died in an accident or due to the negligence of someone else.
1. Denial and Shock
The very first stage of grief experienced by most people after a wrongful death is shock and denial. You may feel like you’re living in an alternate reality where nothing is what it seems, or you may be in denial that the accident happened at all.
You may feel guilty over your loved one’s death, even if you weren’t involved in the accident. You may feel guilty over things you wish you would have done differently during their life. This stage is also wrought with pain – you’ll grieve the loss of your loved one intensely and may even become consumed by the pain felt at their absence or by reminders of their life and death.
The third stage of grief is anger. You may feel angry at those who may have caused your loved one’s death and you may unexpectedly lash out with frustration at friends and loved ones as you move through this stage. It’s also common to bargain with a higher power if a survivor believes in one. Additionally, survivors often make promises and plead for their loved one to be brought back to them.
Loneliness and sometimes even depression can come just at the point where other family members and friends feel you should be “getting over” the loss or “moving on.” This is simply because the death and your feelings make them uncomfortable. Sadness and loneliness after a loved one’s death – even months or years after – is healthy. You may even revisit this stage from time to time throughout your life.
5. Getting Better
Many people notice after intense sadness comes a “lifting” sensation, where the grief begins to lessen somewhat. Life starts to become calmer and things begin to have meaning again, little by little. You may also feel less physical symptoms of grief during this stage.
At some point, you will begin reconstructing your life without your loved one. This can be challenging, especially if the loved one was a spouse or a child. Learning to live without them may seem impossible, but during this stage you’ll begin to see solutions to problems and you’ll be able to think more clearly about the things around you. Intense grief can cloud the mind and make it difficult to think and make decisions, and during this second-to-last stage of grief you may find that easing up.
7. Hope and Acceptance
If you’re early in your grief journey, the idea of accepting your loved one’s death and having hope may seem entirely impossible. Eventually, it won’t be. Your mind and heart will begin to accept that your loved one is gone. As your life reshapes without them in it, you may begin to feel hopeful about what the future has in store for you and other loved ones.
Very few people move through the stages of grief after a wrongful death in a linear fashion. They may start out angry, move into shock and denial, try to reconstruct, move into loneliness and guilt, and then move on to acceptance. Once acceptance is reached, there’s no promise that it’s “over” – it’s possible to revisit any one or more of the stages of grief again throughout your life. This is normal and healthy, and it’s important that you recognize that deep grief is something that people who have lost loved ones will continue to experience. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your emotions are “wrong” or that you should be “over it” by a certain time. Usually, comments like this come from those who have not yet walked their own grief journey.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, our compassionate wrongful death attorneys can help you discover resources to cope with grief after a wrongful death and we can help you explore the possibility of obtaining justice for your loved one through a wrongful death claim. Call today for a consultation at (855) 693-9084 or (978) 744-8000.