How to cope after learning your loved one died in a collision

You might have been in the middle of an average workday when your cell phone rang, or, perhaps, you were spending an evening at home, reading or watching a movie. Hearing an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the phone might have caused you a moment of confusion or concern. When the voice asked you to confirm your identification and informed you that you were speaking to a New York police officer, your stress level likely began to rise.

The rest of that day, and maybe even the days or weeks that followed, might be a bit of a blur in your memory. Then again, specific moments no doubt stand out in your mind with intense clarity, such as when you heard the words that your loved one had not survived his or her injuries in a motor vehicle collision. Unexpected, sudden death often leaves family members of decedents in shock, confused and completely grief-stricken. Knowing where to seek support is an important factor of the mourning process.

There is no one way to grieve the loss of a loved one

You won’t find any literature, advice or answers that can tell you how to eliminate 100% of your grief all at once. Mourning the sudden death of a loved one takes time, sometimes a very long time. While you might take comfort in confiding in a trusted friend or counselor who has experience with such issues, no two people are exactly the same, so the way you mourn might be different from another person’s grieving process.

That’s okay. In fact, one of the first, most healthy steps to take in a positive direction when grieving the unexpected loss of a loved one is to allow yourself to acknowledge the ever-changing stream of emotions you might be feeling, and to take one day (or even, one hour) at a time.

You might pass through several stages of grief

Especially if you learned that your loved one’s death was likely preventable, and that another driver’s negligence caused the collision, you might experience intense feelings of frustration or anger. You might also pass through a stage of mourning when you regret certain things, such as not saying something to your loved one or not apologizing for something you did say.

The phases of mourning often include a time of shock and confusion, followed by doubt or disbelief, as though there, perhaps, was a mistake and your loved one did not die. You might also feel guilty, as though you should have been able to prevent the death. It’s possible to pass through several of these stages and others in the span of a single day.

A strong support network can help you move on in life

Nothing can replace the loss of your loved one. There are many people, however, who can be part of your support network to provide encouragement, emotional support and practical assistance as you learn to cope with tragedy and continue life without your beloved family member. In addition to other loved ones and close friends, licensed counselors can provide valuable support at such times. Your community might also have a support group for people who have suffered loss in similar circumstances.

Fatal collisions often spark severe financial strains. From funeral costs, to medical bills that arise from emergency care provided to your loved one, and other collision-associated expenses, financial distress can thrust added stress upon grieving families. Many New York families go on to seek financial recovery in court against those deemed responsible for their loved ones’ deaths. Court-awarded compensation for damages is often the greatest means of financial support that a grieving family can obtain.


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