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How to Cope with Losing a Loved One to a Car Accident

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We are So Sorry for Your Loss

Losing someone you love is heart-breaking and extremely difficult. The attorneys at Groth & Associates have helped a number of families shortly after such terrible loss. Unfortunately, all the great legal advice and guidance in the world cannot bring someone back. Adjusting to your new lives with such large voids is not an easy task. To help those dealing with such sudden loss, we have reached out to grief counselors and asked them to share their advice on this important topic. We’ve compiled their responses here for you to read. May you find the comfort you are seeking.

Coping with the Loss of a Loved One

Susan Bourguard

Thoughts on how to cope with the loss of a loved one:

– Allow yourself to feel every bit of the pain.

– There is no timetable on grief. When the feelings of loss arise, be with them, don’t try to have a cognitive solution to your pain. Just allow it and be with it. This is hard work, but very important for your emotional wholeness.

– Cry often and loudly if needed. Don’t try to “be strong” by denying the pain. Strong people allow their feelings. They face them head on in order to find some element of freedom emotionally. Unprocessed pain always comes out sideways (over doing things like eating, spending, binge TV watching, any type of addiction to numb the pain).

– Become a loving parent to your hurting inner child. Practice self compassion for how incredibly difficult the situation is you are dealing with. Read things like Self Compassion by Kirsten Neff.

– Don’t let anyone tell you “you should be over this by now, the person would want you to get on with your life.” That is a form of dysfunctional denial and it is very prevalent in our culture.

– We say in the counseling world, “you must feel to heal.”

Sarah Whiteside

Thoughts on how to cope with the loss of a loved one:

First, grief is not linear, it does not have a timeline, nor does all grief look the same. Comparing where you are at emotionally with other members of your family or with others who have experienced something similar complicates your own specific grief and needs. Accept where your grief is, allow the multitude of emotions, and get help in processing these emotions that come from the loss of a loved one.

Identifying and talking through these emotions can be critical in the process of grief, but you may require a bit more help. Specifically, I suggest EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to help cope with a traumatic loss. While it cannot speed up the grieving process, it helps us detach from negative beliefs we may have internalized, such as “It’s my fault. I should have done something differently” etc.

Finally, recognize that grief comes in waves. You may be feeling seemingly okay one day, then the next minute a tidal wave of emotion overtakes you. This is normal and to be expected, allow yourself to ride the wave of emotions and know that with more time, processing, and support, grief will not play such an active role in your days. 

Rebecca Lange

Thoughts on how to cope with the loss of a loved one:

For starters, it’s important to know that there is no such thing as a “normal” way to grieve. People show grief in different ways at different times and that’s okay. Know that anger, anxiety, and depression are all pieces of grief. The anger is part of feeling a threat, lack of feeling safe, or that we can keep our loved ones safe. Anxiety comes from feeling out of control and desperately wanting control so that we can prevent something like this from happening again. Depression is from feeling hopelessness or helplessness during this time. Some people may experience survivor’s guilt or go into that, “why couldn’t it have been me instead”. That again goes to wanting to control the situation and feeling helpless.

With grief, the most important part is taking care of yourself during this time. This means both physical and mental health. For physical health, try to get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise. Try not to use mood altering substances to cope with the pain. Maintain self care activities and surround yourself with people who will listen and validate. Another part of healthy grieving is facing your feelings and trying to not suppress. Even giving yourself ten minutes each morning to think about your loved one, cry, journal, and/or talk about it can help process grief and prevent prolonging grief by not dealing with it. It’s okay to reach out to a therapist or hospice grief counseling (anyone who has lost a loved one can get counseling through hospice, even if their loved one did not use the services with them). 

Jeannine Vegh

Coping with a Shocking Loss

When my 16-year-old baby brother was killed in a car accident, the entire household was uprooted and torn apart. Everyone grieved his loss differently. To this day, some are unable to utter his name. It is hard for them to say out loud without reliving that nightmare all over again. It has now been 32 years ago and it was today that he died; May 23, 1987.

Now that I am a therapist, I work with individuals who have had to go through a loss. I don’t talk about this because I want them to be with their pain; not mine. When a client comes to me after a shocking loss, they are often in a state of confusion; questioning what happened. Sometimes there is guilt – “Why me, not them.” Sometimes parents will inevitably say things like that too, not realizing what they are doing to the other children. When a person dies by suicide, everyone feels they should have known, paid attention to the signs, called more, or whatever thoughts they have attributed as being their responsibility. Ultimately, it was that person’s time to die; no matter how old or what the circumstances were. Yet, this does not take away the pain in the aftermath of the trauma.

What can we do to cope with a shocking loss?

  • Don’t give yourself a timeline. As everyone’s body is different, so are our natural timetables for healing. Some people feel things differently than others. This doesn’t mean you are wrong if you are not crying, or because you are not depressed. You are just in a different place.
  • Create a memorial. This helps families to deal with a loss. Find some way to honor this person in your home, at the gravesite or some other familiar place known to your loved one. It is good to have a space where you can go whenever you need to and be with the loss.
  • Share stories and keep their memory alive. This is so important so that siblings, grandchildren, nephews, nieces can have a sense of who this person was.
  • Talk to someone. Whether it be your spiritual leader or a psychotherapist, it is important to have a professional that you can speak to; to deal with your personal association to this person. Remember everyone copes differently and you need to say out loud, exactly where you are at. With someone who won’t judge you.
  • Continue moving forward. In the days and weeks and eventually years ahead, moving forward will become a little easier and less stressful. You will never forget the person you lost but you will find yourself more able to get through the day. Take some personal time off in the beginning but then go back to your routine. Get involved in your job again, volunteer work, sports, whatever it was that you were doing.
  • Be open to the lesson. When a shocking experience happens, it can help us to grow as people. There is something we can gain from this moment if we keep ourselves open. It will come to you in time, when you are ready.
  • Get involved in a cause related. Many times, victims who have lost loved ones to terrible tragedies will then make changes as a result (see #6). Laws have been created; groups have emerged (e.g. M.A.D.D.); even victims and perpetrators families have come together. This joint effort leads to forgiveness and healing, but also has brought education to others.
  • Don’t forget your health. In the moment, make sure to drink plenty of water and that others are as well. Sadness and tears bring dehydration quickly. At the same time, it is also good to take long walks, bike rides, something in nature for reflection and comfort.
  • Turn to each other. Your circle is all affected by this tragedy. While you are dealing with it in different ways, everyone is grieving. Even if others don’t behave as you do; they are in pain. Reach out to those affected and check in with each other. Respect their boundaries and needs if they are not like yours.
  • You are not alone. Even if you feel as if you are, there is someone out there who has been through this too. Maybe not a person in your close circle but in the community or even further away. Look for a group, whether it be online or through a hospital or spiritual center or retirement community – somewhere there is a grief support group for people who have had to deal with the pain you have.

We are now in very uncertain times and unfortunately, tragic losses are all to common. Every day something is happening in the news, around the world and whether it affects you personally, we are all conscious of the change that is evident. We have to be mindful of these things and take steps to take care of ourselves even before it hits home directly.

Ms. Vegh was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She is now a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has operated a practice in this same community for seven years. You can find her on

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