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Wrongful Death & the 7 Stages of Grief

By Matt Lalande in Wrongful Death on April 13, 2021

Wrongful Death & the 7 Stages of Grief

As wrongful death law firm, we often see the pain that families experience when someone they love is unexpectedly taken from them in a wrongful death case. Although at some point in our lives, we all have to face the realization of our own mortality, we can never truly be prepared for losing the people that we love, suddenly and without warning.  

If you’ve lost a loved one unexpectedly due to someone else’s negligence, there’s no doubt that grieving has a very painful way of affecting you in ways you probably never could have imagined.  You are grieving for more than just the deceased person. Although your loved one’s death is the most common source of your grief – you’re probably affected by this loss in such an intense way because it is not the only thing you are grieving. You grieve for the time you will never get to spend with your loved one. You are grieving for the love lost. You are grieving for all the things you planned to do together – but can’t. You grieve for the absence of this person in your life, the emptiness. You grieve for your children who are grieving their lost mother or father. You are grieving for your deceased child. You grieve for all the things you wished you could have done before you lost your husband, wife or child. You grieve for the life that you have ahead of you without them in it. You grieve for the loss of the relationship and the love that you once had.

Whether you have lost a loved one in a pedestrian, bicycle or motorcycle accident, losing someone near and dear to you no doubt causes an avalanche of feelings and emotions. From shock to anger to regret, pain, sadness, grief, and depression, and finally, acceptance.

  • Why did this wrongful death happen?
  • Why was my loved one taken?
  • Why was the death not prevented?
  • How did this happen?
  • Why did I not stop this?
  • Why did I not stop my child, spouse or loved one from leaving that day?
  • What was the driver drinking?
  • How much did he or she drink?
  • Why was the driver drinking that night?
  • Who were they texting?
  • What did their texts say at the time the driver hit my loved one and why was it so important?
  • What was so important?
  • What was so important in that particular moment that took their attention off the road?

All of these accident related thoughts mingled with the various emotions are bound to be felt if your loved one was killed unnecessarily.  From what our wrongful death lawyer see, how a person’s mind thinks and processes information during this terrible time is hard to comprehend, let alone understand. The reality of grief is that it’s very complex, and it can come with several roadblocks along the way.

Dealing with Grief after an Unexpected and Sudden Death

The pain of losing someone we love cannot be described in words. From what we have seen with our clients, it feels like their whole world is falling into a million pieces. It is never easy to have a loved one pass away, even if their death is an expected one. Knowing that you will never see the one you love again and knowing that you will have to live out the rest of your life without them is a crushing feeling. It can feel like a burden that is too much to bear, and it is normal to feel like you are never going to survive this sadness.

However, the sudden and shocking wrongful death of a loved one is perhaps the most challenging and difficult form of grief to overcome because the death happened suddenly and completely out of the blue. You and your family had no time to prepare for your loss, and the news is a complete shock to your system. It is absolutely devastating to lose someone you love, and there is nothing anyone can say or do at that moment that will make you feel better. In fact, one peer reviewed article states that the unexpected death of a loved one is common and associated with subsequent elevations in symptoms of multiple forms of psychopathology

There is a range of ways different people could cope with the emotions that they go through, and the grieving process is not going to be the same for everyone. Regardless of how you feel, it is essential to acknowledge that this is all part of how you process this difficult moment in your life. If your loved one has been killed due to someone else’s negligence, you will have thoughts and questions – such as:

  • how will I manage alone?
  • how will I pay the bills myself?
  • how will I deal with the estate, insurance, and funeral….by myself?
  • how will I get the kids to school or day care, then commute to work?
  • I can’t afford to raise the kids on my own…
  • I can’t afford the car payment or the mortgage payment by myself
  • I want justice
  • will my kids be compensated for their losses? They will never recover.
  • will we have to sell our home?

Questions like these are normal – but you should not have to answer them alone. Call our Wrongful Death Lawyers today to learn more about the damages and compensation that you can claim if your loved one was killed because someone else was negligent. You CAN get the justice you deserve and the our Hamilton Lawyers can help you obtain financial compensation to protect you and your family for like.

Wrongful Death and the 7 Stages of Grief

Sigmund Freud theorized the original ‘grief work’ theory, which involved the breaking of ties with the deceased, readjusting to new life circumstances, and building new relationships. This was all done through predictable stages of grief.

Grieving the loss of an unexpected loved one is an ongoing process that is extremely personal and unique. There is no specific way to grieve a wrongful death, and most need to find their own personal way to work through the process. At the same time, the process of grieving is a paradox, one where you have to find a way of living with the reality of your loss.  

In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elizabeth Kübler-Ross wrote a book called “On Death and Dying.” She theorized that that a person’s grief can be construed in five stages. Her observations and foundation for the book as a psychiatrist came from years of working with terminally ill patients. Dr. Kübler-Ross’ theory became known as the Kübler-Ross model. While it was originally devised for people who were ill, these stages of grief have been adapted for other experiences with loss, too.

Everyone experiences grief differently. Some people might only experience five stages, whereas others might go through all seven.Dr. Kübler-Ross’ theory is that from the moment we find out that someone we love has died unexpectedly,  the stages of grief begin to kick in – but will of course be exhibited differently depending on the individual. Not everyone will go through all seven phases, and it is possible to go through two phases simultaneously.

There are many, many publications written about the 5 to 7 stages of grief. Understanding the stages of grief, along with the appropriate care with a qualified psychologist will help you work through your emotions and cope with your loss better when you know what you are dealing with. It will also prepare you for what you can expect when the next stage rolls around. More importantly, it will help you better work through any feelings of guilt or regret that you may have trouble releasing.  Some people might find themselves stuck at certain stages of the grieving process. When this happens, it is crucial to understand that grief will always involve some amount of pain. The pain is something you cannot avoid, even though you try your best to do it. To fully recover from your tragedy, the pain is something you will have to work through, even though this is admittedly going to be very difficult.

  1. Shock – Shock is the first reaction that most people have, especially if the death occurred suddenly. Nothing can ever truly prepare you for the news of the devastating loss. When you receive the news of a loved one’s passing, your body goes into shock mode. You probably felt numb and unable to process anything. Numbness is your body’s way of only allowing you to deal with the emotions you are capable of handling at that time.
  2. Denial – Denial happens because you’re still in disbelief at the sudden absence of this person. Depending on how close they were to you, they could have left a gaping hole in your life, an empty void that you have no idea how to fill. Shock However, it is essential to remember that this is a necessary stage of the grieving process. It may not seem like it, but the pain is healing you. It heals you and prepares you to work through your guilt. The excruciating pain you go through could lead to anxiety and depression, which is another stage in this process. The pain is going to be part of your life throughout the grieving process and beyond.
  3. Pain – Once you emerge from the denial phase, the next stage is pain. This stage can be very crushing and overwhelming. Unfortunately, some people will find it very tempting at this stage to numb the pain with alcohol or drugs. However, it is essential to remember that this is a necessary stage of the grieving process. It may not seem like it, but the pain is healing you. It heals you and prepares you to work through your guilt. The excruciating pain you go through could lead to anxiety and depression, which is another stage in this process. The pain is going to be part of your life throughout the grieving process and beyond.
  4. Anger – The pain of wrongful death can be overwhelming, and that pain can lead to very powerful feelings of anger. In our cases, anger is often directed toward the defendants or at-fault drivers or whoever else may have caused the wrongful death.  Anger could be directed toward the friends or relatives whom you thought should have been there for you. The truth is, you will never be prepared to lose the people that you love. You  might ask questions like why you “have to go through this wrongful death” instead of someone else. The prevention of the the death, or the carelessness or negligence of the person that caused the death will weight very heavily.
  5. Bargaining – this stage can accompany any of the other previous four stages mentioned above. For example, when you are feeling intense pain or guilt, you might resort to bargaining. You might try bargaining with your god or maker, promising to be a better person if only he would give back the life of your loved one.
  6. Depression – Depression, and loneliness is the next stage that follows – and for many, they it is the worst stage to death with. This is the point in your grieving process where you feel the loss of your loved one the most. The reality that you have to now live out the rest of your days without them is devastating, and it can quickly lead to depression and feelings of loneliness. The fact that their death was wrongful and could have been prevented can lead to depression. Depression follows when you finally realize that your loved one is gone and they are never coming back, and you might feel overwhelming feelings of loneliness that only add to your already depressed state. Your life is never going to be the same again, and you feel completely alone – and you feel like your loved one has been taken from you. This can happen even though you know you have other relatives or friends you still care for. All you can focus on at this stage is the painful loss that you experienced. Depression quickly sets in, and life feels like  it makes no sense anymore. Thoughts of suicide might start to creep into your pain when imagining a life without your loved one feels unbearable. Depression is a normal reaction to a devastating loss. As hard as it is to go through this stage, the pain will eventually lift. That is the hope you can hold on to. The pain will eventually ebb away, and you will feel like your old self again. If the depression does become worse instead of better, you must seek out professional help.
  7. Acceptance – Acceptance often coincides with the completion of a client’s lawsuit against the defendant’s who caused their loved one’s death. You want to reach a stage in your life where you have accepted the loss of your loved one. It is a very slow and painful process to get to this stage, but this will also be the stage when you are finally free, and it feels like you can move on with your life. This is the new form that your pain will take, and this new form will be a part of the rest of your life. The loss of a loved one is something you will never truly heal from, but acceptance is when life does go on, and you learn to live with the loss. Our litigation psychologists have explained that acceptance does not mean that a person is abandoning their loved one or cause for justice, not at all. It simply means that accepted a  loved one’s death as a part of their life. Acceptance is a stage where you finally come to the realization that you are going to begin a new life without your loved one in it, a new life that will celebrate the loved one you lost but will never forget.

Your loved one’s Wrongful Death was not your Fault

As you work through the litigation process, it is important not to turn against yourself. Don’t turn the pain of this loss against yourself by ruminating in feelings of guilt and regret. You must remind yourself that none of this is your fault in any way. You know that you did everything you could to save or help your loved one in the best way you knew how, and that is all you can ask for. You may ask why you let your child bike to school that day, walk with his or her friends, or why you sent your loved one on an errand if he or she died in an accident while on that errand.  When someone you love is gone forever, guilt is a normal part of the process. You think about all the things you wished you had done or said. You might feel guilty because it may feel as though you didn’t love them as much as you should have when they were alive. You think about all the things you would change right now if you could have them back in your life again. The last thing that you need during this already difficult process is to turn against yourself and beat yourself up – when we cannot turn back the clock.

After helping countless victims and psychologists over the years, we can recommend that you try to be self-compassionate and be kind to yourself. Lean on the people who are closest to you for support. You still have friends, family, and other loved ones whom you care about. They care about you too, and they are going to support you in any way that they can to make this process easier. The single most important thing that you need when a loved one has died is the love and support of other people in your life. It may not replace the love of the person who has died, but it is still the love that you need to hold you up and give you strength in your grief.

If your Loved one has been killed because someone was negligent, we can help.

If you have lost a loved one in a preventable accident, our wrongful death lawyers can help

Remember, grief is a process, not a task. Research does show that it is not the circumstances of the death that will predict a negative or positive outcome for any individual. It is the support that they get during this challenging period after death has happened. This is the key component to successfully rebuilding your life after loss – and as a part of the rebuilding process, you will need financial assistance to help get you back on your feet.

Our wrongful death lawyers have been representing families of loved ones who have been killed in pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, trip and falls, trucking accidents and other preventable accidents.

Now, there is no amount of money that can compensate for the unexpected loss of a loved one – but obtaining justice and compensation can help family members move forward. Compensation can assist in re-building financially during the period of mourning and beyond. In Ontario, you’re entitled to claim damages for the loss of care guidance and companionship – which are losses that flow from the deceased to the survivors.

In addition, close family members are entitled to claim economic damages and dependency claims. For example, if a husband dies, his wife or partner is entitled to claim damages for loss of services and loss of family income. The survivor will be entitled to claim lost income that his or her spouse or partner would’ve put into the family unit until his or her expected date of retirement. There is also housekeeping, and other services that can be claimed to assist survivors when a loved one is killed unexpectedly.

Call us today, no matter where you are in Ontario, at 1-844-LALANDE. Alternatively, you can call us local in the Hamilton/GTA at 905-333-8888 to discuss your wrongful death case, confidentially. If easier, send a message through our website and we will get back to you very quickly. Don’t suffer alone – let our family help your family move forward while you grieve.

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Hamilton, On L8P 1A4

Important References

Freud S. Mourning and melancholia. In: Strachey J, editor. The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 14. London: Hogarth Press, Institute of Psycho-Analysis; 1957. pp. 152–170. [Google Scholar]
On Death and Dying, 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross



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