additional factors following an accidental death
When an accident results in a death it is often picked up by local and sometimes national press. This can mean that families might come across articles about their loved one without warning, or they may be approached by journalists. This can be very difficult to face on top of the existing pain and shock of a death.
When a death has happened due to an accident it is common that there is some form of investigation or inquest. Although this is an important necessity in finding answers, the process of an investigation may be a lengthy one and the pressure of dealing with the various elements can bring additional pressure and potentially delay or complicate grieving. It can also be challenging for families as they try to protect children from the details of these proceedings.
If an accidental death is picked up in the local press, it is very common for it to end up on social media sites. This can cause difficulties as information may be based on hearsay rather than facts. Families can find this distressing especially if the investigation has yet to provide conclusive evidence about what happened.
When a child witnessed / was involved in the accident
If a child is present at the time of an accident, depending on the circumstances, they are likely to react to what they have experienced as well as their grief. This can result in a variety of emotional reactions and in cases where there has been significant trauma, they may need specialist support to help process their experience. Some children may need support in helping understand what happened as they may have gaps in their memory, or not understand what happened. Children can vary in when they react, some may react very quickly, and for others it may come a few days or weeks later.
Some common reactions children may experience are:
- Sleep disturbances
- Regression in developmental steps (eating, toilet training, sleeping etc)
- Increased fear
- Separation anxiety (anxiety induced by being apart from key caregivers)
- Changes in appetite
- Becoming more emotional (mixture of emotions – sadness, anger, anxiety)
- Irritability ‘Magical thinking’ (believing that it happened as a result of something they did)
- Physical symptoms (tummy aches, headaches)
- Re-enacting the event through play (more common in younger children)