common thoughts and feelings – accidental death
Children will react to any death in accordance with their age and stage of development. Click here to read more about how this affects their reaction.
As with any death, people will experience grief in their own time their own way and while there may be similarities, a death that has been sudden can mean that these feelings are experienced more intensely.
Below are some common reactions experienced by those who have been bereaved as the result of an accident. These feelings are not definitive and may not be experienced by everyone and it is unlikely that very young children will experience these reactions.
numbness, shock and disbelief
By its very nature, an accidental death is unexpected and may be traumatic. Any death that comes as a shock can take a long time to be fully processed and accepted as reality. This can be particularly difficult for children who may not know the details of the death. However, the feeling of numbness at the beginning can often protect from feelings which may seem overpowering and may in fact help in the early days when there is a lot to cope with.
It is common after someone has died in an accident for family and friends to question whether there was something they could have done that might have prevented the death from happening. For example, some might think that if they had insisted on their loved one staying in with them instead of going out, it may have been avoided. This can lead to feelings of guilt which can add to the already immensely painful feelings of grief.
When someone has died as the result of an accident it can inevitably make the world seem a much scarier place for their loved ones. Children may feel that a world that previously felt safe and secure now feels unpredictable and frightening. This fear can lead to people being anxious about performing routine daily tasks, particularly those that are connected to the way their loved one died, such as driving for example.
With any death, loved ones often experience the need to blame someone or something. If the accident that caused the death was the result of someone else’s actions, it is common for blame to be directed at them as a way of satisfying a need for justice on behalf of the deceased.