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How to Overcome Grief After A DUI

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When you or someone you love is involved in a car accident with an impaired driver, your sense of security in the world vanishes. Life is changed in an instant. And the effects are far reaching. Not only are the people involved in the accident affected; it also touches immediate and distant family members, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and the community.

The loss associated with such an incident creates a variety of responses from sadness to anger and guilt. All of these emotions are collectively referred to as grief. Grief is a personal experience and differs from person to person. It’s not uncommon to feel alone while moving through the grief process.

This article will have 2 parts. The first is for those who are grieving the death of a loved one, while the second is for those who are dealing with the grief associated with an injury.

No matter why you are grieving, it occurs while you have many other issues to deal with following a drunk-driving accident. There is the criminal court case, perhaps a civil court case, medical issues, and financial concerns. It is important to take care of your emotional and spiritual health during this time. Draw together a support system that can help you as you move forward.

While you will never forget the loss you’ve experienced, you will get through it. To experience life is to experience extreme highs along with extreme lows. Be grateful to have the capacity to fully experience these feelings. Give yourself the time that is needed to work toward hope and healing, no matter how much time that is.

The injury attorneys at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have experienced grief after a DUI. If you need help filing a claim for one of these awful, life changing accidents, we are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. Our offices are conveniently located in ChandlerPeoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call.  You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.

By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like getting a rental car very soon and finding a nearby doctor or psychiatrist who can help get your life back on track. Even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people. Our familiarity with the local Phoenix courts makes us confident that we can help you get the best settlement possible.

If you are unsure whether or not you can afford an attorney, don’t worry. We only get paid when you settle. Check out our Attorney Fees Calculator to find out more.

Part 1: Grief After the Death of a Loved One

When someone you love is killed suddenly and violently, the grief can be intense, complicated, and long lasting. If that loss occurred because of a drunk-driving incident, your pain and anger may be stronger than you thought possible. You may feel as if you are going crazy and have thoughts and feelings that even scare you. Such traumatic loss can cut you to the core and make you question your own sanity.

Understanding the grief process will not change how you feel, but it may help you understand that all of your feelings are natural.

How Traumatic Death Differs From Anticipated Death

When someone dies because of a long-term illness or after a long, full life, that grief is very different from when a loved one dies suddenly and traumatically. In the first instance, you have time to adjust to the idea and begin grieving before the death actually occurs. That is called anticipatory grief.

\When faced with the anticipated death of a loved one through a terminal illness, for instance, family and friends may seek to find a solution. They want to avoid the death and will look everywhere for a way to do that. As the person becomes sicker and closer to death, family members may become angry that a solution is not available. They may feel sad or depressed about the impending death while, at the same time, relieved that their loved one’s suffering will end.

A sudden death is usually more difficult and traumatic than an expected death, especially when the end is violent. Survivors are taken off guard with no time to prepare. With a violent death, survivors can become overburdened with feelings of how that person suffered. It may help to know that, when people are seriously injured, they usually go into shock and do not experience pain. People who have lived through trauma do not remember the point of impact, and most say that it took time before they felt pain, even if they drifted in and out of consciousness.

Of course, even knowing that doesn’t make survivors feel better. Most would have done anything to avoid a loved one experiencing any pain. If your loved one was maimed, you may have been unable to view them at the hospital or funeral home. That could leave your mind to conjure up fantasies, which are often much worse than the reality. Without that visual closure, you may have doubts that the death even occurred and hold on to an expectation that the deceased person will call or come home.
Another feeling associated with loss is the senselessness of it all. When someone dies after an illness or from old age, that makes sense. When someone is killed, there’s a person to blame. And the fact that another person was so negligent doesn’t make sense. Knowing that your loved one’s death could have been prevented may be the most painful component of the grief process.

The Importance of Relationships

We all understand that death is part of life. We know that pain and suffering are normal when someone dies. But to fully understand the impact of a death, we need to consider the importance of human relationships. The amount of pain we feel following a loss is in direct relation to the relationship we had with that person. Without a strong relationship, the death wouldn’t have personal meaning or cause such significant grief.

Grief is a process, not an event. After we lose a child, parent, partner, friend, or colleague, we experience the physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual aspects of dealing with a death. Remember that everything you feel during this process is normal. It is personal.

No two people move through the grief process in exactly the same way. How you manage it depends on your coping skills, the relationship you had with the person who was killed, the circumstances surrounding the death, and the support you have as you strive to move forward.

Grief Responses

Physical Symptoms

With grief comes a vulnerability to illness. Medical experts have found that intense grief weakens the immune system, making survivors more susceptible for the first six months to a year after a death. There is also evidence that people experiencing grief are also more prone to accidents during this time due to their lack of focus.

Because the body’s immune system is in overdrive, you can feel worn out. It’s common to suffer physical symptoms such as aches and illness during the grief process. This is a normal reaction to the trauma you have experienced.

You may also have difficulty with sleep: either wanting to sleep all the time or not sleeping well at all. Eating habits can change, from overeating to barely having an appetite. It is important to take care of yourself and the others in your care, especially if you are a parent of young children who have just lost a family member as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you are learning to be successful in your new reality.

Due to physical pain, many turn to alcohol or drugs during this time. Unfortunately, while this may seem to dull the pain for a period, it can lead to addiction issues and could contribute to irrational thoughts and depression. If needed, ask your doctor about medicine to help you through this difficult time. Don’t be ashamed to ask for this kind of support.

Denial

Denial is the mind’s way of buffering the full impact of a trauma until you are better able to cope. It is effective in the initial stages since most people are too weak to take on the overwhelming task of grieving when they first hear that a loved one has been killed. Shock is often the first response. It can feel a bit like an anesthetic.

Next, you might experience a flight or fight feeling. In flight, you may want to run away or cry; in fight, you may want to yell at or physically attack the person delivering the bad news.

No matter how you respond immediately, shortly thereafter, most people feel numb. As you look back, you may wonder how you did anything—and you may have challenges remembering what you did or said in those first hours and days. Shock sometimes leaving people with an inability to show emotions. Others around you may assume that you are being strong, while you may feel more like an automaton just going through the motions.

It is normal to have denial after a violent and unexpected death. Those feelings allow you to process the grief at your own pace. It gives you time to cope when you are feeling stronger. Know that you cannot skip or push through the stages of grief; all of them are natural. Be patient with yourself and ask for help if you need it.

Fear and Vulnerability

Before suffering such a traumatic loss, you may have felt immune to crime and cocooned in safety. All of that changes after an accident, and it can leave you feeling scared and powerless. Life doesn’t make sense and you can become anxious about everything.

Again, such feelings are normal. It is important to recognize your feelings and work to resume a normal life. Your fears and anxiety will recede over time.

Anger

When you lose a loved one, you can be overwhelmed by the amount of anger you feel—at the person who killed them, at a higher power, at those who survived, and even at yourself. You can be angry at everything and everyone, often for no discernible reason.

In your anger, you may be looking for the person who is responsible for the incident to feel remorse. While some offenders are indeed sorry, others feel no remorse. Their attorneys will keep them from the victim’s family since an act of remorse can be considered an admission of guilt.

Even though it is understandable to feel considerable anger, it’s important not to act destructively while feeling that way. It might be a good idea to talk with someone about your feelings of anger or rage. Other outlets for feelings of anger include physical activity, writing in a journal or a letter to the offender (that is usually unsent), and crying and yelling. Anger is an important part of the grief process because it can help you process the sadness you’re feeling.

Instead of focusing internally, as we do with sadness, anger allows us to keep those feelings outside of ourselves. Eventually, you will be able to let go of some of the anger and experience the sadness that lies beneath.

Guilt

Over time, anger can transition to guilt. You may feel guilty that you lived or that you are somehow responsible for what happened. You may also feel guilty for things you said or left unsaid while your loved one was alive. One of the hardest parts of the grief process is to look rationally at your feelings.

Why do you feel guilty? If you truly are responsible for some aspect in the incident, allow yourself to acknowledge that so you can work toward forgiveness. Keep your role, if there is one, in perspective. Most of the time, though, there are other factors bigger than yourself that led to the incident and loss.

Sharing your feelings with others can help you to look realistically at your guilt. Minimizing your guilt will not rid you of sadness or anger, but it can help you to feel less responsible.

Faith and Spirituality

Whether or not spirituality was part of your life previously, a traumatic experience can make many people think about God. You may believe that the death is part of a plan or that God has wronged you. No matter your feelings, seek solace with friends, family, and spiritual leaders in your community and life.

Depression and Anxiety

It is normal and expected to experience a number of emotions following the loss of a loved one. Sadness, anger, guilt, and denial are all part of the process. However, when these feelings compound and don’t progress, you can face more serious psychological challenges.

When feelings are long lasting and interfere with the ability to function physically and emotionally, it might be time to seek mental health support. Counseling with a professional or support from a grief awareness group can make a big difference in your ability to move through your feelings without getting stuck.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When exposed to a traumatic event, some people may suffer psychological consequences, included flashbacks. If you were in the car accident, driving could be challenging. And you may wake in the middle of the night from nightmares and panic attacks.

These feelings can occur without warning and, when they happen again and again, could lead to avoiding events and circumstances that trigger them. Even if you weren’t in the car and observed the accident, you can experience shock, numbness, and rage. The images of the accident can remain in your mind for a long time and continue to be disturbing.

If you experience issues such as these for a month or longer, you might be facing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. This is a disorder diagnosed by a medical health professional, and it is important to seek help. A counselor will provide support to replace positive memories of your loved one with the distressing memories.

Coping

After such a devastating loss, it can feel as if you will never be happy again or feel normal. Some people don’t want to feel better while others are eager to work through their feelings. No matter where you find yourself, you need to find a path that works for you. The world has changed, and you need to create a new reality that supports your life moving forward.

A search for meaning usually follows a trauma. You may ask yourself and others many questions, some of which don’t have answers. If you find that facts are helpful in coping, obtain a crash report and be present during court proceedings to focus on what happened. There are healthy modes of coping as well as those that are self-defeating. Coping is the way to live your life after a death has occurred, and you may take time to find the way that works for you.

While life will never be the same, you will learn to manage your emotions.Many people experience the grief process as a rollercoaster of emotions. There are a number of ups and downs, but it is all necessary for healing.

Healing

If you are afraid to move on for fear of forgetting your loved one, know that they will always be with you through your memories. You will never forget them. You may continue to experience all of the emotions of grief and regret that the person is no longer alive to share life with you, but the happy memories will slowly replace the painful ones you’re currently experiencing.

Nearly all survivors share that they are grateful for the time spent with their loved one, whether short or long, rather than wishing they had never met. Be grateful for the relationship you had and that you’re able to have these emotions, both high and low, which make you human.

Refocus on Your Life and Living

As you continue to grow and heal, your focus will shift from death to life. Early in the grief process, it can feel as if you’re a robot, barely existing. You may have felt disappointed, frustrated, and angry at friends’ and family’s perceived lack of sensitivity and understanding to your grief.

While you do want to work through your grief, at some point, you will be ready to give more attention to living. Your grief can either weigh you down or it can be a catalyst for rebuilding your life, possibly with more compassion and understanding than you previously had. That’s because you’ll now understand how precious life is and how important it is to make each day count. You may never feel quite as safe as you once did, but that’s just a natural part of your healing.

Going forward with your life—and living it—is what your loved one would have wanted for you. It’s what your family and friends need from you. And it’s what you need to do for yourself to experience all of the happiness that life has to offer. While you weren’t able to prevent what happened, you are in charge of how you cope with a loved one’s death and how to live the rest of your life.

Part 2: Living With Injuries

There are a number of injuries that can be sustained as a result of a car accident involving a drunk driver. These could include bruises, broken bones, burns, and spinal cord injuries that last a few days or the rest of your life. When your life is permanently affected by an injury, it can cause substantial challenges. And with those comes the need for support and information to cope with the challenges you’ll face.

Immediately following the incident, and for months or even years following, an injured survivor may be very emotional. These initial responses are normal. You could be dealing with the grief associated with not only what you’re facing personally but perhaps because of the death of a loved one who was also involved.

Family and friends will also be dealing with emotions about the incident. Even if they didn’t suffer loss or injuries, they may feel the sadness, fear, and anger associated with the grief process. Grief is personal and differs from person to person. The way a person manages grief can depend on their coping style, support system, the nature of the trauma, the damage incurred, and many other stressors. There are no rules as to how long grief continues; it is yours to process in your timeline.

Grief Responses

Physical Symptoms

With grief comes a vulnerability to illness. Medical experts have found that intense grief weakens the immune system, making survivors more susceptible for the first six months to a year after a death or injury. There is also evidence that people experiencing grief are also more prone to accidents during this time due to their lack of focus.

Because the body’s immune system is in overdrive, you can feel worn out. It’s common to suffer physical symptoms such as aches and illness during the grief process. This is a normal reaction to the trauma you have experienced.

You may also have difficulty with sleep: either wanting to sleep all the time or not sleeping well at all. Eating habits can change, from overeating to barely having an appetite. It is important to take care of yourself and the others in your care, especially if you are a parent of young children who is also coping with the injury of a parent. Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you are learning to be successful in your new reality.

Due to physical pain, many turn to alcohol or drugs during this time. Unfortunately, while this may seem to dull the pain for a period, it can lead to addiction issues and could contribute to irrational thoughts and depression. If needed, ask your doctor about medicine to help you through this difficult time. Don’t be ashamed to ask for this kind of support.

Denial

Denial is the mind’s way of buffering the full impact of a trauma until you are better able to cope. It is effective in the initial stages since most people are too weak to deal with their own or a loved one’s traumatic injuries. Shock is often the first response. It can feel a bit like an anesthetic.

Next, you might experience a flight or fight feeling. In flight, you may want to run away or cry; in fight, you may want to yell at or physically attack the person delivering the bad news.

No matter how you respond immediately, shortly thereafter, most people feel numb. As you look back, you may wonder how you did anything—and you may have challenges remembering what you did or said in those first hours and days.

Shock sometimes leaving people with an inability to show emotions. Others around you may assume that you are being strong, while you may feel more like an automaton just going through the motions. It is normal to have denial after a violent trauma. Those feelings allow you to process the grief at your own pace. It gives you time to cope when you are feeling stronger.

Know that you cannot skip or push through the stages of grief; all of them are natural. Be patient with yourself and ask for help if you need it.

Fear and Vulnerability

Before suffering such a traumatic loss, you may have felt immune to crime and cocooned in safety. All of that changes after an accident, and it can leave you feeling scared and powerless. Life doesn’t make sense and you can become anxious about everything.
Again, such feelings are normal. It is important to recognize your feelings and work to resume a normal life. Your fears and anxiety will recede over time.

Anger

When faced with a serious injury, you can be overwhelmed by the amount of anger you feel—at the person who caused the accident, at a higher power, and even at yourself. You can be angry at everything and everyone, often for no discernible reason.

In your anger, you may be looking for the person who is responsible for the incident to feel remorse. While some offenders are indeed sorry, others feel no remorse. Their attorneys will keep them from the victim’s family since an act of remorse can be considered an admission of guilt.

Even though it is understandable to feel considerable anger, it’s important not to act destructively while feeling that way. It might be a good idea to talk with someone about your feelings of anger or rage. Other outlets for feelings of anger include physical activity, writing in a journal or a letter to the offender (that is usually unsent), and crying and yelling. Anger is an important part of the grief process because it can help you process the sadness you’re feeling.

Instead of focusing internally, as we do with sadness, anger allows us to keep those feelings outside of ourselves. Eventually, you will be able to let go of some of the anger and experience the sadness that lies beneath.

Guilt

Over time, anger can transition to guilt. You may feel guilty that you don’t have injuries a loved one has or that you are somehow responsible for what happened. One of the hardest parts of the grief process is to look rationally at your feelings. Why do you feel guilty?

If you truly are responsible for some aspect in the incident, allow yourself to acknowledge that so you can work toward forgiveness. Keep your role, if there is one, in perspective.

Most of the time, though, there are other factors bigger than yourself that led to the incident and loss. Sharing your feelings with others can help you to look realistically at your guilt. Minimizing your guilt will not rid you of sadness or anger, but it can help you to feel less responsible.

Faith and Spirituality

Whether or not spirituality was part of your life previously, a traumatic experience can make many people think about God. You may believe that the incident and injury are part of a plan or that God has wronged you. No matter your feelings, seek solace with friends, family, and spiritual leaders in your community and life.

Social Changes

Whether your injuries are temporary or permanent, you may feel stress about seeing your family or friends for fear that injuries will change the way they see you. You may feel ashamed or fearful of being devalued, which can result in a lower self-esteem.

If your injury has caused you to look differently, it can be useful to find new ways to present yourself and prepare for comments and questions. It may be easier to take a friend or family with you when you venture out the first few times. It will likely be difficult at first, but it will become easier with time. While you can’t control how others react, you can control how you cope in these new social settings.

Depression and Anxiety

It is normal and expected to experience a number of emotions following a traumatic injury. Sadness, anger, guilt, and denial are all part of the process. However, when these feelings compound and don’t progress, you can face more serious psychological challenges.

When feelings are long lasting and interfere with the ability to function physically and emotionally, it might be time to seek mental health support. Counseling with a professional or support from a grief awareness group can make a big difference in your ability to move through your feelings without getting stuck.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When exposed to a traumatic event, some people may suffer psychological consequences, included flashbacks. One day while out driving, you could flash back to the accident. And you may wake in the middle of the night from nightmares and panic attacks. These feelings can occur without warning and, when they happen again and again, could lead to avoiding events and circumstances that trigger them.

If you experience issues such as these for a month or longer, you might be facing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The things you see, hear, smell, or taste can trigger intrusive thoughts. Sometimes, those thoughts feel so real it is as if you are reliving the event. Because you are anticipating the next event, you may become hyper-vigilant. Alternatively, you may have developed ways to stop feeling anything.

This is a disorder diagnosed by a medical health professional, and it is important to seek help. A counselor will provide support to replace positive memories with the distressing memories.

Understanding the Trauma

A search for meaning usually follows a trauma. The world is changed forever, and your sense of safety, security, and control are distorted. You may ask yourself and others many questions, some of which don’t have answers. If you find that facts are helpful in coping, obtain a crash report and be present during court proceedings to focus on what happened.

Coping

There are healthy modes of coping as well as those that are self-defeating. Coping is a way to adapt to new circumstances in your life. You may try a number of ways to achieve this, and it may take time to find the way that works for you. Despite challenges, many people adapt well to their injuries.

Healing

The grief process allows us to identify our losses and define who we are now. Healing can be long and involved, so give yourself permission to experience all of the thoughts and feelings that are associated with your new life. The way things were before may change, either temporarily or forever.

The love and support of friends and family is crucial during this time. If you are a loved one, listen to the thoughts and feelings of the person who has been injured. They may need to share their story many times as they come to terms with what happened and what lies ahead. Your encouragement will help in their healing.

Get Help Now

At Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm near you, we have more than 15 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their personal injuries and experienced grief from DUI accidents in the Phoenix area. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office, conveniently located near you.

If you have been in a DUI accident, contact Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm in nearby Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in your area including ChandlerGilbertMesaScottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.