The recent tragic loss of Christian Smith serves as a stark reminder of the growing safety concerns on our roads. It leaves families dealing with traumatic bereavement.
In the UK in 2014, statistics from RoSPA reveal that approximately 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents each year, with around 3,000 facing fatal or severe injuries. These numbers are undeniably distressing, as every cyclist’s life lost or severely impacted represents a poignant tragedy. But, amid discussions of road safety, it’s equally important to shine a light on the families left behind, grappling with the immense trauma of sudden bereavement.
The emotional turmoil that follows the loss of a loved one in a road accident is unimaginable. You bid farewell to them in the morning, anticipating their return home, but they never make it. Time freezes, and the plans for the day stand still, a half-finished project sitting on the table. Then come the somber-faced policemen at your door, accompanied by persistent local journalists. All you want to know is “why” and “how.” Everything else seems trivial. They eventually leave, leaving you with a deafening silence, a stark reminder that your beloved won’t be coming home—ever.
Reactions to Trauma Vary
Everyone’s response to trauma is unique, varying in both nature and intensity. Bereavement, compounded by the shock of a sudden death, can lead to the development of conditions like Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. While most individuals find solace in the support of family and friends during times of grief, some struggle profoundly to come to terms with the sudden loss. Sudden deaths often entail lengthy court proceedings, which can further hinder the grieving process.
Dealing with Traumatic Bereavement
When you lose someone in a sudden death, understanding what transpired becomes a protracted ordeal, often involving inquests and legal battles. If you weren’t present at the accident, your mind starts to conjure images of the incident, compounding your stress.
Common experiences include heightened irritability, nervousness about the road, disrupted daily life, and feelings of detachment from the world. This emotional turmoil can lead to depression, hopelessness, memory lapses, and difficulty concentrating, with emotions ranging from anger to guilt.
Grieving and Coping with Trauma
Dealing with both grief and trauma simultaneously can be overwhelming, prolonging the grieving process. Trauma can resurface over time, particularly when reminders of the event stir painful memories, leading to anger, guilt, and self-blame. It’s a challenging emotional rollercoaster.
Creating fantasies to bridge the knowledge gap is common, especially when cycling accidents go unwitnessed by family members. Not knowing the details can give rise to numerous unanswered questions, leading to imaginative scenarios and a belief that the deceased suffered more than they did.
Overcoming Grief and Trauma
Coping with these thoughts and emotions is a gradual process. Victims need a safe space to work through their experiences, often turning to family and friends for support. However, the trauma can make it challenging to open up to those closest to you, resulting in isolation and strained relationships.
Brake, a charity dedicated to supporting bereaved victims of road traffic accidents, offers a lifeline. They provide a helpline connecting you with someone who’s been through a similar experience or can guide you to local support groups. Their online resources offer valuable information on coping with sudden death and provide links to legal assistance. Most of those involved with this charity have personally endured loss due to road traffic accidents.
Understanding and processing your emotions is crucial. Talking about your feelings helps confront your fears and provides reassurance. Through open conversations and support, you can gradually heal from traumatic bereavement and come to terms with the sudden loss of your loved one. Unfortunately, there’s no fixed timeline for grieving. Accepting the support offered is key to your journey towards healing and recovery.
Hazel can provide online counselling for victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to victims affected from car or cycling accidents. She has vast experience and knowledge in sudden death and reaction to trauma.