In Grief: Causing Accidental Death or Injury (CADI) to Another

Life is an adventure in forgiveness, the writer Norman Cousins once said, but few things come so hard as forgiving oneself.  ~ Todd Leopold

A reader writes: Three weeks ago I hit a pedestrian. Two days later he died. I am up and down, feeling guilt. Sometimes I try to act OK. My husband is very worried about me. I am going to a class on anxiety. It helps me understand what I am experiencing. But are there any online resources that deal with someone dying who is NOT a loved one, but rather actually a complete stranger and the ongoing guilt I feel about this?
Thank you.

My response: I’m so sorry to learn of this tragic accident that resulted in the death of another person, and I can only imagine the depth of your pain.

You say that your husband is very worried about you, and that you are “up and down, feeling guilt” about what happened. It seems to me that your reactions are quite appropriate, since any good and decent person would feel the same way you do under the same circumstances. Frankly I would be more concerned if you were not taking this as seriously as you are. To be sure, this was a tragic accident, but we all know that accidents do happen, and I am certain that whatever happened was not intentional on your part. Still, whether justified or not, what you are feeling is very real, and if you are to find your way through this grief successfully, your anxiety and ongoing guilt must be acknowledged, expressed and worked through.

The reactions you’re having in the wake of this terrible accident are indicative of Post-Traumatic Stress, and I want you to know that help is indeed available for your particular kind of loss. It's important to address the trauma of this event as well as the guilt you're feeling in the aftermath. I hope you will make every effort to reach out for the support you so deserve.

You’ve asked about online resources, and here are the ones I suggest:

AccidentalImpacts.org – Site developer Maryann Gray is a social psychologist and educator who speaks from her own experience. After an 8-year old boy ran in front of her car and was killed, she began talking with and writing about how to cope with causing accidental death or injury to another. Her website offers information, support and healing. She writes, “We are good people who have unintentionally harmed others, in accidents occurring on the roads, at work, at play, or around the home. I call us CADI’s (Causing Accidental Death or Injury). Most of us feel grief, guilt, and distress about our accidents. Over time, we learn that our mistake does not have to define us.” Her site offers suggestions for coping with emotional distress, wrestling with responsibility and honoring the experience “and those we harmed, by becoming better, stronger people.” Read more at http://accidentalimpacts.org/

Real lives: A writer reflects on years of guilt after accidentally killing a girl - “Nearly 23 years ago, Darin Strauss experienced every driver’s worst nightmare when he accidentally killed a 16-year-old girl who swerved in front of his car on her bicycle. His guilt, and the thought of her life unlived, has haunted him ever since.” Read more of Darin’s story here: You caused a death. Can you forgive yourself?  Find his compelling book here: Half a Life: A Memoir

I also invite you to read these articles, which contain links to a number of other helpful resources:

Anxiety Attacks in Grief: Tools for Coping

Grief and the Burden of Guilt

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below.If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing Newsletter. Sign up here.

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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC

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