Monday, August 22, 2016

Traumatic Loss: Surviving A Sibling's Fatal Accident

[Reviewed and updated October 9, 2017]

To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.  ~ Clara Ortega

A reader writes: I'm going through a very difficult time. My oldest brother (39) died a month ago in a car wreck. We were super close as I lived with him for 5 years and he was always  protecting me and giving me his support and guidance ( I'm 31). Even before he died he told me how much he loved me and to take care of my belly, that we will see each other in a few days -- but this never happened and I'm devastated! He was so full of life. His wife recently had a baby, they both had great jobs and just bought a new house. He had so many dreams but was robbed of all of them by a negligent driver! I'm so full of anger and hate!

My brother was sent abroad to Central America by his company. He was the passenger in a car that had an accident going to the airport. He survived this accident and was getting help by the paramedics when a stupid driver of a mini bus decided to skip the line, pass at high speed and lost control of his vehicle, hitting the scene of the accident and killing my brother and 4 other people (paramedic, officer, 2 good Samaritans). He of course survived with only a broken wrist!

What are the odds that everything that could have gone wrong went wrong? They were taking my brother out of the car right at the moment this driver lost control! Everything seems so CRUEL! I have never experienced a loss before and this is killing me. I was so happy with my life and pregnancy before and what was supposed to be the best year of my life turned into the worst in such an unfair and tragic way. I can't stop asking myself, Why him? Why us? I have 8 uncles in their 70s, 90 year old grandpas and countless cousins and nobody has experienced such a loss. It's like he was handpicked to suffer an early death. I am not religious and I am an agnostic but even if there was a God I would be so angry at it!

My brother was a good person, always smiling and supper positive. He was a loving father and husband and left behind 3 kids ages 5, 2 and a newborn baby girl. I hate how bad parents, child molesters and bad people get to live a long life, and I know a few!

I just don't know. I want answers! I miss my brother. He was so excited about being an uncle. We were supposed to grow old together and now he's gone forever, thanks to that driver's gross negligence and stupidity. 

My response: My heart goes out to you as I read your tragic story. I am so very sorry to learn of the senseless and tragic accident that took the life of your precious oldest brother, and I simply cannot imagine the depth of your pain.  Clearly your brother was a very special person in your life, and he’s left an enormous hole in your heart and in your extended family ~ a hole that no one else can ever fill. Knowing he won’t be here to fulfill his roles as a husband, a father to his children and an uncle to your precious child compounds the magnitude of your loss. That this accident took place in another country and was caused by another driver’s carelessness and negligence only serves to complicate your grief. Such a heavy load to carry!

I understand your wanting answers, beginning with all those “why” questions: Why him? Why us? Why not the driver of the mini bus that killed him? And will the driver ever be brought to justice? I have no answers to those questions, and some of them cannot be answered ~ but I fully support your right to ask them. (See Why? Why Me? Searching for Answers in Grief.)

You say you’re not sure if you can be the same person now that you know there is such pain in the world. My dear, you are absolutely right. You will never be the same in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy. The happy girl you were before is no longer who you are now. A traumatic loss like this disrupts your entire universe. Everything you thought was real and true in your life, everything you learned about how the world should be, will now be called into question. That is just one aspect of the grief process that is entirely natural under the circumstances, but it can be terrifying to experience it. Although grief is a normal response to the loss of someone dearly loved, it can make us feel quite crazy and totally lost. Add to this the fact that this death was accidental, sudden and traumatic, which only serves to complicate your grief. (See Dealing with Sudden, Accidental or Traumatic Death.)

I think the best thing you can do is to realize that this is too big to handle by yourself, holding it all inside of you. That won’t be good for you or for your unborn child. It takes real courage to recognize that you need help and to reach out and ask for it. As a first step, I invite you to join our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups, and I hope you will take the time to explore and read some of the other messages posted there. I encourage you to follow the links to some of the resources that are offered, too.  See especially some of the resources listed on the Death of a Sibling and Traumatic Loss pages of my Grief Healing Web site.

It helps so much when we’ve suffered a significant loss to learn what is normal in grief, to know that we’re not alone, that we’re not crazy for feeling as we do, and that there are healthy things we can do to manage our own reactions. In addition to the warm and caring support I know you will find in our forums, I hope you’ll consider talking with a qualified grief counselor, which could be a wonderful source of support for you. See Finding Grief Support That Is Right For You.

Most of all, remember that this man will always be your big brother, and you will always be his little sister. Death may have claimed his life here on earth, but your relationship with him, your love for him, will never die. He will always live in your heart, just as long as you keep his memory alive. Work to let go of the pain, but don’t ever let go of your brother and your love for him. He is always with you now, right there in your heart.

Please know that I am thinking of you, sharing in your sorrow, and holding you close. 

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.
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© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC


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