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Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 4:52 PM


This post will not be of interest to most, and may even be offensive to some. For that I apologize ahead of time. I am here alone with no one to ask this question. No one I know has been in a situation as I'm going to explain.

But I find my family in a situation and I don't know what to expect or how to help.

I don't knof if this has happened to anyone else's family here either. But....

A couple of weeks ago, two people in my family were in a car accident. It was raining very heavily and the driver turned left in front of an oncoming gray vehicle that he never saw. The passenger was killed, the driver injured seriously. I don't even know anything about the people in the gray vehicle yet.

If you've known an incident like this, and you wouldn't mind sharing, how did the family / friend handle it? Did the driver mentally get over the situation of pulling in front of someone and the passenger being killed? The passenger was someone many MANY people of all ages knew and loved very much.

I don't know what to say or do to help or even how exactly to be supportive other than shut up and pray and just listen without comment.

Any advice?

Suzer22  (Level: 166.3 - Posts: 1982)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 5:05 PM

I can only offer my condolences on this difficult situation you are in. It is never easy to know what to say when tragedy strikes.

We lost a fellow teacher last year to a stupid car accident. It was devastating to the entire campus. But accidents are just that, accidents. No one did this on purpose.

I hope you and your family find the way back to balance.

Bbear  (Level: 168.0 - Posts: 2297)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 5:13 PM

I don't want this thread to become gory tails, but rather uplifting, moral advice and thoughts.

A good friend of ours was incredibly in love last year. The woman he was head over heel with (and it was mutual) was in a car accident that was her fault. Her six year old daughter and her daughter's seven year old friend were killed. The woman walked away.

Our friend stuck by for a year, staying in the fringes and just making sure she knew he was there if she needed him. She became a recluse for a period of time. Slowly came out; they got back together for a brief period but there was just too much baggage. They still talk.

I guess the moral of the story is just be there. Be careful about what you say ("He's in a better place" and "It's was God's will" is not so good). But say something.

When my grandson died at birth the people that helped were the people that said "I don't no what to say". It was better than the deafening silence of others.

Hope that helps. Sorry for your loss. I have learned a few things from all these years running a hospice.

Knerd  (Level: 99.0 - Posts: 1139)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 10:11 PM

Nicely said, BBear! That's a tough one, but I agree, just be there, and long after the other people have forgotten and moved on. There is nothing that you can say that will make any sense of what happened so just show your support to be there in any way they need you. Something similar happened to a relative of mine five years ago and of course we still miss him so much. I do think it makes it harder to accept (even now) because of the complete randomness and senselessness of the accident.

Prayers and warm thoughts coming your way!

Pennwoman  (Level: 163.1 - Posts: 2476)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 10:19 PM

I worked at a pediatric rehab facility -- we dealt with many head injuries etc -- varying degrees from beyond all hope to eventually doing ok.
The kids of course where primary concern, but JUST as much, was the care of the family -- sometime survivors of same accident, sometimes the last person the victim saw etc.
I found that just saying I am so sorry this happened to you speaks volumes
Sometimes you need to say, "lets talk about what happened" Sometimes "lets talk about ANYTHING but what happened"
I wish there was some perfect thing that would provide comfort in all situations but there just isnt
My prayers are with you also

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 11:01 PM

Any advice if some in the family are resenting the driver who pulled out in front of the car causing passenger to be killed? That's my greatest fear - the family being resentful to the driver; and the driver having a hard time coping with his own guilt at inadvertently causing of the death of the passenger.

Oh - and I did find out there were 2 in the other car, and both went to the hospital to be checked and were released with only minor cuts.

Kaelin  (Level: 49.2 - Posts: 1685)
Tue, 22nd Jul '08 11:12 PM

I don't want to sound trite - but don't fear what has not happened. Deal with it when and if it comes.

The driver is going to have survivor guilt, and should be in counseling. Handling something like that on your own is overwhelming.

The fact that you are looking ahead to possibilities of what may happen will cause you much pain as well. Being extremely empathetic myself, I speak of personal experience from way up on that hill top. I've been very fortunate that I've had my Mom over the past few years and have been able to change some of the ways that I look at things. She said something to me a few weeks ago about my grandmother, who we both loved very much, but she vocally spent much of her life "worrying". She would say "If I don't worry, who is going to?" Most of the things she worried about never happened, and she was not always the happiest person.

Again, this is a situation that warrants your concerns, and there may be some of it that happens. The most important thing is the person who survived the accident get some outside professional counseling.

Fudypatootie  (Level: 207.0 - Posts: 1302)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 1:10 AM

Telling someone you're sorry and you'll be thinking of/praying for them is great, but actions speak louder than words. Mowing their yard, making them dinner, calling to see if there's anything you can pick up at the store while there, taking them out for coffee so they can talk or not talk - these things will be meaningful long after funerals have ended and everyone goes back to life as usual, which is often the most difficult time period.

Of course, I'm a believer in prayer and continuing to pray over the entire situation anytime you think of these people is the "least" you can do, but may be the most.

Tresgatos  (Level: 217.3 - Posts: 4447)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 1:53 AM

I'm really sorry to hear about what happened, and my heartfelt sympathy goes out to you and your family.

When my sister was in college, she dated a young man, and their relationship became pretty serious. One semester, he became quite ill with a respiratory infection, but he refused to be seen by a doctor despite my sister's urgings. One evening, my sister was at the young man's apartment caring for him while studying. He suddenly slumped over and stopped breathing. My sister called paramedics immediately, but the young man slipped into a coma and died a few days later.

Aside from grief, my sister was plagued by guilt over this. "If only I'd known CPR!" she'd say. "If only I'd insisted he go to the doctor!" Compounding her guilt was the fact that the young man's family blamed her for his death.

During this difficult time, my sister turned to me, our mom, her closest friends and a professional therapist. These were the people my sister felt she could confide in. Essentially, I think, my sister needed not only to tell her story but "confess" it ... again and again until she no longer felt such an urgency to tell it, until gradually, in the telling, it was no longer confessional, and she accepted the fact that it was a tragic accident, but it was not her fault.

I know this isn't really analogous to what happened to your family member, Jank, but I hope it helps a little.

-- Geri

Rowlanda  (Level: 70.0 - Posts: 2853)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 2:30 AM

I think your advice is right on the money.
Many years ago, my first child died at birth and I felt a
lot of guilt about not knowing he was in trouble inside me.

The thing that got me through was the love shown by
friends and family....the people who took it in turns to sit
with me day after day, allowing me the silence when I was
lost in pain and guilt. Listening and supporting as I went
over and over what happened before and after the baby
died. These loving people allowed me to be however
I needed to be that day....and none of THEM said any
of the usual platitudes like "You're so young, you'll have
lots of other babies" Other people said that, but not
these special people....
Another thing I hated was the people who felt they had
to make me forget ANYTHING had happened....and
refused to talk to me about the baby. It hurt that they
wanted me to forget he ever existed.
So----let your friend talk, don't try to change his view
of what happened or minimize it. And allow him to
be overwhelmed with pain sometimes.
We didn't go to therapy in those days....and after a while
I had no-one to talk to. It took many years for the feelings to
finally be totally manageable, and for the thoughts to be
calm and realistic. A therapist would have greatly helped me.

I hope this helps Jank -- and that instinct and prayers will tell
you how to support your friend

Mplaw51  (Level: 184.8 - Posts: 1581)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 6:44 AM

Such excellent advice is given here. We all know the accident will replay over and over again. On those days be there as some strength or for the distraction whichever is needed most at that moment. Getting therapy, as most have said, is the best advice yet. The family of the passenger needs therapy as well. This type of tragedy has an awesome effect and can be a defining moment in a family in a way that can crumble it. The fact that you're looking for ways to ease their pain shows that you are a true and caring friend. They're lucky to have you in their circle. I'm sorry about this tragedy for all.

Zeedee  (Level: 235.6 - Posts: 1088)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 6:50 AM

I am so very sorry for the loss your family is experiencing.

The only thing I can add is that professional therapy may be essential. Survival guilt does not just "go away." It has to be worked through.

My prayers are with you all.

Revdodd  (Level: 68.7 - Posts: 775)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 6:50 AM

Fudy has hit a great way to do something, rather than feeling powerless.

And I find it sad that so many people have similar stories, but here's ours....

Last spring, the 15-year-old daughter of one of our neighbors died in a roll-over accident. The driver, her boyfriend, walked away fine physically, but is still in therapy for the guilt he felt.

Her mom, meanwhile, became a basket case. Literally. Wouldn't leave the house, couldn't cook for her other two children and husband, spent every waking hour feeling she was responsible for her daughter's death because she "let my baby go out on a date that night." Truth be told, the fault lies more with the state for flawed highway design, but nothing we said is going to absolve her of her self-imposed guilt.

The LAST thing you want to say is it was God's will or that they're in a "better place." For openers, what sort of horrific punishment would they concoct in their minds that merited the Almighty snuffing out their lives? And how would the driver feel, thinking that God would cavalierly use him as the means of such punishment? And if someone is wracked with guilt and mental anguish, the notion of being in a better place might, just might, tempt them to join them.

Instead, tell them, either in person or through cards if you prefer, that you are there. That you want to help, but don't want to intrude. Then do some of the little things that people wracked with guilt tend to forget. Cook a dinner. Offer to watch the kids. Do not let the deceased's birthday go unremembered in some proper fashion.

Be available, as much as possible. And do not hesitate to help a friend who is hurting. THAT is God's will.

Spacecat  (Level: 165.1 - Posts: 676)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 8:35 PM

My condolences at your families loss . The only advice I can offer comes from my late father in law who died at age 91. When he was in his late 20's the car he was driving, with 5 other occupants hit a parked truck on a rainy evening, shearing off the passenger side. His best friend who had been his best man at his recent wedding was killed. Alcohol may have played a factor but this was a small town during the war. An inquest was held but no charges were laid. I asked my father in law how he got over it and how he could live with the memory for over 60 years.. He never really did get over it he said. How can you forget such a thing ... however he always kept busy in work ( lumberjack, farmer, miner,steelworker) and activities, had a faith in God, a supportive family including his children and many friends. He may not have had the forgiveness of the man's family but he could understand their loss. Even though he knew the enormity of what he had caused he did not let it ruin his life. After the accident he was able to start a family which later included grandkids, was a success in his investments, and traveled every year. Our prayers are with you and yours in your hour of need.

Bbear  (Level: 168.0 - Posts: 2297)
Wed, 23rd Jul '08 8:59 PM

Listen to revdodd. When my brother died years ago in a plane crash I acutally found power in what people said when they were sincerely trying to say the right thing but totally blew it.

No God would think that my brother was in a better place at the age of 23. It was an accident. My anger over that gave me strength and something to focus on.

No God would have planned for hm to die a horrible death in a four seater plane. It was an accident. My anger over that gave me strength and something to focus on.,

Accidents happen. Just be there and understand the other family will be angry, will be nasty and lawyer sharks will get involved. This involves five years of drama, so don't forget to hang in there.

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Thu, 24th Jul '08 6:10 AM

Wow. Thank all of you for your openness to share painful memories and such great advice. There is as much wisdom in your words about what not to do/say as there is in what to do/say, and maybe the don'ts are even more important than the dos.

I'm copying and keeping what all of you wrote as I no doubt will need to refer back to it many times over the coming months and I can access it more quickly that way.

The more you wrote and the more I read made me realize maybe I too have some resentment in my own heart that I need to deal with before I'll be any good to anyone else. The worst thing I could do is allow some negative feelings of my own to accidentally slip out.

Thank you for helping me sort out my own feelings, too.

Revdodd  (Level: 68.7 - Posts: 775)
Thu, 24th Jul '08 6:33 AM

One more thing, which I learned about myself, and most other folks did, I bet...but don't want to dwell on it.

There will come times when you feel you should do something, but just can't...either physically or emotionally. It doesn't make you less a person or friend. It makes you human. Don't beat yourself up over it.

Anger and grief are a whirlpool that will consume everything that people toss into them. Those in the middle need people on the edges to help haul them back, even if where they come out may be a different spot than where they entered.

Stay ready to help in whatever way you feel able. But DO NOT feel you must always ride the first horse into battle.

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