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Injury and death take a toll on the family

A catastrophic injury or death in your family can leave you in shock. Suddenly, you do not know what to do or how to move forward.

Everyone reacts differently to a loved one's suffering or death. There is no way to tell anyone what they will experience. However, there are two common effects that many families will face after suffering such a tragic loss.

1. Everyone will grieve differently

The stages of grief are not a linear, universal experience. Everyone in the family could go through these stages at different times and in different ways. These different experiences could:

  • Create tension and confusion;
  • Increase irritability, anxiety or sensitivity; and
  • Cause either rifts or deeper connections between family members.

Families need to understand they will all cope differently. Understanding this can help reduce that tension and help families support each other in this time of need instead of arguing.

2. Family roles will change

If a loved one suffers an incapacitating injury or death, family members must take on different roles. Taking on new roles does not replace a loved one, but families must adjust to the shortcomings they experience after losing a loved one.

For example:

  • Spouses or children might have to take on the role of a caregiver if a loved one is incapacitated, which can be very stressful;
  • Children might have to take on more responsibilities around the house to ease their parent's stress. This might even lead to adult children returning home for a while; or
  • Spouses and older children might even have to take on extra work to collect more income to support the family.

The family dynamic will likely change after a loved one suffers in a life-changing event. These changes might be big or small, but they will have a significant impact on the family's future after losing a loved one.

Regardless of these changes, it is important for families to realize they are dealing with the same loss, just in different ways. Recognizing this can help families work to support each other as they navigate these changes.

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