Death from an accident

jennNovember 3, 2008

I never thought I'd post in this forum...

I lost my elderly father this year from a terrible fall at home. Prior to the fall, he was a vital, robust man... very active, mentally very sharp, exercised almost every day, very outgoing, loved people and loved by all. His fall occurred in the middle of the night and awoke my mom who found him at the bottom of the stairs, unresponsive. Initially, he survived the fall but it left him a quadriplegic and dependent on a ventilator. He spent a week in the hospital.

In the middle of the week, the neurologist asked my mom if they had any directives. She said he would not want to live on a ventilator as a quadriplegic, and I knew that. By the end of the week, we could see that his alertness was failing and he was no longer able to move his feet; he had no feeling from the neck down, and the ventilator was doing all the work for his lungs.

As a family, we allowed the doctor to place the order to remove his breathing tube.

At that time, we were in a complete state of numbness and shock which buffered a lot of the grief. Over the months, as the shock wore off (it's not completely gone), the feelings of grief became more real. In time, our grief has lessened and we're moving on in spite of missing him dearly.

Though he was elderly, he was such a vital man that it still seems like it couldn't have really happened. I am adjusting well to life without him, but there are still tears at times the grieving process is not yet over.

However, the hardest part is coming to terms with the accident itself. None of the other people in my life have lost a person in this manner or to any type of accident. The nature of his accident and passing is an additional layer which, I believe, most people don't experience -- therefore, most people don't understand. I keep thinking that if he died of a disease or natural causes, it would be easier. Not easy.... but easier to believe that it was "his time". My friends who lost their parents after a long-time illness were ready when it happened.... it wasn't a happy event, but they were prepared. It is difficult to describe the shock and grief that follows an accidental death of someone who was so vital and sweet and always available, interested, encouraging like my dad. It feels like it wasn't really his time, though obviously it was. Sometimes it seems like he's on the other side of a veil, I just can't see him. There was nothing to predict this, and nothing we could have done to prevent it.

One of the articles I read about grief stated that each circumstance about a death is another layer to process -- an unexpected/sudden death, or an accident, are additional layers to be processed along with the grief over just losing the person.

To those who have lost loved ones from an accident -- does it feel different to you? After coming to terms with the loss itself, did your reaction to the accident itself ever go away?

As I read over what I've written here, it sounds like I am not doing as well as I really am. I can talk about it without crying, do things we used to do together, and participate in all my previous activities. I've returned to normal life. I'm just wondering how others experience such a huge loss from an accident and if it is different than other types of losses.

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It makes sense that a sudden or unexpected death adds a layer to grief. For one thing, over the course of a long illness one has the opportunity to grieve in advance, discharging some of its intensity in the process. Then, too, if the illness is clearly terminal, and death is the only way out of the suffering, an element of relief enters into the survivors' emotions.

I've seen this with the many pets I've lost over the years. I've agonized over the sick ones, but the death that is guaranteed to make me cry 15 years later is the drowning in our swimming pool.

You obviously had a wonderful relationship with your dad, and I hope you can take some comfort from that and from the fact that it surely made him deeply happy.


    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 4:16PM
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jenn, your dad sounds so much like mine. We did not lose him in an accident, but until he was diagnosed with lung cancer at 80 years young, the man did not take one prescription - did not even wear glasses. He played golf several times a week, and read on the average 3 books a week. Heck, he continued to play golf through the first treatments of chemo and radiation.

It took 3 years, but the cancer finally won. When we were in his hospice room, watching him as he slowly faded away, I could not stop the tears. He asked "What's wrong with Jan?" I tried to laugh and said, "Oh, Daddy, you've been asking me that my whole life." And he kind of laughed and smiled, then shortly thereafter gazed into my mother's eyes until the last breath. To be that alert to the end just showed how strong his will was. It's been two years and I cry as I type this. I will always miss him, but do not miss seeing him in pain or confused as to why his body was doing this to him.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 6:36PM
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My uncle was in his 80s, for the most part in good health, loved life, had a laugh that would fill a room, was michievious and funny as all get out. No one knows what possessed him one day to decide he was going to pull a big tree stump out of the back part of his property with the winch on his truck. Though we aren't sure exactly what happened, he was crushed between the stump and his truck--my aunt found him when he didn't come home for dinner.

Yes, death from an accident feels different. You replay over and over in your mind "why did he do that?" "why wasn't he more careful?", "what on earth possessed him to try that", etc, because you are wishing so much you could go back in time and undo that ONE thing that caused their death. Illnesses, old age, those are things that usually happen over time, but losing someone suddenly to something that you feel could have been avoided is harder I think to accept.

My dad died 10 days after a heart attack that occurred when he was shoveling snow. He knew he shouldn't do it, but it was just a little bit of snow by the mailbox and he didn't want to miss getting the Christmas cards he knew were coming from us kids. We all wished he hadn't done it, but that was him, who he was.

I'm sorry for the loss of your father, hard as it is, it sounds though he had a great active life up until the end.

Take care, it takes time.


    Bookmark   November 13, 2008 at 1:32AM
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Last December I fell from the landing to the bottom of the basement stairs at my youngest daughters home. I landed on my head, probably a good thing, :) and the stairs and floor were carpeted, but I still broke my back in two places. I went to hospital of course, and wound up having a body brace for three months. I was 68 at the time. During that time so many people whom I met in doctor's office, in the hospital, repairmen at the home, etc., had a story to tell about relatives or friends who had fallen down stairs, and died. Three of these people were young women who had fallen for one reason or another and hit their heads on hard or sharp objects. I researched falling online and was amazed at the number of people who suffer these falling accidents, many older people and young as well. Our balance is a delicate thing and as we age it gets a little off sometimes.
I am sorry that your dear father did not survive his accident. Something that happens so fast is so shocking and unbelievable to our minds that we suffer from it harder, I believe, than after an expected death. You will get past the why's and what ifs in time; I know from losing my parents you ask questions like this of yourself, but eventually you accept what has happened and start to give yourself a break.
My best wishes for you and your family.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 8:06PM
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Sincere condolences on the loss of your father.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 1:29AM
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I know exactly what you are going through as I lost my dad last December to a terrible accident. My husband and I took him to a concert and he took a bad fall in the parking lot and landed on his face. He was bleeding profusely and was rushed to a trama hospital. As he was conscious, the doctors began to stitch him up before sending him for a CAT scan. When the results of the scan came back, it showed he was bleeding into his brain and he was moved to intensive care trauma, was put on a ventilator and we were told it did not look good. The neurosurgeon said she could operate but there was a grim prognosis. We opted for an 8 hour surgery which he survived, but he never awakened. He was in intensive care for two days and each time they tried to remove the vent, he was unable to breathe on his own. We took him off of life support and he died peacefully. To this day I am haunted by the accident and our loss of my wonderful dad. I did not sleep for months as everytime I closed my eyes, I would see the accident in my mind. It has gotten better, but I don't think I will ever completely recover from the shock. I do know that my dad would not want me to be grieving for him forever, and I try to remember the good times, but it is hard.
I am so sorry for your loss and what you are going through. May God bless you and give you strength.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2008 at 11:36PM
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My husband died 3 weeks ago from a tragic drowning. It would have been his last visit to his boat for the season. Why he went? He has been doing the same thing for the last 23 years and that night was no different. He loved his boat and the water. Part of the intense grief I am going thru is that he suffered greatly at the end. Drowning is not a good way to go. I am crying every day and I know it will not get better.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 9:49PM
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Thank you for your kind words regarding my loss. This Christmas will be difficult, but we'll get through it; we all will.

My heart goes out to all of you who have lost your loved ones, especially to those of you whose loss was recent. Becky -- it does get better, but very slowly. Do not expect to feel better very soon. It takes time -- lots of time. Allow yourself the time to mourn and be comforted by others. In time, the intensity will lesson, though you will never forget and you will still feel his loss, but not as painfully. It's hard to imagine now that you'll ever feel better, but as time goes on you do. Grief is like wearing a very heavy coat day and night. You go to bed with it and you wake up with it, it's on you wherever you go. After some time, you're still wearing the coat but the load is much more bearable.

May God bless richly bless each of you as you recover from your losses.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 10:19PM
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Jenn, thank you SO much for your kind and thoughtful words. Sometimes there are so few to say, which makes yours so much more thoughtful...

Too ALL of you suffering a loss this year: I wish you all the best that life can offer you. Grieve for those you've lost, but also celebrate their lives. I have decided that this year for me, it will be to celebrate life. Yes I am sad, but I am trying my best to remember what is good about life. It is just too very sad to do otherwise.

Peace, Barbara

    Bookmark   December 21, 2008 at 11:11PM
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Awwww Jenn I just happened to click over here from the CF. I'm so sorry.

My mom passed in 2000, but she was a frail old lady 'spiraling down the drain', not an accident. My father OTOH is a walking accident waiting to happen and I hold my breath and thank the Lord every time we talk on the phone that we CAN talk.

I just want to say that when I lost my mom, I felt like I passed through a curtain and the world was suddenly divided into those who had lost a parent, and those who had not. I'm jealous of those who still have their moms.


    Bookmark   December 29, 2008 at 11:10PM
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Hi Jessy, thank you very much. I know exactly what you mean about that curtain. I'm sorry for your loss as well.

Barbara, thank you for your kind words as well.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 10:12PM
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