Coping with Injury and Loss
When a person sustains a serious injury or sudden loss, he/she will generally experience five reactions: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These are normal responses that everyone goes through at different rates. It is also important for the affected person to experience all of the stages to help achieve a full recovery.
When suddenly becoming disabled or losing someone close, the person will commonly deny the seriousness of the condition or situation. When learning that an injury may take a couple months to heal, the person may respond by saying, “It won’t take that long. I will be back to normal in a couple of weeks.” This irrational thinking indicates denial of the actual seriousness of the injury or event.
Anger usually follows disbelief. As the person slowly becomes aware of the seriousness of the injury or event, a sense of anger develops. The person may ask, “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why am I being punished?” “Why did this happen now?” “This is not fair.” This anger may become directed toward other people that are close to the affected person. Blame may be cast on other people and aggression may be let out on others unexpectedly.
As the person becomes less angry with the situation, he/she will start to become aware of the actual seriousness of what happened. With this awareness, the person begins to have doubts and fears about the situation, which leads to a need to bargain. Bargaining may be reflected in prayer, “God if you heal me in 3 weeks instead of 6 weeks, I will go to church every Sunday.” Or it may be reflected by pressure that is placed on people that are trying to help with the situation.
As the person becomes increasingly aware of the injury and this it will take a specific time to heal, depression can set in. The person may have episodes of crying, periods of insomnia, and may lose desire for food. The person may also feel a sense of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt.
Gradually, the person begins to feel less depressed and isolated and becomes comfortable with the situation.
It is important for people to go through these stages at their own pace. There is no set time frame as to how long each stage should take. A common error made is trying to talk the affected person out of being angry and depressed. Observers must allow the person to fully experience all five stages. It may be beneficial for the person to seek the assistance of an EAP counselor to help with the coping process.