Stories – Grief after a road traffic accident

I never thought I would be writing something like this. You don’t think that death can touch you in your 20’s, you think you’re invincible, but reality often provides you wrong. Two years ago, I lost my best friend in a hit and run. I know after a person’s death you can look back with rose-tinted glasses, but you didn’t need those with her, she was kind, gentle, loving. She had time for everyone.

Nothing can prepare you for the call that I received stating that “She’s dead”. I know it sounds hard hitting. But it was. I don’t really remember much in the instant aftermath of that phone call; tears, pain, panic, bargaining. It seems like a blur now.

Initially, it was really difficult for our group of friends to cope with her passing because we were no longer together like we had been at university. We had all moved to our hometowns or gone our separate ways making the grieving process a lot harder. Of course, we would then spend hours on facetime to each other in silence, though we did not speak we knew that we all were sharing in this feeling of numbing pain together. It was comforting. The silence didn’t matter, all that mattered was that we shared the same grief.

Going back to normal

The first weekend I went to our old university town to meet up with some friends. I cried all the way. On the tram, on the train and whilst walking to my friends’ house. The crying continued for a long time for me. I couldn’t help it. I would be at work and all of a sudden, I would be overwhelmed with a sense of grief that I couldn’t cope with. Life seemed like it had split into two clear sections, before her death and after.

There is a certain feeling you get in your chest when you are told that someone has died in such a sudden and horrific way, it never leaves you and the pain is the same, but the amount of time that you feel it for gets further and further apart.

You don’t think about the people around you who aren’t grieving when you’re in the midst of grief yourself. I found it really hard that my family didn’t understand. I would never want them to understand, but they weren’t sure of how they should act around me. My mum tried her best, but she would stop me from talking about it and try to distract me. I know she wanted me to stop being so upset and she wanted to try and make me feel better, but she couldn’t. It must have been hard for her to see her child go through a pain she couldn’t take away.

My mum and I learnt that it is really important to communicate with the people around you and tell them what you need. If you need to cry or talk or be angry around them let them know that they don’t have to make it better, they just need to listen.  

After the first two months I quickly pushed all my feelings of grief aside as I started my teacher training course. I used running as a coping mechanism and I looked for charities that might be able to help me. I found the charity Brake , it helps hit and run victims and families and friends of hit and run victims. I decided that because running was helping me so much, I would use it to raise money for this charity that had helped people in similar circumstances to me. It was an easy distraction and a way to help channel my grief.

 The start I didn’t realise that I needed to talk about my friend, not just her death, but the memories I had with her only five days before her death. I didn’t want to speak about her death all the time, I wanted to share my experiences in life and she was in a lot of them. I got scared that people would ask me questions about her and I would have to say “oh she’s dead now”. I learnt that people do feel uncomfortable at first, but actually when you normalise it yourself other people feel less awkward and uncomfortable.

Explaining a person has died doesn’t have to be awkward, it can open up a conversation that benefits everyone. I was fortunate, I met my now boyfriend on my teacher training course and he had also been through a sudden loss so understood my desire to talk about her in a way that celebrated our great memories, without being questioned where she is now.

Present day

Two years and four months have passed now. In my group of friends, we have all dealt with it differently, there is no one way to grieve, even if it is for the same person. In the past month I decided to reach out for help from a bereavement counsellor because all the feelings, that I never really spoke about, felt fresh after I lost a pupil in my class to the same incident, a hit and run.

My message to people also grieving is – it’s important to remember there is no shame in the way in which you choose to deal with grief or how long it takes you to move forward out of the initial numbing pit. Losing someone to a tragic and sudden death can leave you feeling confused and this type of loss takes time.

If you have experienced grief through losing someone to a hit and run there are limited resources out there. However, a really good podcast that helps for any type of grief is ‘grief cast’ (linked in our Library section along with additional resources). I recommend it for anyone grieving or anyone who wants to help someone who is grieving.

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