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Thinking about going out for a ride in a charter airboat nearby?  Well, you might want to think about it a little more as two more people died in an airboat collision in Melbourne yesterday.  Here are some things you should be aware of.

In the state of Florida, you don’t need any type of special license to operate a boat.  In fact, according to the law, any person who was born prior to 1988 doesn’t have to have certification in order to drive a boat.  A person born after January 1, 1988 will have to acquire a Boating Safety Education ID card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  Once this card is obtained, it is valid for life.

A common type of boat used in Florida is the air boat and air boat tours are extremely popular. Even though most air boat operators have plenty of experience, there is no type of requirement for these boats to have safety devices, such as windshields, airbags or seat belts.  In fact, these boats don’t have any brakes and they are usually operated at high speeds.  Also, because of the design of the boat, they may stop short if driven over dry land.  Trust me, been there and done that!

The location of an airboat accident — whether in “non-navigable” waters or “navigable” waters—influences the outcome of a boating accident case. Much of Florida’s Everglades and waterways is made up of landlocked ponds, and as such, is considered by state and Federal standards as “non-navigable.”  If the boating accident in which you were involved occurred on non-navigable waters, then Florida state law will govern. However, a waterway that could be used to transport a boat to the ocean or between two states is considered “navigable.”  If an accident occurred on navigable waters, the Federal maritime law will govern the accident.

Why This Would Matter in Your Case.

Under Florida state law, the standard of care owed to passengers is much greater — in fact, it is equivalent with the highest degree of care that is consistent with that particular type of transportation.

So, Who Would Be Liable: The Company or the Operator?

Should an airboat operator fail to adhere to the rules outlined in the Florida Statutes, the operator can be charged with careless and reckless driving. However, the airboat company may also be responsible for the actions of it’s employee.

Here at Marianne Howanitz, P.A., we are all too familiar with the different types of Florida boating accidents and the injuries associated with them.  If you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident, contact us today at 352-512-0444 to schedule a free initial consultation.

 

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June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.  Most people don’t associate PTSD with vehicle collisions, but it is something that I see all the time. Todd Buckley, PhD, on the website U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, says that researchers are looking more closely at motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) as a common cause of traumatic stress. In one large study, accidents were shown to be the traumatic event most frequently experienced by males (25%) and the second most frequent traumatic event experienced by females (13%) in the United States. Over 100 billion dollars are spent every year to take care of the damage caused by auto accidents. Survivors of MVAs often also experience emotional distress as a result of such accidents. Mental health difficulties such as posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety are problems survivors of severe MVAs may exhibit.

How many people experience serious motor vehicle accidents?

One unfortunate consequence of the high volume of commuter and personal travel in the US is the number of accidents that result in personal injury and fatalities. In any given year, approximately 1% of the US population will be injured in motor vehicle accidents. Thus, MVAs account for over three million injuries annually and are one of the most common traumas individuals experience.

How many people develop MVA-related PTSD and other psychological reactions?

Studies of the general population have found that approximately 9% of MVA survivors develop PTSD. Rates are significantly higher in samples of MVA survivors who seek mental-health treatment. Studies show that between 14% and 100% of MVA survivors who seek mental-health treatment have PTSD, with an average of 60% across studies. In addition, between 3% and 53% of MVA survivors who seek treatment and have PTSD also have a mood disorder such as Major Depression. Finally, in one large study of MVA survivors who sought treatment, 27% had an anxiety disorder in addition to their PTSD, and 15% reported a phobia of driving.

When do you seek help?

You should seek medical advice if your symptoms:

Are worrying you.

Are preventing you from doing your normal activities.

Have lasted longer than three months after the accident.

Are causing your friends and/or relatives to be worried about you.

If your symptoms don’t ease after 3 months, or if your symptoms are severe enough to stop you living your normal life, then you have may an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

I hope this will help those of you out there who are suffering after a collision.  Please remember that we are always available to listen to you should you feel the need.

 

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Chances are that after an accident your first priority was to recover from the injuries your body sustained. Many of my clients struggle mentally in the wake of a crash. If this happens to you, it’s important to get help.

It might have been a crash where you were the driver, a passenger, a pedestrian or even just an observer.

Lynda Matthews, the Head of the Rehabilitation Counselling Unit at the University of Sydney, says that while many people will recover totally, even from severe road crashes, up to 30 per cent of people will have to deal with a negative psychological response.

“It’s not so much the severity of the crash or the severity of any resulting injury that counts – it’s how someone perceives it,” Dr. Matthews says.  “If you perceive the crash as life-threatening, or if someone is killed in the accident, then that can influence your response.”

The good news is that most people will recover from the anxiety which is a natural reaction to a stressful incident. Some people will have no symptoms of anxiety at all, others will have a few, while others will run the full gamut.

Common symptoms of anxiety include worrying, being very active, feeling irritable, unable to relax or sleep properly, having no energy, finding it difficult to concentrate, feeling upset, angry, confused, tired, helpless or ‘out-of-control’.

Anxiety can make a person feel unsociable and you may have unwanted thoughts or experience problems with personal relationships.

Dr. Matthews says that most people recovering from a crash generally focus first on physical recovery – treatment in hospital, visiting physiotherapists and the like. It’s also very important for people to tell doctors if they are feeling anxious or distressed.
And there are simple things you can do if you feel anxiety taking control.

“If you feel like it, it’s good to talk with people about the accident. One of the most important parts of recovery is having support from family and friends,” says Dr. Matthews.

“It’s also very important to try and re-engage with your social scene and get back to work – to get back to your pre-crash lifestyle.”

LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF

Here are some tips to look after your mental health following an accident:

  1. Give yourself time. Any difficult period in your life needs time to heal. Be patient with yourself and what you are feeling. Anxiety is normal for everyone.
  2. Talk to someone about the accident. It may be a friend, family member or someone you feel comfortable with. Just talking about your experiences, getting information about anxiety and meeting any practical needs is often all that is required to help you manage your anxiety.
  3. Look after yourself. When people feel anxious they often neglect themselves. Eat balanced meals and try to get plenty of sleep. Do some exercise, like going for a walk. Avoid increasing the amount of alcohol you drink and avoid drugs that have not been prescribed by your doctor.
  4. Take some time for yourself and do a hobby or other enjoyable activity.

WHEN TO SEEK HELP

You should seek medical advice if your symptoms:

  • Are worrying you.
  • Are preventing you from doing your normal activities.
  • Have lasted longer than three months after the accident.
  • Are causing your friends and/or relatives to be worried about you.

If your symptoms don’t ease after 3 months, or if your symptoms are severe enough to stop you living your normal life, then you have may an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Most people who are involved in a road crash won’t develop an anxiety disorder. If you do, you may experience extreme anxiety and disturbing irrational thoughts and fears. Every part of your life suffers and you seem overpowered by the experience of the crash.

Some people may:

  • Have flashbacks to the accident.
  • Dream about the accident.
  • Become distressed when exposed to reminders of the accident.
  • Feel like they are continually in a daze.
  • Be out of touch with the world or feel that their life does not seem real.
  • Avoid thoughts, feelings or conversations associated with the accident even when they may be beneficial.
  • Feel guilty about the crash.
  • Problems getting back in the car.

Dr. Matthews says that necessity will get most people back into a motor vehicle, but some people might experience difficulty.

“The general principle is, where there’s fear of something then it’s good to take it in small steps,” she says. “Make sure you have people with you to offer support, and take it slowly.”

TREATMENT AND SUPPORT

It’s important to know that, with the right treatment and support, you can recover from an anxiety disorder. Your Primary doctor is the best person to speak to first. Other health practitioners, like psychologists, social workers, counselors and psychiatrists, can help to treat anxiety disorders.

WHERE TO GET HELP

The following organizations and websites provide information on getting treatment for anxiety and help with driving anxiety.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America  www.adaa.org

National Center for PTSD http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

http://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-a-Driving-Phobia

http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/geared/your_driving_skills/car_crashes/after_the_crash.html

 

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According to the Smart Motorist, in the next 20 years the number of elderly drivers (persons 70 & over) is predicted to triple in the United States. As age increases, older drivers generally become more conservative on the road. Many mature drivers modify their driving habits (for instance to avoid busy highways or night-time driving) to match their declining capabilities. However, statistics show that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections.

Research on age-related driving concerns has shown that at around the age of 65 drivers face an increased risk of being involved in a vehicle crash. After the age of 75, the risk of driver fatality increases sharply, because older drivers are more vulnerable to both crash-related injury and death. Three behavioral factors in particular may contribute to these statistics: poor judgement in making left-hand turns; drifting within the traffic lane; and decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation.

If you or your loved one is an older driver, there are many ways for you to stay safe on the road and continue to drive for many years.  Much of it has to do with knowing your physical limits and capabilities.  Here are some tips from AARP.

  1. Monitor your health. Be aware of any health changes such as vision, hearing, memory and concentration.  Keep up with regular checkups and exercise.
  2. Keep a safe driving distance.  Use the three-second rule when following another car, so you have time to react to any potential hazards.
  3. Avoid distractions.  Anything that takes your eyes off the road is a distraction and that includes cell phone use, eating, using a GPS, and adjusting the radio.
  4. Adjust your fit. AARP is a member of the Car Fit program, where a team of technicians can help set up your vehicle to make sure it “fits” you for comfort and safety. Go to Car Fit to find a location near you.
  5. Self-regulate.  Avoid driving during rush hour, at night, or in challenging weather conditions.  Keep running your errands and appointments, but try to choose daylight and less busy times to travel.
  6. Go right. Lee says instead of making a left-hand turn, make three right turns instead to get to the same place instead of crossing traffic in a busy intersection.
  7. Don’t forget to stop. At stop signs, scan before proceeding and look for pavement markings. If you are behind another car, wait two seconds until they proceed through the sign before you move forward.
  8. Check your meds.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist if medications you are taking could have an affect on your driving.
  9. Be aware of others.  Bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians can add more challenges to driving.  Be extra vigilant in intersections and when merging.
  10. Keep a buffer.  Have enough space around your vehicle so you have room to maneuver whether it is on the road or in a parking lot.

Stay safe out there friends!

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Did you know you could USE A TEXT BLOCKER FROM YOUR CELL PHONE COMPANY??

This is great news and new to me.  Even if you expose your teen to lengthy lectures and graphic driver’s ed videos depicting the hazards of texting while driving, it can still be difficult for them to put their phone away when they are at the wheel. Numerous cell phone providers trump this temptation with text blocker apps.

According to Sarah Shelton in the US News and World Report, Drive First from Sprint is one of the most comprehensive examples. This free app automatically activates when it detects the phone is moving faster than 10 mph. It silences the phone’s ringer and alerts, and if any texts or calls come in, Drive First sends an automated response saying you are currently on the road. This app also locks your phone, with the exception of three apps you designate (such as navigation or music). It also lets you designate VIP contacts, allowing your family or your boss to connect with you. Parents can log into their Drive First account online and monitor how their teens are using their phones when they’re driving.

AT&T’s DriveMode is a similar free app, silencing the phone’s ringer and sending automatic replies any time your teen is driving over 15 mph. Your teen can easily access music or navigation with one touch from the home screen. DriveMode also sends you parental alerts if your teen turns the app off or adds a new speed-dial number.

You can download either of these apps even if you have a different cell phone carrier, though some functions won’t be available. If your carrier offers a different text blocker app, find out if the app turns on automatically when the car is moving (Verizon’s Safely Go has to be activated every time), and make sure it can’t be deactivated from your teen’s phone.

Distracted driving is the cause for most of the accidents we have.  Help your child stay safe out there!!

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We often forget that our auto insurance policies are contracts. Besides paying your premium on time, you should abide by your car insurance company’s rules.

But how can you abide by the rules when you don’t even know what they are?

Here are 10 common scenarios that Penny Gusner for Insure.com wrote about recently. If any of these hit close to home, quickly fix the issue before you get in a pickle.

  1. You haven’t added a licensed teen to your policy.

No one wants to raise their hand and offer to pay more for car insurance. But insurers are permitted to consider all household residents when they price a policy, including a teen. Withholding information about your teen driver from your car insurance company is a big no-no.

And insurers have ways of finding out. They can pull reports that identify “hidden” household members. One such report from LexisNexis looks for “undisclosed” newly licensed drivers between ages 15 and 25.  If your insurer finds out about your licensed teenager this way, it can revise your premiums to include the young driver, or decide it doesn’t want your business anymore.

If your insurer doesn’t find out about your teen until there is an accident, it still might cover the incident.  That would be a lucky outcome, but you’ll back premiums based on the teen driver. Or, your auto insurance company may say it’s not covering the teenager and is dropping your policy because of your failure to inform it.

  1. You let your adult child take your car with her when she moved to another state.

Sure, it’s so much easier to put off a call to your agent and let your child move away with a family car. But when your car is being driven and garaged in a new area, the risks of you as a customer have changed. Car insurance companies expect to be informed about these changes.  If your daughter were in an accident, your insurer could say you concealed vital information about the vehicle’s location, deny your claim and cancel the policy.

If you want to do things the right way, add the child’s name to the car’s title.  Then your child can buy insurance for the car in her own name and using her new address. This will also allow your child to register the car in her new state, which most states require.

  1. You sold your car to your son but still carry the insurance on it.

Uh oh. In general, you can’t carry insurance on a car in which you don’t have an “insurable interest.”  Typically, those with an insurable interest are the car’s owners, lienholders and co-signers – meaning those who would be affected financially if something happens to the car.

Since you are no longer the car’s owner, it’s time for the new owner — your child — to buy car insurance for the vehicle.  If he’s still a minor, you may have to be on the policy with him.  Minors typically must have a parent or guardian involved in the auto insurance contract.

You could face problems submitting a claim if you have failed to tell your insurance company about the ownership change. Or worse, the car insurance company could say you hid the change as a scheme to get lower car insurance rates, which would qualify as insurance fraud and a reason for it to deny claims and cancel the policy.

  1. You want to finance and insure a car for a relative who lives out of state.

Auto finance companies want evidence that the car loan is in the same name as the insurance policy. Since you’re not the primary driver of the car, nor is the car at your residence, it is difficult, if not impossible, for you to insure the car.

You should contact the finance company to see if it will allow your relative to be the “named insured” on a policy.  If it agrees, your relative has the hurdle of finding an insurance company in her state that will permit her to insure a car she doesn’t own.  If she can find such a company, then she still has to list you and the finance company on the insurance as owner and lienholder, respectively.

If you carry insurance on the car without telling your insurer about the situation and your relative wrecks the vehicle, it’s very likely the accident wouldn’t be covered.  Your car insurance company is likely to call you out for misrepresenting who was driving the car and where it was located, and cancel the policy.

  1. You lend your car to a friend for a few months and don’t notify the insurance company.

Your car insurance policy typically will cover a friend who drives your car occasionally, but it’s a different story when you loan your car out for a long period. The car is now housed someplace other than your residence, and someone else is acting as the primary driver of the car — both circumstances your car insurance company wants to know about.

If your insurance company’s rules allow, you may be permitted to add your friend as a driver to your auto policy, but most car insurance companies don’t want to add a person outside of the household.  If that is the case, your friend should consider insuring the car.  Some insurance companies will allow someone to insure a car that he doesn’t own, as long as the owner is listed on the policy.

If your friend crashes your car, your insurer can deny claims because you concealed pertinent information about the “real” driver and vehicle location. That can leave you and your friend on the hook for damages he caused.

  1. You sold your car and the buyer is making payments but you’re still carrying the title and insurance.

Don’t keep your name and insurance on a car that another person possesses!

First, as the owner – because your name is still on the title — you have vicarious liability for the actions of the person driving the car that you “sold.”

Second, you’re paying for insurance but any claims might not be covered. Your car insurance policy normally covers cars and drivers of your household, not others.

If you’re in this situation, you should sign the title over to the new party. He can easily get insurance once he registers the car — and you will no longer be held responsible for his actions. To protect your interest in the car, make certain you’re listed as the lienholder on the car’s title and auto insurance policy.  That way you’ll be notified if he tries to sell the car or drop car insurance.

  1. You’re delivering pizzas with your personal vehicle

Most personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage if you use the vehicle to deliver items, whether it’s pizza, newspapers, packages or medical supplies. Insurance companies see unsavory risk in delivery drivers because they are constantly on the road.

If you want to be paid to deliver items, you should change to a business-use or commercial car insurance policy. If you don’t and you get caught driving for deliveries, you’re on your own to compensate others for damages they sustained — and the damages to your own vehicle.

  1. You let an “excluded driver” drive your car.

Big mistake. When you put a named-driver exclusion on your policy it meant that the person listed is not covered under any circumstances and shouldn’t be driving your car.

So if that person gets behind the wheel of your car, even in an emergency, and causes an accident, you and the driver will be the ones to pay for any resulting injuries or property damage.

Hide your keys from any excluded driver in order to lower your risk of financial disaster.

  1. You bought a new car weeks ago and haven’t told your insurer.

If you traded in a vehicle, then your car insurance policy likely extends the same exact coverage to your new car for a limited time. This means if you bought only liability on your old car, your new car would only have liability coverage.

The deadline for informing your insurer about the new car varies by insurer, but is typically 14 to 30 days.

Don’t bet on having automatic coverage, either; some car insurance companies don’t give you any.

And if you’re adding a car rather than replacing one, you should buy coverage for it before driving it off the lot.

If you’re outside the insurer’s automatic coverage period, or there is no extended coverage on your new car, and you’re in an accident, your insurance company won’t help you. You’ll be paying out-of-pocket for damages you do to your own car or others.

  1. You haven’t told your insurance company that your live-in girlfriend drives your car.

Insurance companies hate it when you “forget” to tell them about a driver who lives with you or regularly uses your car. Insurers can’t charge you correctly if they don’t know about all licensed household members, including a girlfriend or spouse.

If you recently got married or moved in with someone, let the insurance company know immediately and have the person added to your policy as a driver. If you fail to do so, don’t be surprised if claims are denied if they cause an accident, or if you’re asked to pay back premiums based on the additional driver.

If your car insurance company believes you were intentionally hiding the driver – say your girlfriend has a bad driving record — then it may say you committed fraud by means of misrepresentation. This means your car insurance company can cancel your policy.

 

 

 

 

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National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the third full week of May each year, and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites. The dates in 2016 are May 15-21.

With an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people – most of them children – are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.

  • Prevent The Bite reports that according to the Center for Disease Control, dog bites were the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury to children ages 1-4, 9th for ages 5-9 and 10th for ages 10-14 from 2003-2012.
  • The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2013, insurers across the country paid over $483 million in dog bite claims.
  • The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery reports that according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 26,935 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2013 to repair injuries caused by dog bites.
  • The U.S. Postal Service reports that 5,581 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2013. Children, elderly, and postal carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites.
  • The American Humane Association reports that 66% of bites among children occur to the head and neck.

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The more information your attorney has about your case, the more quickly and completely you can be compensated for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. Documenting accidents, site situations, and road conditions has proven priceless in dealing with and settling claims.  It has often changed the outcome of resulting lawsuits and helped establish just settlements.

To ensure a complete, speedy resolution to your case, make sure your lawyer has all the information and documentation he needs to pursue a settlement. If the accident happened a while ago that information may include:

  • Your vehicle, insurance, and driver’s license information.
  • Details of the accident, including:
    • Date, time, location.
    • Weather and traffic conditions.
    • Information about other vehicles, drivers and passengers.
    • Names and contact information for witnesses and copies of any accident or incident reports filed.
    • Any pictures you have taken at the scene. Sometimes the law enforcement officer takes pictures, make sure to get copies of those, also.
  • Copies of traffic tickets writtenat the scene and information about any charges brought against drivers involved, including DUI charges.
  • Physician reportand medical records related to the accident.
  • X-rays and test results related to injuriesfrom the accident.
  • Information about pre-existing conditionsor injuries that may have been exacerbated by the accident.
  • Record of expensesfor ongoing medications, treatment, and therapies.
  • Any other expenses incurred because of the accident, including transportation costs.
  • Documentation of days, hours and wages lostbecause of the accident.
  • Copies of all correspondencewith insurance companies related to the accident.

It is always helpful to keep a personal injury diary to note appointments, expenses, contacts with the insurance company and your general feelings and medical condition following the accident. Also, keep track of your medical mileage for re-imbursement.

Keep your attorney up to date and let them know about new doctor visits, Radiology visits or surgeries that you have scheduled.  An email to paralegal is usually sufficient so they can get updated records.

Stay safe out there friends!

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When you or your loved one suffer an injury as the result of somebody else’s action, perhaps it seems natural that the person would offer to compensate you for your injury, or that their insurance company will do the right thing and offer a fair settlement. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Many people will not take responsibility for their actions, and insurance companies profit from undercompensating injury victims. Insurance companies and their lawyers also know the governing law backwards and forwards, and they know that most non-lawyers have no idea what legal rights and remedies they possess.

An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to build your case, how to negotiate your case with an insurance company, and, if necessary, how to take your case to trial. While it is possible to negotiate your claim with an insurance company yourself, insurance companies will typically do everything they can to take advantage of you and to effect the lowest possible settlement, while attempting to elicit statements from you that will damage your position if you ultimately decide to sue.

A lawyer is in a good position to help you obtain a favorable settlement that, even with the attorney fee deducted, significantly exceeds what you can obtain on your own.

One of the best ways to find a personal injury lawyer is to consult an attorney you trust. If you do not know any attorneys, ask your friends for names of attorneys they trust. It is not important that they give you the name of a lawyer who can handle your case – what is important is that the attorney is likely to comprehend the issues of your case, and is well-positioned to know which attorneys in your community have the skills to handle your case. Even if the attorney cannot personally take your case, he will often be able to refer you to a lawyer who can.

Please note that, when it comes to hiring a personal injury lawyer, many of the best personal injury attorneys do little or no advertising. They get their cases through “referrals” from other attorneys, due to their reputations for doing good work and getting good results.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer is a big step, and there is nothing wrong with consulting several lawyers to find one who makes you comfortable. Here at Marianne Howanitz, PA, we want you to do what you really need to do…relax, recover and let us take care of the rest.

Stay safe and informed out there friends!

YOUR Accident and Injury Attorney,

Marianne Howanitz

 

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It’s hard to know what to say to someone who’s lost a family member in an accident.  The truth is, and it hurts in the worst way, is that the mourner will be alone in their grief.

 After much research to learn how to be there for my clients I like what Christy Heitger-Ewing says in the article she wrote for the Huffington Post, which I am posting below:

  1. “I feel your pain.”

This is not the same thing as, “I know how you feel,” which is a statement I would avoid uttering because even if you’ve shared a similar circumstance, everyone’s journey is uniquely their own. The words, “I feel your pain,” however, is an expression of empathy.

In the book Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love: Daily Meditations to Help You Through the Grieving Process, authors Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside maintain that the words “I feel your pain” are the four most helpful words that can be uttered to a grieving person.

“No other single sentence does more to break down walls of isolation formed by deep sorrow and regret,” write Mitsch and Brookside. “When those words are merged with a touch or an embrace, they mend the heart and lift up downcast eyes. They tell the griever that he is not alone in his grief.”

  1. “How about a hug?”

I get that not everyone is touchy-feeling, but for me, at least, when I was newly grieving, I felt starved for hugs. I wanted to hug the UPS man who came to my door. I wanted to hug my spin instructor after class. I wanted to hug my neighbor and her little dog, too. It was almost as if I was a china doll that had been broken into pieces, and every hug offered a smidge of glue to help piece me back together.

Two weeks after my mom died, my son had an overnight field trip to the zoo. My husband was one of the chaperones. I packed them up and waved goodbye. As they pulled out of the driveway, an intense sense of loneliness settled into my soul. I remember going through my phone contacts and calling neighbors until one of them answered.

“Can you come over and give me a hug?” I asked.

I probably sounded pitiful, but that’s what I needed right then and there. A hug wasn’t going to take away all my pain, but it helped get me through that difficult moment.

  1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It’s direct. It’s honest. It gets to the point. It shows you care. And as Patti Fitzpatrick, a grief support facilitator and bereavement minister, notes, “Two simple but extremely helpful and healing solutions that anyone can do is to 1) show up, and 2) say, “I’m sorry for your loss. Period.”

  1. “I’m here for you.”

Truth be told, grief makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It’s hard to see someone you care about torn up emotionally. It’s natural to want to fix them, but that’s just not possible. Therefore, the most helpful thing you can do for someone who is hurting is to offer to just be there for them in whatever capacity they need.

Ben Keckler, the minister who runs my grief support group, explained this notion beautifully when he said, “When you’re grieving, you don’t want to be around people who will see through you. You want to be around people who will see you through.”

  1. “I’ll bring you some lasagna next Tuesday.”

This is just an example. Offering to do something specific is an alternative to the usual phrase that folks utter: “Let me know if you need anything.” People make this kind of open-ended gesture because they want to help and are not sure what the griever may need. But for those who are newly grieving, the truth is that they often don’t know what they need, either — and/or they don’t have the energy to figure it out and then call you to request it.

That’s why it’s better to just make a specific offer like, “I’m headed to the grocery. I can bring you some milk and bread if you’d like.”

  1. “Would you like to talk about your loved one?”

It’s natural to worry that if you bring up the subject of the person who died, you’ll make the griever sad. Actually, the opposite is true. When a person loses someone super close to them, after the death they will continue to think about their loved one constantly. After several months have passed, the griever is astounded by how rarely people mention the person who died. It’s heartbreaking, really. So when you bring up a memory or share a story about the person who passed away, it lets the griever know that others remember their loved one, too, and that’s really comforting news.

  1. Ask, “How are you doing?” Then listen — really listen — for the true answer.

When you make it clear that you’re asking for a real and honest answer and not just expecting the trite response of, “Oh, I’m fine,” that promotes healing. Keckler says that “fine” can be an acronym for “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.” That’s certainly an apt description for those who are newly grieving because their feelings truly are all over the map. Sorting through them can be difficult, which is why it’s nice to have people in their life with which they can share their genuine feelings.

A few months into my grief, I remember telling my husband that I had figured out who my “safe” people were. Through conversations and interactions, I could tell which of my friends were okay with my being my authentic self and which were not. The “safe” ones checked in with me regularly. They sat with me and let me cry. They didn’t mind when I called them sobbing so hard that they could barely discern a word I was saying. They let me share openly, and that’s what I needed.

  1. Say nothing.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not suggesting that you avoid the grieving person or that when you talk to them you should pretend that you don’t know their loved one has died. That behavior would be hugely hurtful. I’m suggesting that you not be afraid to close your mouth and open your heart. Hold their hand. Offer them a tissue. Make a pot of coffee. Ask if they’d like to go for a walk. Whatever you do, let them lead the conversation. Often the biggest gift you can give a grieving person is permission to speak freely.

Mitsch and Brookside write, “So many of us are taught not to talk about our wounds. We absorb the message, spoken or tacit, that ‘talking doesn’t help,’ ‘weeping doesn’t change things,’ ‘talking about it will just make you sad.’ None of those statements is true. Talking about our sorrow does not increase our sorrow; it purges our sorrow.”

“The truth is that they often don’t know what they need, either — and/or they don’t have the energy to figure it out” really struck a chord with me because so many of my clients are unable to deal with the sudden loss alone the issues that come from what needs to be done after the accident.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  As a friend you can do more than just offer your condolences….you can be there to look out for their best interests….something they are NOT thinking of at that time. 

grief
grief
You can offer my services in their time of need. I will meet with them in their home and discretely and compassionately discuss their needs. If they retain my services, they can then do what they really need to do….relax, recover and let me take care of the rest.  I’m on it!

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