I will never forget the phone call from my father. He told me Ollie had had an accident and that I needed to meet them at the hospital A&E.

Alongside the feelings of grief and shock that come with any sudden death, an accidental death may leave you with a sense of wanting to change the course of events. You may feel intense anger at the senselessness of the accident or with someone or something specific, or  with yourself. You may be overwhelmed with thoughts such as 'Why?', 'If only...' or 'Why didn’t I?'.

If you were not present, some information about the accident may come from the professionals involved such as emergency services, or from an investigation, which may help answer some of your questions about why the accident happened. It may be far harder to face the 'if only' questions because they are part of a search for meaning where nothing makes sense and there may be no answer.

Supporting a child after someone dies in an accident

Sometimes, other children and young people may witness, be involved or be at the scene of an accident or may be exposed to an event that is distressing or frightening. Even if they are not directly involved in the incident themselves, they may be frightened and disturbed in a number of ways. Read our resource for more on supporting a child after a frightening event.

It can help to reassure a child that feeling scared, anxious or upset for a while is OK and normal, but that they are safe and their routines will continue. Encouraging them to talk about the event or express their feelings through drawings can help them to make sense of it. Young children may re-enact the event through play, for example smashing toy cars together after they have learned about a car accident. Even though this can be distressing for you, it is a normal way for children to process information about what has happened. How a child responds will depend on their age and understanding of death and dying.

What happens if a coroner needs to be involved?

If a coroner is involved, or there is a need for a post-mortem examination, this may affect the options of seeing the body of the person who has died, or it can delay arrangements for a funeral. This can make it very hard to believe what has happened or to start to grieve. There may also be media attention, which can be particularly distressing and intrusive to the family.

Things that may help include knowing how to contact the professionals involved who can keep you informed, such as a Coroner’s Officer or Family Liaison Officer; having a friend or contact who may be able to help you keep in touch with agencies or liaise on your behalf; and being able to talk to someone – family and friends, or someone neutral such as a bereavement support professional on our Helpline

For more on what happens in a Coroners’ Court, The Ministry of Justice has produced a guide to coroner services for bereaved people.

The Coroners' Court Support Service is an independent voluntary organisation whose trained volunteers offer emotional support and practical help to bereaved families, witnesses and others attending an Inquest at a Coroner’s Court.

Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.