Thursday, February 25, 2010

Loss of identity following the death of a loved one

I had lost my twenty-one year old daughter and I was not sure how I or my wife and son would go on living. As time went on it became clear that life does go on but it is and will always be different for me. I saw how kind and caring people did not know what to do to offer comfort(perhaps I did not know how to receive what they offered) and as time went on some of those I knew were trying to be so protective of me, especially in the office. They would almost apologetically ask me to do something, tell me to take my time or even that they did not expect anything of me for quite a while. This did not sit well with me and I was not sure why at that time. I have come to realize that I felt that I was losing something else-my identity at work. I had lost Casey and now I was losing the identity that I had as a trial lawyer representing consumers and being a partner in a center-city law firm where I had been employed for twenty-eight years. Too much had been lost and more was being taken away and it was as a result of well-intended acts of colleagues and friends. They and I did not understand that the loss I suffered had torn apart my belief that I had some control over my life and being too solicitous and protective was taking away more. I realized this when one of my partners asked me to look at a truck accident case that was coming to trial. He just asked me to do it-did not say "when I was able" or anything else except that he would appreciate my help. I felt empowered and grateful to be "seen" as my former self. That simple act did more for me than many gestures of protective concern. I am not being critical-people just do not know what to do under these circumstances. It really is a matter of respect and affording someone the dignity of making their own choices and finding their own way after a tragic loss. Support does not have to be in the form of protection. Just a thought to consider when a death occurrs and one wants to be helpful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Philadelphia Inquirer Article: Tragic Turn For Plaintiff's Attorney

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer was published on January 7 th , 2010: Tragic Turn For Plaintiff's Attorney. The article described my practice of personal injury law-and specifically about how I prepare settlement DVD's for the larger cases that I handle. I have done settlement DVD's for death cases, cases involving amputations, cases involving brain injuries and cases where the client had become paralyzed. All my clients and their families had suffered losses, as now I had, and I began to see how my loss would affect me as a personal injury attorney. I personally felt (and still do) different as a result of losing Casey, but rarely made a connection with a client as a result of understanding and communicating personally about their loss. I was able to describe and explain their loss in a legal sense and to obtain good results for clients, but , looking back , I could have done more. I had not been an unkind person , but I just did not know how to offer comfort to those who had suffered losses-I offered my legal experience but that was all. There is so much more that I can offer now that I have some experience with a tragic loss. I can and will do more in the future. Hundreds of people communicated with me as a result of publication of the article. Many said they had heard that Casey died during the summer but had not reached out since they did not know what to say. They did not know what they could do to lessen my grief. One person even sent an e-mail titled "my lack of courage." The awkwardness surrounding tragic loss prevents many kind and caring people from helping and supporting others. It is so difficult for those grieving and those who want to help but just do not know how to do so.