Menu
0

800-523-2319experts@tasanet.com

Articles

Where Responsibility, Compassion Meet: Working With Bereaved Clients

TASA ID:

A client whose wife was killed told me:

"At first, some people tried to be helpful but then it seemed like no one wanted to listen or talk about my wife anymore. Maybe they don't speak of her because they don't want to see me sad; maybe they just don't want to upset me. I wanted to talk about her but it seemed to make others uncomfortable. So I began to control it and wouldn't talk about her, so maybe people think I am doing well. But I am not doing well. I need to talk about my wife and remember her. How can I just forget her?"

Another client, whose son was killed by a drunken driver, said:

"People treat me differently. It's almost like my forehead was branded 'mother whose child was killed.' Friends, co-workers and neighbors avoid me if they can or if we are together pretend like nothing happened. If they would only look me in the eyes and ask how I am doing or say [son's] name it would be a little easier. I know I have changed but the way people treat me makes it worse. I feel very much alone."

Those who are bereaved often feel like they are treated differently, shunned, isolated or betrayed. Feelings of anger and disappointment with family, friends and co-workers for perceived failings in providing support after a death occurs are also common. It is unfortunate that many in their support network are unable to provide the type of support necessary to facilitate the process of adaptation to loss. Studies show that the bereaved's perception of the quality of support received is a strong determinant as to how well the bereaved will adapt to the loss.

Can we, as trial lawyers representing victims and their families, become part of the bereaved's support network? That is dependent in large part upon how we respond to our clients and their grief.

In the first case, the client whose wife was killed by a distracted driver first reached out to me, and as I discovered, several other personal injury law firms by e-mail seeking information and possible representation. His e-mail was so raw, so filled with pain, emptiness and anguish over the loss of his wife. When his wife was struck he was holding her hand; he learned of his wife's death as he was lying on the roadway with badly broken legs. Much of his torment was "survivor's guilt," wanting to have died instead of her.

I responded to his e-mail only by offering my condolences and saying when he was ready to talk about his loss I would be ready to listen; as a result, he retained me to represent him. He was not interested in how quickly I could meet with him, or in hearing about prior seven-figure results, but in knowing that his attorney would respectfully guide him through the process and be willing to understand what he was going through. I'd like to think that is what he really wanted and needed — a lawyer who would listen to him and would try to understand his loss.

For the mother whose son was killed by a drunken driver, her world was shattered and those in her support network did not know what to do or say. They could not comprehend the magnitude of her loss. She needed desperately to tell the story of how her son died and to somehow feel that even with such a short life he would be remembered. Telling that story was necessary for her to slowly try to adapt to the loss and move through the mourning process, but she could not find the support she needed.

Can we, as attorneys who represent clients in death cases not only provide sound legal counsel, but also sound emotional support? Do we wish to do so?

For 30 years, I have represented families of those who have lost loved ones. While I think that my job as an attorney is to understand a client's suffering in order to fully develop damages, my responsibility as a compassionate human being is to offer comfort if I can. Over the years I struggled with deciding what to say or do to lessen another's suffering and it was not until my daughter, Casey, died in 2009 that I began to appreciate just how awkward and uncomfortable many are with death. I experienced helpful support, but also support that was not helpful and no support from those whom I would have expected would offer support.

As a result of my personal experience of loss and participation in grief support groups; my pursuit of a master's degree in counseling and providing grief counseling to the bereaved through a local hospice; speaking with hundreds of people who are in mourning; and a review of research concerning how best to help those in mourning, it has become clear what helps and what does not help those in mourning. Whether we are representing clients or just as members of our communities, having an understanding of how to better offer comfort to those in mourning is a skill that can and should be improved — and within our professional scope, we can assist as part of an overall, holistic healing process for our clients. I offer the following observations and suggestions for providing comfort to those in mourning:

  • "I did not want to intrude on your grief." Many of us who mourn hear this from those trying, rather awkwardly, to explain why they did not reach out sooner. Whether their inaction was the result of a conscious decision that offering support would be intrusive, or not knowing what to do or not caring, from the perspective of those who have lost a loved one, it seems as though nothing was done. I have not met or spoken to anyone who was mourning who complained about people reaching out to offer condolences and "intruding upon their grief." We who mourn feel differently as a result of our loss. Failing to offer support only compounds the loss.


  • "I did not want to remind them of their loss." Many are reluctant to ask how the mourner is doing or to mention the deceased's name for fear of reminding the mourner of his or her loved one and ruining his or her day. Some mourners, in reaction to the discomfort of others, intentionally repress their critical need to speak about their loss. Thus a destructive cycle of silence is perpetuated. Those who mourn fear that a loved one will be forgotten and, from personal experience, we think of them regardless of whether others ask about our loss. To hear our loved one's name or to be asked to tell about our loved one is what we desperately want and need. We may become emotional when speaking, but that emotion is a healthy reaction to another's interest, which is a special gift.


  • "I do not know what to say or do to lessen someone's grief." While some may legitimately feel this way, it suggests that they are looking at another person's grief as something that needs to be "fixed." Grief cannot be fixed by any words or gestures, no matter how heartfelt. Contemplating offering support to someone who is mourning from this perspective will not be productive.
Successful adaptation to loss is a process and takes time. What needs to be done is simply to be present and listen. Listening in a manner that lets others know that we care, that we want to hear what they say, and that we are trying to understand what this must be like from their perspective is about the best that can be offered. Very often those who attempt to offer comfort will not be required to say much at all if they convey that they care and are willing to respectfully listen. Those who grieve have a story of loss and pain and need to tell that story, often over and over, to feel someone is trying to understand.

  • Giving unsolicited advice or repeating platitudes. No one wants to be the recipient of unsolicited advice. That is particularly true for those in mourning. They need to be given respect and the right to resolve grief in a manner in which they see fit. Advising those in mourning to get on with their lives, stop visiting the cemetery so frequently or to give away the deceased's clothes is not respectful. Even suggesting that someone is doing well as he or she progresses through the mourning process could cause the bereaved to question whether he or she is grieving enough for his or her loved one. "Be strong," "time heals all wounds" and "he or she is in a better place" can be interpreted as criticism of the manner or length of one's mourning. Unless one is absolutely certain of a mourner's religious beliefs, be very careful about saying or sending cards with overtly religious messages. They can anger and be seen as disapproving of the manner or extent of one's grief.


  • What can one say? These simple statements are appreciated by those who mourn because they are nonjudgmental, do not constitute advice-giving and allow the mourner to mourn as she or he sees fit: I was thinking of you and your family; I can't imagine what you are going through; I don't know what to say but I am here for you; whenever you are ready I want to listen to try to understand; I can't think of anything that I can do but I am and will be here for you if you want to talk.


  • Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions. Those in mourning will have strong emotions on those special occasions, and their grief may be stronger at those times. Sending a card on the anniversary of the death, on the deceased's birthday or around the holidays acknowledging that you are thinking about them at that time will let them know they are not alone and will be greatly appreciated.

Reaching out to someone who has suffered a loss and listening respectfully not only helps the bereaved but also helps the supporter. While it may be demanding to support those who are grieving, many who do so feel that the experience was rewarding and instructive. Some feel that by learning about death and bereavement they developed a greater appreciation for their own life, restructured their priorities and placed more value on relationships.

The relationship between the lawyer and client is rooted in mutual trust and understanding. We strive to convey the emotions, experiences and deepest thoughts of our clients to judges and juries who may not have a personal context within which to understand our client's unique suffering. To have conveyed to our client that we are willing to listen to his or her suffering and to have been privileged to have our client share experiences with us, joins us in a special journey that can be intensely satisfying for both the client and the attorney.


Reprinted with permission from the March 21, 2012 issue of The Legal Intelligencer. © 2012 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Bookmark and Share
Previous Long-Term Sequelae of E.coli 0157:H7
Next Unseen Oil Continues to Damage the Environment. BP Corporate Recklessness in Stark Contrast to "Reasonable Person" Criteria
Print

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x

Let Us Find Your Expert 

Note: This form is to be completed by legal and insurance professionals ONLY. If you are a party in a case that requires an expert witness, please have your attorney contact TASA at 800-523-2319.

Submit

Search Experts

TASA provides a variety of quality, independent experts who meet your case criteria. Search our extensive list of experts now.

Search Experts

Testimonials

  • I think it's always good to have access to experts when [TASA] make[s] the process so easy."

    Scott McIntosh, Lewis McIntosh & Teare, Royersford, PA

  • As a busy practitioner, managing a sizeable caseload, I can use all of the help available to me. If I can outsource a task, particularly one as important as securing a qualified expert, I will jump at the opportunity. I use TASA in nearly every case where I need to find an expert witness, be it an engineer, an architect, an economist, etc. They have thousands of qualified experts to refer in virtually any field. Best of all the process is extremely simple. When I need an expert I simply contact TASA, whose knowledgeable representatives ask you targeted questions about your case, your legal theories, and your goals, in order to find the right expert for your case. I usually receive CVs and calls from the potential expert within hours. If you find the originally selected person is not a good fit – for whatever reason – TASA will work with you to find the right person. I would happily recommend this service to any attorney."

    Patrick K. Gibson, Gibson & Perkins PC, Media, PA

  • Ms. Darlie I. McDonald RN was awesome on the witness stand, and we prevailed in our case to the tune of  [a] (highly unusual [amount] for a medical malpractice [case] in our area).  I'd highly recommend her."

    Shane Reed, Shane A. Reed Law Office, Jacksonville, OR

  • I appreciate your inquiries and offers of assistance as well as the consistently high-quality, well-organized, and erudite TASA webinars, which invariably have excellent presenters."

    Maurice S. Kane, Cummings McClorey Davis Acho and Associates PC, Riverside, CA

  • Steven Kursh was an outstanding technical expert on our ecommerce IP lawsuit. He completed a massive amount of work on extremely complicated material, in a very short period of time. His work product was first rate and I think he would have done a terrific job if the case proceeded to trial. He is very articulate and helped us. I only wish we had gotten him involved sooner in the litigation."

    Daniel J. Brown, Reiss Sheppe LLP, New York, NY

  • I thank you all for the response to my request for an expert witness...Both Mr. Scott and Mr. Bianchi appear to be well-qualified for this case, but we have hired another expert. As always, I was impressed by TASA's ability to produce exceptionally well-qualified candidates with great speed."

    John Thomas Dzialo, The Law Offices of John Thomas Dzialo, Santa Ana, CA

  • Thank you for your quick response and the names of the two proposed experts. The situation that gave rise to our search for these experts has resolved and we will not need to retain them. However, we will continue to keep TASA in mind as these needs arise from time to time as your breadth of coverage for experts of all types is unparalleled, in my experience."

    Bart W. Brizzee, County of San Bernadino, San Bernadino, CA

  • I have used TASA for the last five years for locating an expert for many personal injury cases. On each and every occasion, TASA was able to find me more than one qualified expert. With such a variety of experts, I was able to select one who met my client's needs in prosecuting these claims. I found the experts TASA referred not only qualified, but available on a moment's notice. Your fees are reasonable and fair, and I will continue to use TASA for the remainder of my career."

    Robert Oushalem, Esq., The Law Office of Robert Oushalem, San Jose, CA

  • I recently used TASA for the first time to locate an expert to testify in a case requiring rather unusual expertise and where there were no applicable regulations or standards for guidance. TASA referred an expert in California who was everything a lawyer looks for in a forensic expert. He was promptly available for consultation, efficiently prepared for deposition and trial and very persuasive and credible with the jury. TASA's administrative services and assistance in locating this expert were excellent, and we would certainly use both the expert and TASA in the future."

    Theodore Phillips, Miller Hauser Law Group, LLP, Placerville, CA

  • TASA has always given me first-class service, but in a recent matter, TASA found the 'needle-in-the-haystack' expert witness we feared didn't exist. We needed an expert for a very narrow and limited issue in a very narrow and limited industry. Because TASA has an extensive expert witness database, it was able to give us a referral almost on the spot. It's why I always turn to TASA first."

    Kathleen A. Herdell, Law Offices of Kathleen A. Herdell, St. Helena, CA

  • There are numerous companies that provide litigation experts. However, I always choose the TASA Group because of their quick response in finding a qualified expert for my particular case. I have extreme confidence in the TASA Group and will continue to use their services in the future."

    Katie A. Killion, Esq., Chiurazzi & Mengine, LLC, Pittsburgh, PA

  • I spent hours trying to locate an expert in a very technical case involving a defect in a medical device. I could have saved a lot of time by calling TASA first. Within hours, I was supplied with the name of an engineer who had more than 30 years of job training, education and expertise in the precise area involving the device. Bravo TASA!"

    Timothy W. Peach, Partner, Peach & Weathers, San Bernardino, CA

  • We were involved in a case pending for more than five years with seven parties from three states. Three mediations failed before we looked to TASA for an expert. TASA referred an expert who clearly understood the complexity of the project and could effectively support his opinion. If it weren't for his expert advice and deposition testimony, the case would not have settled. Interestingly, the case settled within 90 days from the date this expert began."

    Renee Colbert, Esq., Corporate Counsel, W.G. Tomko, Inc., Finleyville, PA

  • Using TASA to find experts for defending our client in a negligent homicide case ended up being one of the most important decisions we made in trial preparation. The experts they suggested were exactly what we needed for the case. I truly did not expect to find experts that would be such a perfect fit for the nature of case. TASA provided us with highly qualified experts in somewhat narrow fields of expertise. A large percentage of our victory is due to the experts recommended by TASA."

    Marta Farmer, Esq., Carl S. White Law Office, Haver, MT

  • I have used TASA's services since the 1980's and have never been disappointed. TASA is indispensable for locating that hard-to-find expert. TASA representatives have always been courteous and pleasant, with the attitude that they cannot do enough to help. I expect to continue using TASA throughout my career."

    Brad W. Greenberg, Esq., Smyth Law Offices, P.C., Brockton, MA

  • I needed to retain a multitude of scientists from a variety of disciplines for a complex litigation. Initially, I went through a series of interviews with an extremely knowledgeable and professional team of TASA advisors. They were able to find highly qualified experts in the specific fields, all of whom turned out to be superior in qualification and area of expertise to my adversary’s experts. I am a TASA believer!"

    Nooshin Namazi, Partner, Nicoletti Hornig & Sweeney, New York, NY

  • TASA always comes through in the difficult IP cases. Their representatives work with you to refine the search criteria and quickly send you a list of very qualified experts."

    Timothy L. Boller, Principal, Seed Intellectual Property Law Group, PLLC, Seattle, WA

  • Special thanks to our TASA referral advisor for her quick response to our initial request—we were extremely happy with how fast TASA was able to assist us! Your group does excellent work, and it is always my first stop when looking for an expert."

    Susanne K. Sullivan, Senior Attorney, Southwest Airlines Corporation, Dallas, TX

  • When we needed an expert in a patent infringement lawsuit, we turned to TASA. We were looking for a witness qualified in two unrelated technical areas, and TASA worked with us to identify and refine our requirements. TASA performed well, promptly providing us with several excellent candidates to consider, one of whom we retained."

    Joseph T. Miotke, Partner, IP Practice Group, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Milwaukee, WI

  • Our team had a very positive experience with TASA. The Expert was professional, efficient, and certainly an expert in his field. His work and testimony contributed to a winning decision for our client! We will recommend the Expert and TASA whenever appropriate."

    Stephanie Sprague, Esq., CT

  • (The Expert) WAS A PERFECT FIT for my case: qualified, competent, easy to work with, attentive to detail, knowledgeable, smart, communicative, enthusiastic, resourceful—have I left anything out? I highly recommend TASA and would be happy to share my experience with anyone else. Thank you!"

    Michael Porrazzo, Esq., The Porrazzo Law Firm, Mission Viejo, CA

  • The expert was very thorough. TASA was quick to respond with an answer to my request. I have used TASA in the past under various other law firms and have been pleased. TASA continues to live up to expectations and then some."

    Anne Desormier-Cartwright, Esq., Jupiter, FL

  • Your organization found us an appropriate expert witness in less than one day. This was excellent service. The expert you found was excellent and a pleasure to work with."

    William A. Ehrlich, Esq., Allentown, PA

  • (The Expert)…accomplished exactly what we wanted. TASA was very prompt and efficient in locating him. All fees were reasonable."

    J. Michael Lehman, Esq., Bruce, Bruce, & Lehman, Wichita, KS

  • We needed an Internet expert right away to meet a deadline. One phone call to TASA, and in less than a day, TASA called back with a list of 8-10 experts who were exactly what I needed. The TASA expert I chose knew the business and mechanics of the Internet so well—he was a PhD and professor who had written a book on the subject—that he put the fear of truth in the defendant that caused him to settle. When I get the kind of service that I did from TASA, I stick with it and use it again and again."

    Philip Green, Attorney at Law, Green and Green, San Rafael and San Francisco, CA

  • Excellent—in a word. I just do not have the time to hunt for experts. (The Expert) was fantastic. Thank you for providing such a quality service."

    Francesca Carinci, Esq., Steubenville, OH

  • TASA stands for Tops At Serving Attorneys. It’s always rewarding working with TASA."

    Marshall A. Bernstein, Esq., Philadelphia, PA.

  • That was, however, one of the best and most interesting webinars I've seen in the last few years.  Thank you for hosting it and introducing me to such a knowledgeable and caring person." - Referencing the Medicolegal Consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Civilian and Military Populations webinar. 

    Lori Bauer Apodaca, The Law Office of Lori Bauer Apodaca, Los Lunas, NM 

  • I needed a dental malpractice expert to assist me in a complex negligence claim. The very able staff at TASA had no difficulty identifying a knowledgeable professional who rendered a reasonable opinion in support of the case, which aided our client in receiving a fair amount of compensation. I am grateful to TASA for its invaluable assistance!"

    John Hermina, Hermina Law Group, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland & Washington, DC

  • For many years I have relied upon TASAmed to provide excellent medical malpractice experts. As a sole practitioner, I find it reassuring to know that a seasoned expert is just a call away. Usually, TASAmed has found just the right expert in a day or two. The support and guidance I receive from TASAmed is a vital part of my law practice, and I have come to expect both great service and high rewards from my TASA cases."

    Thomas J. Massey, The Thomas J. Massey Law Firm, Fallbrook, CA

  • The caliber of physicians that TASAmed has referred to us is superb. Prior referral groups used the same experts over and over again. With TASAmed I have access to experts all over the United States. I’m not limited to the same experts. The TASAmed staff is easy to work with and very professional, with an established track record. When I call for a medical expert, I’m called back the same day, and I often have an idea of what expert will be contacted before my first call is completed."

    Kari Alexander, Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, Texas

  • We hadn’t been able to find the medical expert we needed, and, frankly, I didn’t think we’d find one in that field. TASAmed was able to find us an expert with the exact expertise and medical experience we needed. Your referral advisor was very helpful and found our expert in one day."

    Kurt Osenbaugh, Partner, Alston & Bird, Los Angeles, CA

  • TASAmed’s service was prompt and efficient in connecting us with the right person. The expert was so cooperative and helpful. With how challenging it is to find a narrow area of medical expertise, it’s extra helpful to have your TASAmed pool to plug into instantaneously."

    Greg Roosevelt, Esq., Law Office of Greg Roosevelt, Edwardsville, IL

  • TASAmed has connected me to credible experts in four medical cases just this year. TASAmed and the referred experts respond quickly, the fees are reasonable, and the referrals are well tuned to the fields I request. Since the experts are already associated with TASAmed, they are comfortable having substantial conversations about the case, both before and after record review."

    Martin A. Cannon, Esq., Cannon Law Offices, Crescent, IA

  • I have used TASAmed a number of times and have always been happy with your give-and-take timeliness. Once I requested a medical expert in a particular field, but, after speaking with your referral advisor, we concluded that an expert in another field would be more effective. That same day, I spoke to two experts the advisor gave me, and I retained one."

    Mark A. Lope, Esq., Lope and Honlihan, Butler, PA

  • Very close to the time of trial, the TASAmed advisor quickly referred me to several experienced ER trauma physicians to review medical records and prepare me for cross-examination. After selecting my expert, I over-nighted records for review, and the doctor found valuable information for my client's defense. Thank you, TASAmed, for this timely, specific, valuable referral."

    Charles Morgan, Esq., Law Office of Charles L. Morgan, Jr., Charlotte, NC