Orlando Grief Counselor offers Grieving Tips for Grey’s Anatomy – The Death of Derek Sheppard – Famously known for saying “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.” Derek Sheppard is a fictional character, but for a 11 years, millions of fans felt a connection to Derek Sheppard.  For some people Patrick Dempsey’s characters demise has created a shock and when this happens it can bring our own unresolved grief to the surface.  So what happened to Derek Sheppard in Grey’s Anatomy and what do we do about it?

In a valiant effort to save the lives of others, Grey’s Anatomy star Derek Sheppard (Patrick Dempsey) loses his own. After witnessing a serious accident, he stops to help the passengers involved in the crash. Quickly moving into physician mode, he attends to each person; some who have life threatening injuries. The interaction between Derek and a young girl is very touching as he solicits her help in managing the shock and pain they are all experiencing. Once emergency vehicles arrive and all passengers are safety transported, he is able to gather his composure and proceeds to leave the scene. However, his cell phone rings while he is turning his vehicle around and he stops in the middle of the road to look for it. Oblivious to the world around him, he finds the phone and as he looks up, he is confronted with an oncoming tracker trailer truck that hits him direct on. In a moment’s notice, his life is changed forever.

The irony of this situation is that he has just helped save the lives of others, giving them hope where they would not have otherwise found it. In what seems like a desperate situation, he finds a way to rescue us, but Patrick Dempsey’s character was not that fortunate.

As he arrives at the hospital which just received the patients he has rescued, even in his semi conscious state, he recognizes that the hospital staff is not following protocol and ordering a CT scan of his head. As a prominent brain surgeon, he has been in multiple situations where accident victims have been brought to the Emergency Room with the exact same injuries, so he knows what protocols they should follow. However, in his weakened state and not known as Dr Derek Sheppard at this remote hospital, he is treated like any other patient and suffers from an inexperienced medical staff. He is quoted as saying “I’m going to die because these people aren’t properly trained. “

In life, when we are confronted with shock and then try to reorient ourselves to the present, it takes time to recover from the horrors we have just witnessed. Such is the case for Derek, who understandably did not accurately survey the dangerous situation he had placed himself in.

Situations like these help us realize just how quickly tragedy can strike and we are unprepared in how to deal with the fear, loneliness and anger we will experience. Thoughts like who is to blame, and this is totally unfair, prevail. After all, the accident was caused by a reckless teen who was trying to show off to his girlfriend and ended up changing the course of at least 3 families’ lives, and the medical staff made unwise decisions which eventually resulted in Derek’s death.

This tragedy is not unlike what people have experienced and when faced with a scenario of grief and loss, many do not know how to deal with the myriad of emotions they face.

Here are some things you should expect to deal with when experiencing grief and loss

Don’t make any decisions without the help of other family members – you are probably too emotional and cannot think clearly, so allow others to guide you through the process. Like Meredith, Derek’s wife, decisions needed to be made about life sustaining measures and while in shock, it is difficult to think about the best course of action to take.

Understand that there is a grieving process and you will go through 5 stages

  1. Denial and Isolation – We rationalize our emotions and want to block out the facts. This is a defense mechanism that helps protect us from the pain we are experiencing.
  2. Anger – Lashing out at strangers, or even the loved one who left us which makes us feel guilty and then causes us more anger.
  3. Bargaining – If only questions.. If only we had taken a different route, gone to a different hospital/doctor, it creates an alternative to the painful reality of loss
  4. Depression – Sadness, regret, loneliness and the reality of burial and living costs set in.
  5. Acceptance – Let others be there and help comfort you it will help you learn to accept the loss and start to heal

In the end, Derek’s wife had to make some decisions about the care of her husband and she showed great mercy to the doctor who was responsible for not fighting to overrule the other doctor’s decision to bypass the CT scan; a measure that could have saved his life. Having seen her own patients families faced with this situation and the painful decisions they have to make, she knew what to expect and was now faced with experiencing it herself. In a moment’s notice, she went from being happily married to a widower and single mother and is now faced with carrying on life without her husband and friend.  If you are having trouble getting past grief or loss issues please reach out to a professional grief counselor to guide you through this process of healing!

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Author: Cathy Pinnock, MS is a Registered Marriage & Family Therapy Intern and works with grief issues, special needs kids, couples and women’s issues, with Total Life Counseling Center. Total Life Counseling Center specializes in marriage and families and our experts can be reached at (407) 248-0030.