Coping when life throws you a curve

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A burglary, fire or car accident are just a few examples of situations that can pull the rug out from under your feet. Such trying events can affect your mental health, sometimes for quite a while.

What are the consequences of distressing events such as these? What can be done to cope and heal? Healthy lifestyle habits, support from loved ones and professional help are all solutions within your reach.

What is a loss in the world of insurance?

In insurance terms, the textbook definition of loss is the financial damage one suffers due to an insurable event. A loss may be losing a home to fire, car vandalism or water damage to a cottage.

Such unexpected events can have a profound impact on people’s lives whether physically, psychologically, materially or financially. And although everyone responds to a stressful event in their own way, there are common physical, emotional and behavioural side effects. Hence the need for support to help cope and work through triggered distress.

The impacts on mental health

While we tend to bodily injuries without a second thought, we sometimes forget to address the emotional and psychological impacts of these injuries. Why? Because we simply can't see them.

An open wound needs stitching. A broken leg needs a cast. But the solution isn't quite as obvious when dealing with emotional distress, anxiety or stress. Nevertheless, psychological trauma should be handled with the same care as physical trauma.

After a road accident

While you may walk away from an accident more scared than hurt, such a shock can have serious psychological repercussions. Fear of death, fear of hurting people by getting behind the wheel again, fear of having another accident… these are just some examples. And when fear sets in, it's not easy to shake off.

Perhaps you know someone who has had a traumatic experience? A friend, a co-worker, a relative? It's easy to feel powerless to help them cope with their distress. Even more so when you see their mental health take a turn for the worse. The effects can be felt months, sometimes years after the event.

How do people respond to trauma?

People who go through a traumatic event can experience a range of physical, psychological, emotional and behavioural reactions (This hyperlink will open in a new tab).

  • Physical: Headaches, other physical pains, palpitations, difficulty sleeping, acute agitation, shaking or trembling, fatigue, stomach upset, etc.
  • Psycho-emotional: Difficulty concentrating or paying attention, confusion, feeling overwhelmed, memory loss, difficulty making decisions, feeling "stuck", sadness, fear, anxiety or depression, guilt, etc.
  • Behavioural: Irritability, isolation, eating disorders, use of alcohol, drugs or medication, conflicts with loved ones, etc.

Thankfully, all these reactions (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) are normal and generally short-lived. After a few days or weeks, they subside and eventually disappear altogether. If they intensify or persist for a longer period, to the point of becoming invasive, then it's essential to consult a mental health professional who specializes in trauma therapy or counselling.

Other possible reactions

Depending on the circumstances surrounding an event, some people come to question the meaning of life. Possible reactions include:

  • A feeling of injustice: “Why me?’, “Why them?”
  • A need to make sense of what happened, find some meaning to ascribe to the event
  • Trouble getting back to a life they find satisfactory
  • Feeling exhausted and losing hope for a better future

When confronted with an unexpected and distressing situation, these feelings are normal. The important thing is to talk it through and find solutions. The goal is to regain a sense of equilibrium and well-being. After all, life goes on.

What about post-traumatic stress disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) typically follows a serious event or an intense fear of injury or death. PTSD is characterized by symptoms that persist for several months after an event. These symptoms include:

  • Intrusions: repetitive and invasive memories, sudden flashbacks, nightmares, images or smells reminiscent of the event
  • Avoidance: efforts to avoid anything that reminds them of the event, such as places, people, activities, etc.
  • Hypervigilance: being constantly on high alert and jumpy, even in the absence of danger. This can lead to headaches, sleep disorders, shaking, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, anger, agitation, attention and concentration difficulties, etc.

Recovering… stages similar to grieving

When an incident upheaves your daily life, it's normal to feel overwhelmed. The path to recovery can be akin to that of bereavement.

This unique process is made up of a series of stages, which can take place in order... or disorder.

Shock and denial

Thoughts like “this can’t be happening to me,” and “that couldn’t have happened,” are common at this stage. This is a stage of denial which is characterized by a certain numbness, leaving one unable to feel or react.


This phase is a time of sadness, withdrawal and anxiety, the hallmark of which is difficulty with everyday tasks.

Fortunately, this phase usually only lasts a few weeks or months.


This stage is marked by anger, disbelief, feelings of injustice or guilt. It can last from a few weeks to a few months. People look for someone or something to blame to make sense of their ordeal. They recognize the loss they have experienced is permanent.

Reorganization and adaptation

This is the stage where people see the light at the end of the tunnel. Gradually, they regain a sense of normalcy. Less overwhelmed by loss, they are adapting to their new situation. They recover an interest in life and see the possibility of planning new projects.

Advice on your road to recovery

How can you lessen the impact of a loss? What resources are available to cope?

Here are a few solutions within reach:

  • Surround yourself with friends and family to keep isolation at bay.
  • Talk to someone you trust about what happened and how you feel about it.
  • Resume your usual activities and hobbies, maintain a daily routine and pursue your passions.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Desensitize yourself to situations, places, or people that trigger memories of the event.
  • Steer clear of alcohol and drugs.

When you've suffered an accident or loss that’s particularly difficult, talking about it is important. Even if you seem to be okay after the fact, trauma can show up later. Psychological support can reduce anxiety (This hyperlink will open in a new tab) and desensitize you to the trauma. You can also read up on prolonged exposure therapy (This hyperlink will open in a new tab), which is proving highly effective in treating these symptoms.

Free, confidential, effective

Your home, auto or recreational vehicle insurance policy includes a psychological support service after a loss or accident. Talk to specialists who care about your well-being.

Whether it’s a burglary, car accident, or even a massive tree falling on a house during a storm... such events that can cause distress over the short or long term. Ask for support after a loss or accident. Your mental health and that of your loved ones must always come first.