In my work as a catastrophic injury trial lawyer in Atlanta, Georgia, I have often worked with clients who have lost a loved one in a sudden traumatic event.  To see a video of me talking about wrongful death case, click here.

In working with grieving survivors, we must be sensitive to the stages of the grief process.  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross defined five stages of grief, while others break it out into seven stages.  Of course, the sequence is not the same for everyone, as the stages overlap, some people skip over some stages, others get stuck in a stage, and others keep looping back.

Generally, the stages of grief according to include:

  1. Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.

  2. Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.

  3. Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.

  4. Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.

  5. Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.

  6. Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.

  7. Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.

I want to make it clear that I am not a psychologist or a mental health counselor.  I’m a trial lawyer. While I understand some of this stuff, my role is that of the gladiator, not the pastor or counselor. 

When we represent people who are necessarily dealing with grief, we sympathize. But we may suggest that clients seek professional grief counseling from a psychologist or pastoral counselor. I am on the board of an excellent non-profit counseling center in Atlanta, but that is not the only one to which we make referrals.


Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale), and is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy,. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases.  Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.