Monday, June 4, 2012

Mother Struggles to "Accept" the Death of Her Son

[Reviewed and updated May 6, 2024]

A reader writes: My son died instantly six months ago, when the car he was a passenger in slammed into a tree. The driver was drunk and speeding. My son had just turned 21 a week before the accident. Ironically, my son didn't go out that often, and when he did, he drove most of the time. I still can't believe this has happened and that he is gone forever. We are a close-knit family (we have two other children) and our son’s absence is felt so deeply by all of us. Nothing seems right without him. We went away for a few days last week, and it was hard to be completely happy because he is always on my mind. When I think of him being gone forever my heart starts pounding and I feel like I could be sick. I tell myself to take this one step at a time, but what will it take for me to accept what has happened?

My response: I understand that you are struggling, and my heart goes out to you as you and your family mourn this tragic death of your beloved son. I am so very sorry for your loss.

You ask what will it take for you to accept what has happened, and I'm afraid there is nothing you can ever say or do that will make this horrible reality "acceptable."

You will mourn the death of your son every day of your life for the remainder of your life, and it will never, ever be "acceptable" to you that he has been ripped away from you this way. As everyone who has lost a child will tell you, over time (and a very long time at that) you will learn to live with it, and the intensity of the pain you are feeling now will diminish over time—provided that you continue seeking to understand your own reactions, and reaching out for support, as you have done by sharing your story here.

You are not alone in feeling uncomfortable with the thought of “accepting” what has happened to your son. Most of us mourners have trouble with words like “acceptance,” because in truth the death of our loved ones will never, ever be “acceptable” to us. If these particular words bother you, try substituting words like reconciliation, "accommodation" and “integration,” and understand that it takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get to that point in your own grief journey.

I’d like to recommend to you a book entitled A Grace Disguised, by Jerry Sittser. The author lost his wife, mother and a daughter in a single automobile accident, and he writes eloquently about his struggle to come to terms with this catastrophic loss. (I ordered and read the book based on a client’s recommendation, and it is indeed extraordinary.) If you decide to read it, you may find that it speaks to you in a wise and meaningful way, too.

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