Dear Dr. Leary:
I want to know why I struggle to let my son go. He passed away five months ago at the age of 18. He had just graduated from high 3 weeks prior to passing. He was just full of energy and love and he had a caring heart. I just don’t understand why our son did not get that chance to fight to live. I have so many questions and I just don’t get the right answers. He was my baby and my best friend. I miss him so much; I just want to be with him. My siblings rarely speak to me. My nieces and nephew don’t visit or call, like before. I feel as if I have a curse upon me. My son is the second to pass away at a young age. I lost my Godson in a hit-and-run accident just 4 years before our son. They passed away on the same month almost at the exact time. It doesn’t make sense to me and my cousin. I don’t know how much more of life I don’t know how much more I can take without him, as a part of me died with him. So as I close I just need answers and I can’t seem to get the ones I need. I only get the ones people want me to hear, and not the ones I need. I miss my son and nephew so much.
My deepest condolences on the deaths of your beloved son and nephew. These two deaths bring devastation to the lives of so many, and your letter reflects the anguish that you are wrestling with. You say that you want answers to why your son died, and why he did not get a chance to live. You are not receiving the answers that might bring you peace, but I think that there are not answers that will take away the “why”. Life and your future as you wanted it to be were changed on those two days. It was not your plan, or what you had worked so hard to achieve. You expected to have a future that included them; your lifeplan revolved around them; and now you must revise your life, your role, your identity, and much of the meaning of your life. That is hard work, and will take a long time.
Can you think of what answer or reasoning would bring you peace? We could answer that your son died because of someone else’s reckless choice. We could answer that he died because his body could not recover. Those are factual and scientific responses, but I think you are asking from a spiritual perspective. I wonder if what you are really needing is acknowledgement and validation for your deep pain. Validation is the key to working with our grief. What that means is that we need to have others who will hear us, stay with us, and accept our grief rather than dismiss it, minimize it, fix it, or try to take it away. I don’t want to do any of that to you. So what I want you to know is that I hear your pain and I will not turn away. I do not have answers, and can not take away your pain. You want your son back. You want your life with him and the future you dreamed of. You are still his mother and you think of him constantly.
What would you need to hear from your son and nephew to know that they are okay, and still with you? Do you have a faith that brings you peace about what happens after death? Do you know other mothers who have suffered the loss of a child…and can you use their example to find a way to build a new life? This is no easy task. The journey through grief is long and hard and lonely. Only you can do this work, and truly feel the pain, but you can ask for trusted friends and loved ones to stay with you.
The greatest comfort to our grief is validation and another person’s genuine presence. As you share your grief and talk about your son and nephew, you come to accept the reality of their deaths, and understand your wide range of feelings. In the process, you will navigate your grief, and come to understand what you need, what will help, and what won’t. You are the expert on your grief. Others who have not yet had to experience loss do not know that it is a never-ending story, and there is no such thing as closure. Others can support you so that grief softens, and you find meaning in a new world without your loved one. Support and other’s presence can help you to give your sorrow words, and find a way to have a future.
I hope that will soften your pain, and allow you the strength to accept this harsh reality. We never get over a death, but I trust there will come to a day when you smile before you cry when you think of your son and nephew.
Blessings to you,