I have been spending each afternoon with my 17-year-old son, Ted. I spend the morning home schooling my daughters and then we go to the hospital. Ted’s accident was five weeks ago. He is basically the same since the accident. He does open his eyes some times. He does NOT respond to any commands and is still in a coma. If (or when) Ted does come out of the coma he will not be the same Ted that we all knew. How do you mourn for a son that is still alive, but will never be the person you knew?
Sincerely, Lost Mother
First of all, I have to tell you that I feel totally inadequate to answer your question. You are dealing with a situation that must be so painful, difficult and unexpected I really doubt that anyone who hasn’t actually been in your shoes can help you as much as you deserve and need to be helped. I strongly recommend you seek out some kind of support system for people who have had severely injured children. I know right now is probably not the time you want to be seeking anything out, but when you feel ready I would start by asking your son’s doctor, a hospital psychologist or trying the United Way in your area.
There is nothing amiss in needing to mourn for your son even though he is still alive. Although your son is alive, there is much you and he have lost. I’m sure it’s true that he will never be the same person you knew before the accident, but I don’t think you will ever be the same person either or your family or anyone else who is close to Ted. Something like this effects everyone and I think it’s really important that you try to allow any anger, sadness and mourning within yourself or anyone else who is missing the lives you had before this trauma. It’s only natural to feel angry or sad or any other way you feel no one wanted it this way.
Maybe it would help to think a little about other life altering events and how we integrate them into our lives. For example, when a child graduates from high school, or college or gets married, there is always a part of the celebratory ceremony that is a mourning for that part of the person (and ourselves) that is lost in the change. In these cases, we try to put emphasis on the brightness of the future but if you think about our thoughts and feelings during these events you will see that, for much happiness as there is for the imagined future, there is an equal amount of sadness, mourning and recounting of the life and relationship which is lost in the change. We mourn for the child who will never come home with tales of high school again, or the new woman who starts her own family and will never be the daughter she was before.
I realize that your son’s change is unimaginably harder to integrate than if he had just graduated from high school, but it might help to consider how we normally deal with these smaller life changes in order to somehow put your grief in perspective and maybe see that in some way you have dealt with this situation before. You have lived through many life changes and although this one may certainly be ten thousand times worse, you have integrated life changes before, you have felt angry, sad and frightened of the future before and in some of the same ways you will integrate your son’s accident and the repercussions.
Right now I think you are doing the best thing possible. Going to the hospital, sitting by his bed, possibly talking to him or holding his hand, just letting him know you care and you love him, these are all vitally important no matter what the future brings. All you can do is your best. Maybe your best today is not your best tomorrow, that’s OK. You are dealing with one of the most difficult challenges life can present so please try to be easy on yourself.
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