Written by Clara Hinton
Car accidents claim the lives of many teenagers each year. Getting the call late at night saying, “There has been an accident”, is probably one of the greatest fears of having a teenager of driving age.
For parents who do live through the nightmare of getting a late night call saying there has been an accident, the next greatest heartache is not having the chance to say goodbye. It is so difficult to move forward when there is that one painful obstacle. There was no farewell. There was no opportunity to say goodbye.
What is a parent to do? How do you move forward in grief when there was no goodbye? At some point in the grieving process, it is a good idea to find a way to say the goodbye you never had the opportunity to express to your teenager. A goodbye ritual is not only appropriate, but also very healing. There are several ways of doing this, and you should choose the one that gives you, the parent, the most comfort.
Many parents find it quite healing to write their deceased child a goodbye letter. In this letter, state all of the things you would have said had you known this was your last time to talk with your child. Say how much you love your son or daughter. Talk about a few of those extra special moments you experienced together as a family. State the things in your letter that you feel so deeply in your heart.
This letter writing can be a difficult thing to do; it might take several weeks of trying to accomplish this one very important task. But, the benefits far outweigh the effort put into this one exercise of finding a way to say goodbye.
After the letter is written, many parents find great comfort in visiting the graveside and reading the letter aloud. “Parents may even talk to the child as they visit the cemetery, speaking words that were left unsaid. There is great healing in this.” (Silent Grief, Chapter 5)
If you feel comfortable enough, bring other close family members of the child with you, each reading personal words of love. Then, create a ritual that will be remembered in a healing way. Place the letters in plastic and cover them with beautiful flowers. Perhaps release a balloon in honor of a celebration of the life your child had with you. Be creative, and do what feels right for you to do, as your special way of saying a final goodbye.
Having the opportunity to say goodbye to your child is important. It gives you that special last time that you needed to say all of the things that you feel. It is a way of accepting the reality of your child’s death. This time of saying goodbye is also a way of making amends for any harsh words you might have spoken to your child.
As you say this final goodbye, you will begin to feel the release of many emotions. You can expect tears, and an overwhelming sense of comfort as you begin to let go. This act of saying goodbye can be one of the most healing steps forward in your long, painful journey of grief.