Question: My son died in a motorcycle accident three years ago. It was and still is a very tragic experience for me that I cannot seem to get over. I go through my days constantly feeling broken hearted at the thought that he is gone.

When the accident happened, he was thrown over 50 feet and sustained severe head injuries. To make matters worse, the woman who hit him had been texting at the time, so his death was due to her utter carelessness.

After the accident, my son was put on life support and we were cautiously hopeful that he had a chance of recovery. After 15 days the doctors informed us that my son was not making any improvement and in fact his recovery chances had diminished to the point that they recommended taking him off life support. At their advice, we made the difficult decision to pull the plug.

Since that day three years ago, I am still overcome with anger at the woman who is responsible for his death (she was never cited for any negligence), grief that my son is gone and guilt wondering if we made the right decision to end life support. I am still wondering if prayer or a miracle could have saved his life.

How do I come to terms with my feelings of anger, grief and guilt? Am I going to feel like this for the rest of my life?

~ Broken-hearted


Dear Broken-hearted,

My heart goes out to you and your family. When a child dies the “natural family order” shifts and an extra layer of grief is added.

Although anger and guilt are normal, they can curtail the grief process. To heal, we must express unspoken or unacknowledged emotions. If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to write down your feelings of grief, guilt, anger (towards the woman, the justice system, yourself, even God), letting your emotions flow. Your anger or guilt may be covering up other unexpressed emotions. If so, write them down also. Then I’d ask God what to do with that piece of paper … burn it, crumble it and throw it away, etc.?

Many people get stuck in the “should haves” or “if onlies,” transferring blame to themselves and carrying much guilt, as you’ve expressed. Mistakenly, we can believe that our decisions could have changed the reality of the situation and prevented our loved one’s death. Although, we have to ask ourselves would they just have delayed death making the situation harder?

Before my husband died, during his hospitalization because of a stroke and head trauma, I also questioned whether I was making the right decisions. Fortunately, I asked myself these questions: Did I want him to stay alive more for me or for him? What would the quality of his life be if he lived? Could he recover and be fully “himself” or would he live physically and/or mentally incapacitated for the rest of his life? I could truthfully say my husband would never want to remain alive if he couldn’t have a fulfilling life.

As the burden was too heavy, I prayed and committed my husband’s life into God’s care. I was assured that God knew my husband intimately, loved him even more than I did and would make the best decision for his life. That prayer helped me come to a point of acceptance and peace with his death.

I pray that you will be able to release your anger and guilt to God and find peace as you walk out your grief journey.

Praying for you,

Pastor Dabney Beck


Dear Broken-Hearted,

I am sorry for the loss of your son. I cannot imagine the pain and torment that you must experience every day. Your mixture of grief, anger, regret, guilt and more shows us how complicated grief can be. We are not made to bear the burden of grief alone.

With the advent of online video, counseling and therapies, both individual and group-based, are widely available. These therapies work at untangling the complex emotions that come with grief and allow us to move toward a greater sense of wholeness. 

Death robs us of part of ourselves, especially when we lose someone deeply loved. But that person who loved us deeply would want us to find wholeness that is able to cope with losing them. Sometimes it feels like a betrayal to “move on” – as if our coping somehow forgets the love that we shared. But you yourself know how debilitating three years of daily grieving can be on the mind, body and soul.

I want to make sure you understand how much courage it takes to ask the questions you have asked. Far too many people assume they must suffer as a sign of their love. Or they dismiss their feelings as weakness. Or we seek answers to unknowable questions. Instead, you have reached out for help and understanding beyond yourself. There is wisdom and endurance to be found in others and I hope you are able to find others who can hold your grief with you and help you to carry it. www.psychologytoday.com has resources that allow you to search for your specific needs – sometimes finding the right therapist takes time, but it is worth the journey!

Rev. Kyle Sears
La Cañada Congregational Church