Rebuilding an emotional relationship after serious accident

Q: Our daughter and her friends were in a drinking and driving accident about 1 ½ years ago.

One of the young people died in the accident. Our daughter was seriously injured. We were told that she might not survive the surgery, but she did and has had a remarkable recovery. She is still a little slow getting around but her rehabilitation team believes that she may have a full recovery, at least physically.

But that does not mean that her emotional well-being will be what it was before the accident and my husband and I wonder if the daughter we know now is the same one we knew before the accident.

She seems different. She will soon leave home again.

We would like her to leave on a good note, but when we feel so disconnected with her we are not sure that will happen. What can we do to resurrect our relationship with our daughter and ensure good times with her once she is back on her own?

A: I have no doubt that what you see and feel when you work with your daughter around the house is frustrating. The problem is that you are hoping that she will recover emotionally and be the same girl she was years ago. But she is not the same girl. If nothing else, the trauma from the accident is likely having a permanent effect on her emotional well-being.

Add that to the precarious situation she was in while the medical team was attempting to help her recover in the hospital and the emotions she likely felt when she realized that one of her friends died in the truck.

If you want to continue to have a reasonable relationship with your daughter, you would do well to start over. Treat her for what she is, an unknown person to you and your husband.

You have to put aside all of those hopes and expectations you had for her years ago and, with her, reformulate your relationship. It is a momentous task. You would be wise to work with some of the personal counsellors attached to her rehabilitation unit and ask them to help you reconstruct your parent-child relationship.

To help you with this process, you and your husband might consider spending time alone with each other, to cry and grieve the part of your daughter that disappeared in the accident.

You need the right to feel sad, to let go of whatever guilt you are having, and to be proud of whatever good times the three of you had when she was growing up.

There are likely good memories there, but now it is time to let go of them and give all three of you the chance to learn about each other all over again. And what an exciting time this could be.

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