Oy. How sad and upsetting, what a tragedy, to lose a beloved son at such a young age! It makes it more difficult, I am sure, that not only do you not have the closure of a long life, you do not seem, in this case, to have the satisfaction of a well-lived life. In a moment, I'll move to what seem to me to be Jewish aspects of this question to which I can respond, but I don't want to move too quickly from simply expressing my commiseration with you, your wife, your daughter, and the extended family for all that you are suffering right now. In times of challenge and suffering, I think the shiva period teaches us, we need to sit with our challenge and suffering, recognize it for what it is, and only then move to grappling with it.
That is also the first part of my answer to you. In a tragedy like this, one instinct is to try to lay blame, on ourselves and others, to obsess over what we could have done differently, and to point at those who either stopped us or who themselves neglected to act. I don't think that is always inappropriate, as I will mention in a moment, but in a case like this, it is often done prematurely. The first thing to remember is that you are hurting, and hurting for a fully understandable reason. None of us likes to hurt, and so we often try to distract ourselves from the hurt by changing the topic. My first piece of advice-- and I think it is a Jewish piece of advice, embedded in the wisdom of the laws of mourning, which teach us to focus on our mourning, not away from it-- is to mourn.
Mourn by remembering your son, his wonderful qualities and his flaws. Mourn the choices he made (and remember-- this started with choices he made) and, if you so incline, mourn the decision by the True Judge to let those choices lead to an accidental overdose. Mourning, as I understand it, doesn't involve assigning responsibility for sad events, it involves seeing those events in their full sadness, and recalling the lost child in his fullness, fortunate and less fortunate qualities alike.
That will be painful, and for a long time. In that pain, we need to resist lashing out at others. I don't mean that you have to ignore the disagreements between you and your wife-- I'll say something about those in a minute-- but that you should try to be sure that you don't channel your natural and understandable hurt into that discussion. Assume with me, for a moment, that your wife was completely wrong on these issues, and you force her to see how wrong she was-- will that bring your son back? There may be good reasons to hash out with your wife what happened, but be sure you are doing it for those good reasons, not as a way of relieving your pain.
I read a book once about losing a child, and it had built a perspective from interviews with multiple bereaved parents. They stressed how permanent the pain was, although it receded with time, like all such pain. They stressed the strain it can put on the best of marriages as well, and you should tread carefully as you go forward, lest you react hastily and permanently damage yet another relationship in your life.
Before you go there, I would suggest, ask yourself what the value in going there is. You have your own complex feelings about your son's passing-- you worry that you should have done more, it sounds like, and are angry with those who got in your way, and led to this outcome. That is a fully understandable reaction, but, again, will it bring him back? If not, will hashing it out help avoid having this happen again (are you worried this might happen again)? If not, why do it?
It sounds, truth be told, as if there are tensions between you and your wife independent of this tragedy. It sounds as if you do not feel that she takes your views seriously, and acts in ways that you think negatively impact your life (particularly in this case). Those are important marital issues, but I fear that addressing them under the shadow of this tragedy could muddle the issues so fully that you would have no chance to address them with the calm and openness necessary for them.
In times of trouble, ideally, we come closer to each other, not drift further apart. I hope you, your wife, your daughter, and your family find solace. I hope that solace opens a space for you to find each other, and to build or rebuild relationships of caring, trust, and mutual respect. Nothing can take away the sting of your loss-- other than the comfort of the Creator, which I wish all of you-- but I hope that you, together, find a way to carry on productively and fruitfully, and to even return to find happiness in each other, in your daughter, and in God's world.
Answered by: Rabbi Gidon Rothstein