Sensitive Content: suicide, depression, grief
I’m choosing to process some of my grief out loud. First, it is helping me when I feel like I’ll explode with rage or pain. Second, maybe it’ll help another parent feel less alone. This is a very personal journey. Please click away if reading about someone else’s loss – and particularly the topic of suicide – will be triggering for you right now.
When you lose your young adult child…
You let friends and family gather and keep you distracted as you plan a memorial. It cannot be just any memorial because it needs to reflect your beautiful child.
You want to make space for friends to share their stories.
You are so grateful your son was loved.
You talk with medical examiners and police.
You receive a ziplok bag with his personal items – there is blood.
You bring your child’s ashes home in a wooden box.
You clean out his apartment and share his belongings with those who loved him. It feels harsh and wrong to disperse a big, beautiful, important life this way.
You try to remember to eat.
You hug his little sisters, your beautiful daughters.
You cry for hours with your partner and sometimes force away the tears so you are not just sadness for your girls.
You file death certificates and close accounts.
You plan for Christmas though you’d rather just hide from it all.
You get out of bed and wash your hair.
You make coffee because it’s part of your morning routine, but mostly the coffee sits there untouched.
You start an art scholarship in his name. But really you just want him back – you want him to make more art.
You wander into his room and look again at the highschool memorabilia, the posters, the childhood toys.
You stare at the photos stuck to the front of the fridge. You will never again look into those dark soulful eyes, smell him, or touch him. He will never again cajole you to play a video game with him, he will never again snuggle up close to you as you watch a movie together. The guy who said he didn’t like hugs.
You will never see him playfight with his sisters or pull out his lightsaber with a friend. He will not fix your tech issues and warn you about online safety.
There will be no more conversations about politics, religion, or the latest disappointing Star Wars movie.
You wear his clothing but it doesn’t help.
You bring his bedding home, including the fuzzy blanket he had since he was a little guy; it smells like him so you can’t bear to wash it. Not yet.
You try to keep living and moving. A little bit each day.
People ask how you are but you ignore the question. There are no words for this. Only ugly, wrenching sobs.
You find a letter – a will – written before his first attempt. But now it’s too late and you’ve done some things wrong. You keep doing the best you know how in an impossible situation.
You notice yourself holding your breath – you exhale.
You’ve been holding your breath a very long time.
You pull your brain back from tomorrow over and over again because how can tomorrow be good without him.
You pull your heart back from the suffering, the what if’s, the pleas for help and raw conversations with him when you knew – even when other people talked over you and thought he was improving – you knew he was saying a long goodbye.
You knew your son in a way no one else did. But you couldn’t choose for him. You couldn’t fix it.
But you hoped anyway.
He never masked with you and his dad which is both privilege and pain.
You’ve been handed a cruel and impossible task: keep living, keep loving people. Keep talking about what matters.
Crack the door just the tiniest bit to hope or possibility.
You are proud of your boy in a way maybe others wouldn’t understand. But you know his fight. You know this was dreadful for him too.
You know he didn’t want to hurt you or anyone else and he held off as long as he was able.
You would never trade the gift of loving him. Of hearing his heart or even sometimes being at the receiving end of his great pain.
You love him. Not loved – but love. Actively. Wholeheartedly.
You look for examples of other mamas who’ve survived this. There is proof it can be done. It is not a club you wanted to be a part of.
You worry. What if – what if another child struggles too. What if you don’t know what to do.
You don’t know what you believe anymore – there is no certainty. No guarantee.
Right now there is only waiting and holding your breath.
NOW WHAT? If you too are holding your breath as you walk through deep grief, I’m sharing some of my grief journal here. I’ve also pulled together this resource page On Grief and Living Whole and Brave after Loss.