Inside: Yesterday marked nine months since his death. Nine months can feel like a lifetime or the blink of an eye. Enough time to help create and birth new life but not enough time for my heart, mind, or spirit to figure out how to say goodbye.
TW: grief, child loss, suicide
I took my son’s leftover medications to the drug store today for safe disposal. This probably sounds like a very minor accomplishment, an inconsequential baby step, but it felt like an important act of letting go.
The thought of cleaning out his bedroom or sorting through the boxes and Rubbermaid containers stacked in our basement, which hold what’s left of his life, rips me open all over again. I can hardly corral my thoughts inside the truth that one day we will need to do this.
One day but not today.
But dropping off the bag of medication this morning reminded me that slow and steady, little by little, I’ll know when I am ready. I can trust myself to know when I am ready.
Nine months can feel like a lifetime or the blink of an eye. Enough time to help create and birth new life but not enough time for my heart, mind, or spirit to figure out how to say goodbye.
Yesterday marked nine months since his death. Nine months can feel like a lifetime or the blink of an eye. Enough time to help create and birth new life but not enough time for my heart, mind, or spirit to figure out how to say goodbye.
How could there ever be “enough time” to make peace with the loss of a child? I didn’t have enough time with him – only 23 years, and many of those were marked by fear and pain. Telling the truth about that feels incredibly raw.
I can barely look at or talk with other moms whose adult sons are alive and well – getting married, going on adventures, starting careers. Living.
I’ve started work with a new trauma-informed therapist and hope that we can work together for a couple of years because I now understand in a way that I couldn’t before, just how long of a journey this will be. Healing from and walking through this type of trauma and loss is not something one just overcomes. I’ve heard from other parents familiar with suicide loss that the first two years are incredibly rough and I’m grateful for their wisdom and willingness to share.
I’m telling the truth about what I need to live whole right now and two of those things are the gift of time and permission:
Permission to take it slow, layer by layer, listening in and trusting what I’m ready for. Trusting I have what it takes.
Permission to ask for and receive support in my business, from friends and family, from medication and therapy, from good food and CBD/THC and the touch of my husband. Regular walks in the woods that make space for me to witness and delight in the beautiful seasonal shifts of where I live and to tell the truth that I WANT to keep living fully.
Permission to rest, to taste pleasure, to read and putter and lower all the expectations and judgments I so easily heap upon myself. Telling the truth about feeling incredibly frustrated at the constant limitations in my life and about the fear, the longing, the anger, the jealousy, and the deep well of sorrow that are a quotidian part of my life right now.
I want to tell the truth about it all.
I turned 49 two weeks ago and chose a new mantra for my birthday year, as is my habit. This year what came up for me was the phrase “tell the truth.”
I have always valued honesty, integrity, and authenticity and these past years have learned to tell the truth, to myself first and foremost, about who I am and what I want and need. About all my strength and struggle. I’ve learned to walk inside my story bravely, loving myself well as I go.
I recognize though that I’m being called deeper into this work on many fronts – into a new depth and practice and vulnerability of truth-telling and using my voice than ever before. I welcome the growth though I have enough life experience to know that it won’t all feel comfortable and pretty.
In fact, these past months what truth-telling often looks and feels like is living bravely in the midst of regular panic attacks and fear about losing another child and wondering if life will ever feel beautiful and safe again.
Telling the truth feels like freedom to me – it feels like saying yes to life unshackled.
It’s not a lie to say that I’m looking forward with curiosity and joy. With hope. It’s also not a lie that I sometimes wonder if it’s all for nothing. If trying to bring about positive change, to stay engaged and offer the little bit of light I carry to the world is worth the energy. It didn’t save my son, after all.
I consider how many parents have buried their babies before me and how many more are to come.
So I hope. I choose to tell the truth.
And part of telling the truth, in this season of my life, is stubbornly determining that while I have breath within me, I will keep building for my girls’ sake if not for my own. I’ll keep dirtying my hands, investing my heart, offering the bit of energy, resource, skill, or influence I possess to try and help make this world kinder and safer for people. People like my younger self or my beautiful son who feel too broken, not good enough, desperately weary.
I want to remind us that we’re all messy and imperfect and also beautiful, gifted, needed. That while life can be messy and unkind, a bumpy journey best walked in brave community, there are also wonderful bits worth fighting for. And I want to remind us (me and you alike) that we can show up to it all and find purpose, wholeness, and joy right in the middle of the messy.
We don’t help each other when we pretend or gloss over the painful parts of life – we simply reinforce the myth that we should have it all figured out by now, that real life is supposed to look like a grid of cute and inspiring Instagram images, or that we ought to just think happy thoughts and rise above whatever life throws at us. As though it’s this simple.
We are allowed to tell the truth about all of it.
NOW WHAT? I appreciate this TED Talk about beginning again and finding meaning after life is interrupted.