At times I feel nothing. Other times, I feel everything – all of it.
Our minds are pretty amazing things, and I mean that in a positive way and also a negative way. My journey, so far, has taught me lessons. Not cliché lessons, like “love life”, or “be positive” – it goes deeper.
A year and a half ago I sat with my son and talked about his trials as an adult so far. He sat across from me and talked about changes and his plans. He was excited for the girls growing up and doing different things, and he was excited for new opportunity in his job. This truly felt like my Fred, my son, the happy kid I knew. Of course there were things that he thought sucked and we talked about it and it seemed so natural that Fred would be telling me that it would be ok. And that is what he did. He had a lot of change going on all at once but seemed jazzed about all of it.
Two weeks later after that certain conversation, he was dead.
Of course there were conversations before and after, of equal importance and equal content. He was positive that things were going to be ok. He had things in motion, he was doing the hard work and seemed to be loving the new changes.
My son died on a Monday and I was with him on Saturday and Sunday before. We have always been a close family, the six of us. And so for us to lose one of our six, it has been devastating in so many ways.
My journey has been full of hopelessness, sadness, change, and struggle. The thoughts of my son, alone and in such a state of despair is the one thing, as his mother, that I have struggled with and at times feel like I cannot handle. I now carry his pain, whether it is wrong or right and whether I want to or not, it is there.
My journey has run parallel and backwards to my own son’s journey.
If I was to stand in front of you, on a wide open space of sand, and draw two lines – one for my life and one for Fred’s…..I would explain to you how there are marks of similarity. How one instance on Fred’s line could be an instance that contributed to his hopelessness, and how that mark on his line is now similar to marks on my line, my journey since he has died.
The hopelessness, big marks of RED, cautioning a fall into an empty hole with nowhere to go but down.
I have sat there, in that hole, since my son died by suicide. Not permanently, just on occasion. One occasion in particular, or maybe two or three in the past year and a half that I see as CRITICAL.
When my son died, I instantly became numb. I made it through the memorial service in a blur and then in week 3 and 4 my hopelessness set in. A bit of the fog lifted and the reality hit me in the stomach. I was trying to convince myself that I should lay down beside him, that my work was done. My mind allowed this and allowed me to get to depths of grief and sadness that I never knew existed.
In each of the critical moments on my journey I was helped by family and friends. It was identified that I was in crisis and they helped me up out of the hole.
I am part of the group known as suicide survivors, survivor of the loss of a loved one by suicide, and at risk for losing myself. My mind goes there and although I can sit here and write that it is wrong and that I have so much to live for — it still happens. It scares the shit out of me and I know it scares my family as well.
That part of my journey is a small percentage of the road. The largest part is my mind working at positive and building. Growing. Surviving. Loving. These are all the green marks on my line. They run parallel with the green marks on Fred’s line. His mind was doing the same thing. Stay positive, think positive, do positive, talk positive. He was positively the one that was positive and found good in everything.
The two lines, drawn and marked up. I stand back and look and note the day of transfer of my son’s pain. We do that as Mother’s, we carry the load for our children and for our families. It is just natural for us, instinct.
My journey is full of sadness for missing the presence of my son, it is overwhelming, like I am being kicked in the stomach over and over. But my journey is also full of trying to understand, questions, and thoughts of his pain. People try to tell us, “Think positive!”, “Live for the living!”, “You can’t bring him back”, “Be happy, have a quality life”. Okay, I can appreciate that, all of the above, it is an attempt to keep me from being sad. But it goes deeper.
We each have our own relationship and history with our lost loved one. Mine happened to be that I was Fred’s mother. No one else is Fred’s mother, not on this earth, and no one else knows what it feels like to be Fred’s mother. I carried him, I gave birth to him, I fed him, cared for him, protected him, taught him how to do basic things and difficult things. I helped him through everything in his life. I was his go to, plain and simple, Fred came to me with things that were upsetting him or difficult for him. Maybe during a crisis or after, Fred talked to me. Fred was an awesome kid and an awesome adult. I felt like he respected me, loved me, and truly wanted to be around me. He was a true example of a good person, good father, good son and brother.
Now take that away. But take it away in a manner of suicide. The complete opposite of what I knew. A complete opposite Fred that was a part of my life for 24 years.
Then you tell me to have a quality life and think positive. Seems stupid to say, huh?
This is where I need to keep our lines unfamiliar.
My mind keeps my body teetering on the edge of that hole at times. But my mind can distract me, thoughts of not forming a cycle, breaking a cycle, anger, obsessive positive thought, pain, giving up, starting new……
The lesson that is so important in my life today is that of control.
Not controlling others, controlling myself.
Making lists, exercising positive thought, identifying triggers, allowing myself to fall apart but also demanding that I put myself back together. There is no right or wrong way to do this, to grieve the loss of my son. And advice and best practices can be ideas I bring to the edge, but it is ME that keeps me from falling.
It is in my best interest for my own survival to do the things that are best for ME, taking from different areas of expertise and adopting my own resolutions for crisis in my life. It is part of my survival plan, my true surviving project.
~Leslie Beery, The Surviving Project