Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Mother's Grief

At the gravesite....

His casket is in a "vault" and this is the cover...

Tim and I are saying our final good byes...

Josh's grandmother kneeling at his casket...

Rachael touching his casket and saying good bye.....

Family and a few close friends who came with us and said their good byes...

Josh's grandfather's posture says it all...

I am putting this post towards the bottom of the page on purpose, as the content is raw and full of pain. I am writing this at 2:40am on Monday morning. I can't sleep - this is the first night that Josh's body is lying in the cold, dark earth...can you blame me?

My emotions have run through the gamut and now, I am just numb. I have cried so many tears, I don't know if I even have any left. Then I see a picture of Josh and think of him and the tears flow freely again.

We woke up Sunday morning to a beautiful, sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. The cemetery was quiet as it was still fairly early. Our service at the grave site was short as we had really said our good-byes yesterday at the church.

But as a mother, how do you ever prepare yourself to deal with the tragic and unnecessary death of your baby - a seventeen year old son?

Of course, I blame myself. As his mother, I should've known what he was thinking and feeling. I should've said more or done more. It doesn't matter that he took his SATs in Loudoun last Saturday and what kid would take a four hour exam if he had given up on life? Or that his girlfriend was here the night before and everything was fine, or that he was watching TV with Tim and playing with the dogs at 10:30pm or that when I saw him at 12:30am, he was going to bed and everything seemed normal and fine.

To a mother, these "facts" don't matter. That night he found himself in a dark, deep place and did not see a way out. I had not given him enough reasons to stay with us and no matter how many people tell me that I shouldn't blame myself, I do. And I don't know if I will ever feel differently because he was my son, my flesh and blood and my baby.

I only hope and pray (and this is the thing that keeps me going) is that Josh's death will not be in vain. That other kids who have gone through this horrible tragedy with our family and may sometimes feel the way he did, will remember Josh and think: "Wow, he was really loved. Maybe I am loved that way too. Maybe if I tell someone how I am feeling, I can get some help and support." If you do not have anyone to talk to, please e-mail Emily and she will forward it to me. I want to talk to you; I will get you the help that you need.

Or if someone knows of another kid who is really struggling, that they will reach out to them and tell them how much they are needed and loved.

Or if a family is going through the same suspension/expulsion process that we have gone through, they may think of Josh and watch their own child with extra caution and no matter how difficult, to try and engage with them and find out by any means possible, what they are truly thinking and feeling. And would not lessen their vigilance for one minute. If you want to contact me, please email Emily and she will forward it to me. I need her to be a bit of a filter for me now, but I want to be available for you.

If even one other beautiful child's life is saved from the lessons learned from Josh's death, he would not have died in vain. This is my continual, fervent hope and prayer.

I will go and visit him tomorrow and tell him again, how sorry I am and how much he was really loved by all of you.

God bless and thanks again for your thoughts, prayers, love and support.


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry I loved your son and will live my life in his honor

Anonymous said...

The County needs to undertake an honest review of its explusion policies. We don't need bureacratic answers now, we need honest analysis. We need success rates, failure rates, statistics, pros and cons, assessment of what other parts of the country do. After much effort from the community, Fairfax County is reviewing grading policies and late start options with great vigour. I call on the county to stop agonizing over these simple issues, decide what is best for the kids and then immediately turn to this more critical review.

It is not enough to tell the family that "we followed our policies" and "Josh just was a trouble kid" and "I (school board member) never smoked pot." The county needs to review the policies that impacted Josh's life.

We want answers to the following:

- does the current policy help kids?
- what are the success rates?
- what would the county consider a failure of the system? Is Josh in this catagory?
- what are other parts of the country doing in these circumstances?
- are other practices more successful in rehabing kids?

Fairfax County has no other option but to undertake this review. The only question is how it will be initiated. Will the community have to fight the system to get this assessment completed? Or will the school board show some leadership and announce a review tomorrow? I hope it will.

Anonymous said...

I love you Sue. I dont have much else to say, because I think anyone in your situation would be feeling the same. I have not stopped praying for you since the moment I heard. You, in particular because I could only imagine how you would be feeling and I want God to wrap his arms around you extra tight. It meant so much to me to be there with your family this weekend. Josh is an angel and I pray along with you those things you asked for. Please stay strong. Josh was loved dearly, and so are you.
With all my love,
Lisa W.

Anonymous said...

I love you so much, Ms. Sue. I loved Josh like a brother and I will never forget him. I pray for you and Gillian, Tim and Tyler and Lauren every minute. Our hearts are broken for you, but I know we'll get together and feel alright.

DCM said...

Looking through this website brought tears and joy to my eyes all at once. Initially tears of course, but seeing the pictures and remembering the good times and laughs I shared with Josh put a giant smile upon my face. He was a funny, loving and caring kid. He would give anyone a helping hand regardless of why they had fallen. He was a patient and understanding person.

Mrs. Anderson, reading the comments and thoughts running through your mind broke my heart. We all blame ourselves for not texting or calling Josh to see how everything was, but you and your husband are loving and caring parents and Josh was blessed to have a family united with such love and support. He couldn’t have asked for anything more. The love and pride you have for your son is overwhelming and you are both amazing people!

My thoughts and prayers have been with you all week and I will continue to keep both your family and Josh in my heart. I pray that your family stays strong in this tragic time and to remember that although Josh may not be with us, he is in the hearts of many; and his smile will live on forever. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

Your courage inspires me. Josh is with you now giving you the presence of mind to write your thoughts, to express your grief, and to ensure that his life had meaning.

He will forever be the angel on your shoulder.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know Josh.. but R.I.P. I hope he's in a better place. So sorry to the Anderson family; stay strong..

some song lyrics:
"Reminisce some time, the night they took my friend
Try to black it out, but it plays again
When its real, feelings hard to conceal
Cant imagine all the pain I feel
Give anything to hear half your breath
I know you still living your life, after death

Every step I take, every move I make
Every single day, every time I pray
Ill be missing you
Thinkin of the day, when you went away
What a life to take, what a bond to break
Ill be missing you"
I'll Be Missing You by Puff Daddy ft. Faith Evans & 112

"Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
And now it's too late to hold you
'cause you've flown away
So far away

Never had I imagined
Living without your smile
Feeling and knowing you hear me
It keeps me alive

And I know you're shining down on me from heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day
Eventually we'll sing in heaven"
One Sweet Day by Mariah Carey ft. Boys II Men

Scott VanHoogy said...

My heart breaks for you and for Tim...I can't even imagine the pain and grief and gamut of emotions you have been through...we as a family and me deep inside have been thinking of you every hour of every day and can't stop thinking of you. We only wish we could be there to weep with you and tell you and show you how much we love you. You are showing amazing courage to pour your heart out to all of us through this blog. I just want to go outside and walk and somehow carry some of the pain for you. We almost jumped on a plane and came out this past weekend but couldn't and hate that we couldn't. But in God's spirit I know we were there for you heart and soul and prayed to somehow carry part of your burden. Josh is and always will be a beautiful person to everyone. I hope you can find some peace in knowing you are an amazing Mom and I'm sure were a good friend to him. This is a cruel life in so many ways, so much pain and so many difficulties; but right now none can compare to yours. I love you so much and will feel and carry your pain here in Arizona for a long time to come. You are wonderful people, loved by God and us and may God somehow grant you peace and calm during this time. Sorry if I sound too sappy, but I want you to know how much you are loved, Leslie and I hug each other tonight in honor of you and Tim and in memory of your forever son, love, Scott VH

Anonymous said...

Aunt Sue-
You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. I am praying for all the things that you have asked for and for Josh. I was amazed at how strong you were this weekend and I pray that you continue to stay strong. It was the strength that I saw in you that made me realize that I could get through this, that maybe I will never understand it but that I believe that Josh is in better place. Your strength was so overwhelming. I love you and will pray for you constantly.

I just wanted to say one more thing. Growing up I was always jealous of our Anderson cousins because they were allowed to drink soda and eat things that my mom would not let me. I always saw you as the "cool" aunt who let Lauren and Gillian wear the coolest clothes, watch the shows that I had always wanted to see, etc. You were/ are an AMAZING mother. For anyone who knew Josh or even met him just once, they could tell instantly that he had been raised well. He had been loved and will always be loved.

Love you,

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Anderson,

I have struggled with depression for many years. I spent many nights in middle and high school crying myself to sleep, hating myself, and wishing I was dead. I slit my wrists often and go to bed crying, half of me hoping I would die in my sleep, half of me hoping that I wouldn't because I was too scared to. My family saw the scars, they saw that I spent days in my room but never could have imagined the thoughts that ran through my head. Some of my days of deepest guilt were after I joined the church because I knew that I shouldn't hurt myself but I couldn't help myself. My point in all of this is that even to this day, even though I told my mother to her face that I was sad, something was wrong and I needed help (and even though she did not believe me), I would never blame my mother for my state of sadness or what I did to myself. In our darkest hours there is no one on this earth who can fully understand or be expected to understand--even our own flesh and blood. Our ability to understand and recognize situations is based upon our previous experiences. I didn't expect my mother to understand how bad I felt inside, how could she? I would never blame my mother even to this day (or probably my father if I had one) and I know that Josh does not blame you.

Jessica Cherry

Emily said...

Jessica, Thank you for your candor and sharing that.

Jerry said...

I never met Josh and I don't know his family. I have met his father, Tim, on two occassions prior to the third meeting at his son's funeral. Yet I mourn for each of you and cry each day for your loss as I struggle to understand.
I "met" the family at Josh's memorial service. I'm not sure why I felt the need to go, only that I needed to be there. I met everyone through their words and courage. I sat in the balcony and felt the grief, dispair, sadness and love rise up from the congregation and wash over me like the tide gently bathing the shore with each lapping surf.
I sobbed like a baby that day for the immeasurable loss. It is our loss and it will take years for us to know it's true impact.
I was encouraged and strengthened by the love of his friends. I came to know Josh's quirky smirk or smile though I never saw him use it.
I don't think I will ever understand why anyone, especially a child, makes this drastic and final choice. I have experienced it too often and wish to never experience it again. I don't think I will ever understand how a family, especially the child's mother and father, will ever recover from the depth of loss of their beloved son.
I do know that this family has many pillars of strength around them and the strength of God among them all.
I still cry daily for their loss and pray for them to experience the peace that I'm sure Josh hoped his unfortunate choice would bring them.
Josh's life, and his death, was not in vain. His infectious and calming strength and insight will live on in the lives and souls of the many family and friends he touched in his short journey on this earth.
I wish I knew him. I know I will miss him.

Jerry Boutcher

Roxanne said...

Sue, I have read this post so many times and it breaks my heart! Knowing you for the past 17 years it amazes me that you are able to share all of these deep feelings at such a unbelievably painful time. I truly appreciate each word, each picture, each post, each heartbreaking detail. I wish I could be there each day to cry tears with you. The times we have spent together over these past few days which seems like an eternity sometimes and a few moments other times have meant the world to me. These memories are etched into my heart forever. I would have never in one million years expected to go through this yet here we are.
Sue I love you with all of my heart. As I left today I felt sooo sad, I just wanted to stay there with you by your side. Yesterday meant so much to me to be there. The site of you mending the little pillow so tenderly is one of those memories I will never forget. Thank you for opening your heart and sharring all you did last night...please know Sue that my heart and soul are with you every step of the not hesitate to call even if it is 3 am. I will gladly be right there with you. All my love Roxanne

Allison said...

This excerpt is the cold truth:

That other kids who have gone through this horrible tragedy with our family and may sometimes feel the way he did, will remember Josh and think: "Wow, he was really loved. Maybe I am loved that way too. Maybe if I tell someone how I am feeling, I can get some help and support."

since Josh's death, I've had days that have snowballed into an awful week, and giving up momentarily has crossed my mind. Josh quickly replaces these thoughts. Josh has saved my life.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sue, As soon as I heard I started to pray for you. My heart was incredibly heavy. I have a son who I worried for for many years, I was always afraid for him because he made some bad decisions in his teen years that cause a lot of pain for our family. I used to sit up nights waiting for him to come home. There wee nights when I would drive the streets looking for him afraid of what I might find. When I was going through it I was afraid deep down because I was afraid of what he would do to himself. Although he is now older I still remember the dread I felt.

The Friday after I heard what happened, I stood in front of my kitchen sink and I prayed for you, I cupped my hands together and rocked them back and forth, I asked God to hold you just like this and comfort you because I could only imagine the intensity of your pain. In my job I have been working with a family who have a daughter who has attempted twice to take her own life, I read what you wrote on the blog to everyone who had attended the service and went to the father the next day and I said we as a family want to help, I told him that we care and though we are strangers to him we want to help.
I don't know what I can do but I know I want to do something. My nephew attempted to take his life a few months ago. I live so far away from him but I communicate with him through his my space page which is a dark dark place.

I will keep praying for you. It is all I can do for you.

Anonymous said...

I cannot help but put myself in your place and cry with you. We live in Illinois, and I have a son who is a HS freshman. I am now, after witnessing your greif, very committed to praying that my children truly feel that they are loved and accepted no matter what "the system" labels as their success. Though I didn't know him, I believe your son was a wonderful young man, and the world is a better place for having him in it.
Prayfully, Pam G

Christina Tobias-Nahi said...

I remember this incident vividly and was saddened at the time and struggling with the FCPS system since my child was in elementary. He is now a MVHS sophomore and going through a similar disciplinary hearing experience and so I found this site as I looked to seek support. Please know your son's legacy continues and his is in everyone's prayers still.