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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Working Through My Grief - One Week Later

It is 3:45 am and I can't sleep so I will write another post. I have deliberately put this towards the bottom of the blog as once again; it is pretty raw stuff. It's hard to believe that it has been one week since our son has passed away. While I know in my head that this awful event has occurred, I now feel as though I am in a dream - going through the motions. When I reflect on the past 7 days, everything is a blur and yet when I can focus on an event, like the service on Saturday, I view it as though an observer - like it has happened to someone else.

But everything around me says that this happened to me and my family: the beautiful bouquets of flowers that fill each room, the gorgeous plants, the food that fills my fridge, the pictures that I still have up of Josh, the gifts that friends have given that I have yet to open and the large box of cards that are waiting to be read. I am still overwhelmed by the love being shown us as we received two plants, two flower arrangements and one box of goodies just today.

But I don't want this to be me. In fact, I feel a bit angry at Josh for making this me. Whereas I felt at peace after the private viewing which was on Friday pm, at least enough so that I could comfort those who came to the public viewing on Saturday, I am now feeling that this matter is completely unresolved and even more mysterious than ever. Tyler has been looking at Josh's computer and has been able to create a pretty good timeline of what he was doing that night. Two things indicate that he had been thinking and perhaps planning this - for how long, we do not know. But the clues were so subtle, I would've had to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat to find them. So once again, as a mother, I think I should've thought of this and if I had found something, we could've prevented this.

I haven't really sobbed, like I had been doing pretty much non-stop, for the past couple of days. Instead, my stomach is knotted up and I feel a bit on the edge - like at some unknown time, I could really lose it. Gillian has found a short video that she took on her phone of Josh with Biggie. He is speaking on the video and I can't bring myself to watch it for fear that this will be the moment that the dam will break lose.

So I keep busy - the days go by pretty quickly. I am reading the posts on the blog several times a day; in fact, I have been working on a post that describes the whole hearing process that we went through with the County. It is an important post so I am spending my time on it and of course, it is being read and vetted by everyone, including our in-house counsel, my wonderful sister-in-law, Ona. Emily is getting emails of pictures, a slide show to music, original digital art, etc that we marvel at and discuss putting on the blog. She has forwarded personal emails to me and I have finally looked at this tonight and responded to some.

Every idea sounds good to me: so far, I have thought that Tim and I should help Tyler and Emily and keep Huck, their very cute, but high-maintenance dog. Lauren is planning to run a marathon by the anniversary date of Josh's death and while in the past, I thought that people who ran marathons were a bit loco, I am now ready to sign up and run it with her. Josh's best friend wants to get a tattoo in memory of Josh and this sounds good to me too; although it would have to be in place that can be hidden by work attire, as I have yet to see someone within my work environment with one. We have dear friends that might be looking to relocate back to this area and since we will now have a big empty house, I am thinking that they can live here with us. Tim tells me to calm down and not make any big decisions for a couple of weeks - he is probably right.

We went to dinner tonight in celebration of someone's birthday and it was suggested that I make a quilt with Josh's T-shirts - this sounds like a great idea too as I have made a few quilts in the past. However, this would mean going through his room, which I have not done yet. I mean to do this with Tyler and Bryce (Josh's best friend since birth - literally) before they leave, but when I think of this task, my stomach goes queasy again. It may have to be done by myself, with no one around as may be this is the time the dam will break. When I am speaking of the dam breaking, you must envision crying that will escalate to wailing.

Tomorrow, we are meeting my parents at the cemetery to choose a stone for Josh. We love the place where he is buried as it looks more like a park than a cemetery as they do not use tombstones to mark the grave, rather the marker is flush with the ground. Many people have bought vases that are attached to the marker so there are fresh flowers everywhere. The trees should be flowering soon and people have put wind chimes on them so when there is a breeze, you hear a bit of music. There is also a pond in this "park" - it would actually be a nice place to go running. It is divided into sections which have their own label, such as Garden of Serenity, Garden of Reflections, Garden to Time, etc. Josh is in the Garden of Prayer which is comforting.

What kind of grave marker should we get for him? This is just one of the many questions that had to be answered since his death - do we want burial or cremation, what clothing should we bury him in, what music did we want for the service, who would be the minister, what casket, do we want a grave liner or a vault, what pictures should be used in the tri-fold and DVD that the funeral home provided at the service, what plot should we choose - it is like planning an event like a wedding in two days. I can't tell you how difficult it is to do this while feeling so completely and utterly emotional. I am so appreciative of Todd, Tim's brother and Jim, our dearest friend who was with us at all of these meetings. We could not have done it without their suggestions and guidance. They know us well and could almost predict what we would want.

Now I am thinking a bit about the future. When I meet someone new and they ask "get-to-know you" questions like: "how many children do you have? What are their ages and what are they doing?" Do I say, I have four children, but one is deceased? Can I say this without crying? What about when I go back to work and people offer their condolences the first time we speak? Will I start crying then? Will this be the time that the dam breaks? My stomach starts churning, just thinking about this. Unchartered territory and I cannot predict how I will feel or act. This makes me nervous.

But I suppose what really makes my stomach go loopy is the thought of an empty home when our Lauren and Gillian go back to UVA and Tyler, Emily and Huck go home to Georgia. Tim and I will be here alone (with our two doggies), but no Josh. Just thinking about it makes me cry - I think this blog will help as it will keep me connected to people and is a way to express my feelings. It has certainly helped me already - we'll see.

I have other posts that I plan to write - one being on the goodness and generosity of all of you. I also want to write a post on what I have learned from the teens that I have met and spoken to in the past few days. These young people have changed my life and whereas in the past, I was concerned about whether or not these teens were capable of being leaders in the future, I now have absolutely no doubt. Their networking skills alone will enable them to get more done in a short amount of time that any of us adults. I envy those who work with our teens as teachers, counselors or coaches - no wonder you love your jobs. These young people are absolutely fantastic.

So while never being one to enjoy writing, I am finding the words flowing from me. I appreciate so much the thoughts and prayers and love that continue to flow to our family. May Josh rest in peace and may God give each person in my family true peace as well.


Anonymous said...

It is with great saddness that I write this. My dam has broken and yours will soon. Let it go, grieve. It is terrible, it is wrong, it is the worst nightmare come true...but it is. I don't know the words but I know the feelings you talk about. My heart aches for all of you. While in church on Saturday all I thought was that I never wanted to be at anything like this again it was a beautiful was just too sad and heart breaking so many lives have been touched and saddened. I still hear the music and see his beautiful face. I know his life served a huge purpose but it is still unfair. I still have my son and I do treasure him more now then ever. Please let yourself go and then pick yourself up and be strong. It's going to take a long, long time. Be easy on your self. You never know when it will hit you that he is not here-you have to give yourself time.. I think and pray for you are not alone. Loving thoughts from one mom to another.
Nick's Mom

Biggie-Z said...

Just reading this post made me cry again. You know you never have to "keep it together" around us. We'll be back for more visits and just to be with you, and we'll hold you and support you always.

We miss Josh so much.

FYI, on my first day back at work we had a fire drill that morning and I started tearing up (okay, quietly crying) during it. I felt silly since most people in the office had no idea. So random.

Also, I'm sending you a separate email in a bit.

Lots of love, Biggie's Momma. I can't wait to see that video.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Make the quilt it is important.

Keeping you in particular in my prayers

Anonymous said...

Dear Sue and Tim,

When I heard about the death of Josh, I literally got sick. I was not able to do anything for a day. I just went home and hugged my two boys and started crying. I can't imagine what you guys are going through but just know that there are so many people praying for you...I am praying for you.

You guys have been a hero to me. I remember meeting you guys for the first time in the mid 1990's when I moved to VA and I was always impressed by your life and your family. A few years ago, your son Tyler was in Chicago for Youth Corps and it was a pleasure seeing him grow as a young man and as a man of God.

I know that this tragedy absolutely does not make sense, but continue to keep your faith in God.

Much Love,

Winston Batino

Anonymous said...

What is your personal email, I would love to drop a note to you. Thanks Jackie Mcgrath

Emily said...

Jackie- Please email me and I will gladly respond with Sue's email address or forward your message to her

Anonymous said...

I cried just reading your post Ms. Anderson and there is a lump in my throat and a matching one in my stomach. This blog is incredible and I look at it everyday. I really don't think any of josh's friends and family look at it any less than I do, nor do i think anyone will ever stop posting on this site due to josh's essence that is still with all the kids, teachers, and coaches at langley (and im sure south lakes as well). My love goes out to you and the family and I'm praying for you. I hope writing really does let some of your emotions out and I hope some of these post make you smile at times, or something laugh out loud ( "lol" in our teen lingo) I send you my best and your in my prayers and thoughts along with HUNDREDS of others thoughts and prayers.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sue,
Your openness amazes me and helps me greatly. It helps me to see that being open with all your hurt and pain is ok. It's ok to be who you are, to feel whatever you feel, at whatever point in time. The questions you've posed regarding when the dam will break and what happens when I go back to work are things I've wondered about as undoubtedly one day I will have to say an unexpected goodbye to a loved one. Your postings have also caused me to look at my influence of my 2 boys - and how unnecessarily hard I can be on them at times. Thank you for causing me to reflect. It's very obvious to me that you are a great mother and wife. My family's thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
With love,
Karen Thomas (Central NJ)

Joyce A. said...

I shed many tears as I read your post today. Thank you for sharing your heart in this way and trusting those of us who are reading it with this deeply personal information. I join so many others in letting you know that I read every post numerous times, pray and think of you and all of your family constantly and would be willing to do anything that would be helpful to you. I just want to DO something, but perhaps prayer is the best I can offer at this time. God will supply.
As I have grieved the loss of loved ones I have never been prepared for when the dam breaks. It just comes when it needs to and I had to learn to just let it flow. Everyone around me would encourage me to just let it out, so that is what I did and it seemed to help.
It feels a bit odd to post this on an open website and have so many read it, but I am following your lead of open communication. I feel this site is creating somewhat of a community, one that brings comfort, one without judgement.

Thanks again for sharing your heart and words. Thanks for being so loving and gracious, especially at the memorial service. It is amazing to me that you are able to give comfort, strength and love to others at your greatest time of need.
With much love, Joyce

Vicki Obenhaus said...

Dearest Sue, thank you for sharing your heart with us. You have a journey ahead of you. I pray you always walk with God and let him comfort you. As to the answer to one of your questions: you have four children and you always will. I love you, Vicki Jo.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Tim and Sue,

We are heartbroken for you and your family, and cry for you every day and in the night. We are praying for you fervently. I have wanted to hop on a plane and come and hug you in person. Perhaps this summer I can.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart so openly. Your words here are so brave and I am reminded again of how much I respect and admire you. I wish I could take your grief and carry it for you for awhile, to give you a day without pain. I hope that all the love you have received from people whose lives you all have touched, can carry you, now and into the future. I remember receiving your Christmas card from this past year (which I still have and have looked at a lot), and thinking what beautiful children you and Tim made :). And I was particularly struck by what a handsome young man Josh was - he was always an adorable little boy, but had grown up so much. It makes me think that God will keep on surrounding you with beauty.

I cannot pretend to know what it feels like to have to bury a child. As I have grieved the loss of family members, I do know that I continue to receive special and personal comfort from God - things that only He could know to do, sometimes on the anniversary of that loved one's death, on their birthday, or when I really need it. God keeps on showing me that he is sorry for my pain, sorry for the number of times my dam has had to break (the times when I thought I would weep until I would just melt away or go crazy or die), and that He cares.

We are praying earnestly for you and the kids and Josh's friends that God will dull or remove the terrible memories and replace them with goodness and healing. We are praying that somehow something beautiful will come of losing Josh too soon. I have come to believe that God is expert at making beautiful, wonderful, vibrant, powerful things out of nothingness - out of blackest darkness. Perhaps a whole generation of teenagers will be redirected and helped. Please know that every hour of the day and night there are people praying for each of you by name.

Love to you,

Ceci G.

jb said...

Dear Mrs. Anderson,
I saw your post through a friend's email tonight and have been reading it since then, learning about Josh, learning about you and your family. We don't know one another, but as a mother, my heart goes out to you. I will hug my 10 year old son a little longer and a little more today and try to refrain from what can be perceived as so much criticism. I suspect Josh was sensitive to that, too.

As an adult educator (adult meaning anyone over 18), I also believe in the power of second chances, the importance of one-to-one guidance and help, and the overwhelming need for compassion and a good cheerleading section based on the reality of one's strengths. I also have been saying recently that our school system is a big bureaucracy. I don't know what can be done to change it, nor is this the forum for that discussion. But this just points to the one size does not fit all discussion that needs to happen.

I agree with your assessment that children/teens who "get caught" are looking for intervention of some sort to center them, to get them clear about things. I suspect your Josh was trying to do that without knowing he was, in fact, trying. I have a stepdaughter who cried out for help and through a series of fortunate circumstances, we were able to get that help for her. I am grateful for that gift; I remember bargaining with God through my tears.

Just one thought as you work with the teens who will undoubtedly come to you: alternative high school programs and the GED, while not encompassing the whole of the high school experience, can be a good place for teens who want to finish high school and move on to college. The stress and pressure in schools is tough on the psyche. Some kids fare better than others with it (I'm concerned already that my 10 y.o. will be one of those who will not adjust easily or well to the pressure). These programs, though, can be a wonderful way to finish high school in a self-directed way.

Mrs. Anderson, now that I think about it, you should come attend an adult high school graduation sometime. We have them twice a year -- in August and February. You'd be amazed at the stories people tell, people from all walks of life, who have been given second chances educationally. It supports your idea that love and support are the keys to success, not draconian and broadbrush policies.

I wish you peace, Mrs. Anderson, today and in the days ahead. I have a strong feeling you will turn Joshua's passing into a very proactive and productive memorial to his life. As the heaviness of your early grief begins to lift just a bit, you may discover that spring -- new life -- is all around us, as is Josh's new life in you.

Blessings to you and your family,

Louise Parrot said...

Hi Sue and Tim,

I too am up in the middle of the night here in Australia. You have all been in my prayers since we heard the news last week. You are so obviously surrounded by much support and people who love you. While we never got to know Josh, I saw your family in action in challenging times. Never...EVER doubt that you ARE wonderful parents and people.I saw you both with Tyler and Lauren and your family was amazing!!!

I was a high school teacher but for the last 10 years have worked as a drug educator going from school to school in Sydney's Northern Beaches. Before sessions I often pray that it will equip at least one more young person to make a better choice. You are so right when speak of young people with such glowing terms. working with them is a privilege and most times a joy.

I will continue to hold you in my prayers.

Love Louise

Bonnie said...

Dear Sue,
I am so glad you are writing and sharing your feelings, pain, agony, plans, hopes. I see your thoughts and words becoming a wonderfully comforting book for others experiencing the deepest sorrow a mother's heart could fathom. Tim's and your strength in hugging,greeting,crying,laughing, talking with all of us this weekend was astounding.
"Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." Psalm 57:1
love and tears,

Anonymous said...

Dearest Sue,
I want to thank you for sharing this blog, photos, videos and these thoughts. How very much like you to deal with your feelings in a way that will help others. I have an inkling that those teens you speak of now have a champion in you like no other. You and your family have our respect, love and constant prayers. We always loved having Josh in our home (I can still picture James and him climbing all over the clubhouse in the back yard) and he will not be forgotten. Much love,
Jack, Cathy,James and Amy

Anonymous said...

Sue, I am so amazed at your instinct and ability (and Tim's also) to encourage others through your grief. I think that this may be one of the things that draws so many people to you guys, and makes me feel still so close to you after all these years. I hope you feel free to be whoever you need to be and do whatever you need to do to get by right now.

Thanks for filling us in on how you are doing.

There is so much love for you guys across the world, and a big pile of it right here in NY.


Anonymous said...


I am amazed and inspired by your level of openess. I am in awe of your strength right now in a moment of great weakness.
My whole family wishes we were able to be there with you all right now.
I have just been thinking of all the great times our familys have had together... and the many memories we have had and will continue.
My prayers are with you and your family as you sort through all your thoughts and emotions.
Speaking to Roxanne she told me that at the funeralshe could just feel Gods peace and i pray that u always feeel the amount of love and support that is there for you and your whole family!!
I love you