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.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Working Through My Grief - Day 18

For those who live in the Washington DC area, it was a beautiful day today. We made a visit to the cemetery and I have posted pictures with a bit of direction as I've heard that several people would like to visit his grave site.

Josh is buried at the Fairfax Memorial Park. Enter the cemetery from the Burke Station Road entrance. Second left will be the Garden Of Prayer.

On the right is a tree with two wind chimes. The one with chili peppers was just placed today - given to us by dear friends in honor of one of Josh's favorite band.

Walk to the right of the tree and you will find a temporary marker.

Tim, Gillian and Josh's uncle Steve placing flower petals on his grave site.

We stood for a while, in silence and in tears to remember our beloved son, brother and nephew.

I have heard there are stages of grief. One of them is denial. I have been living here for the past few days. Today was hard, though, as an article about Josh's death came out in the Washington Post. It is hard to be in denial, when there, in black and white, is a picture of your son and a story that explains the circumstances around his death.

As mentioned in a previous post, it was hard to read some of the comments on-line. While many were supportive and compassionate, there were others that were judgmental and at times, cruel. I will refrain from doing so now, and will rely on others to share the comments that they feel I should read.

Because the blog address was in the article at our request, and after seeing some of the insensitive comments on the Post's web site, we decided to moderate the comments before they are published on the blog. It is very important to me that this remains a safe place to share not only my feelings/thoughts, but yours as well. My daughter-in-law and sister-in-law are performing this important task, and I am so grateful to them. I am glad we decided to do this, as I've heard that one particularly nasty and mean comment was deleted.

Since my brother was in town, and it was going to be such a beautiful day, we decided to play golf. For those of you who play or in my case, attempt to play, it is a hard enough game when the body, mind and soul are in balance. For me, it wasn't until about the 13th hole that I was able to stop my mind from thinking about Josh, the published article, all the comments, etc. etc. Not that this completely left my mind, they were just not at the forefront as before.

I was really thinking about Josh because last year, he had come out with us several times. He and I would play best ball from the front tees, be given a stroke for any hole over 300 yards and give each other high-fives when we ultimately beat Tim, who is a single-digit handicap golfer. We didn't play with Josh on this particular course - I think it will be a while before I can play on one that we had.

My feelings and questions about the mode of Josh's death have been greatly helped by the comments on a previous post and via conversations with others. I am so thankful that you have opened yourself up to share your intensely personal story/experience as a way to help not only myself, but others.

In this short time, what I have learned from all of you is this: The struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, attempts and those that actually succeed in taking their own life is all around us. And many of those that battle these thoughts and feelings can, on the outside, look quite happy. Have a lot of friends. Be involved in activities. Get good grades or be successful at work. And yet they are really, really hurting inside. So badly that the thought or idea of taking their life appears to be the right decision, for everyone involved.

There are those who talk to others about these feelings of wanting to hurt themselves or take their life. Or they actually do hurt themselves as a way to feel a different pain other than what is in the mind and soul. I've heard that those who talk about these feelings are crying for help and this should never be ignored or dismissed as it is real and shows someone who is in the depths of despair, but willing to reach out and receive help.

Then there are those who do not talk about these thoughts and feelings, even if they are asked point blank, as in the case of Josh on several occasions. Those who keep this to themselves are really the ones who are most likely to attempt and succeed. For those of you who are reading this post and fit into this category, I plead with you to open up and let someone know what you are thinking. I wish to God that Josh had done this as he had many who were willing to help him, as I am sure you have as well.

I have also learned for those that actually attempted to take their life, when they look back at that event, they say that their mind was no longer in reality. Be it a chemical imbalance or psychotic break, I do not know. But the description is eerily similar. The mind is in a different place altogether; rhyme or reason is out the window and in fact, it is difficult to recognize that person as themselves. Therefore it is an irrational and unexplainable act - something that cannot be comprehended.

This new understanding has helped me to answer some of the nagging questions that I had such as:
  • How could a well-liked, athletic, popular kid who seemed to make everyone around them happier, do this to himself? I am seeing now that this may not be so unusual.
  • How come no one, not one person, knew he was thinking about this? Again, it is very scary to learn that those who don't talk will be the ones to most likely succeed.
  • And finally, how could he even do this? I am beginning to think that the Josh who did this is not the Josh that we knew and would perhaps be unrecognizable even to himself.
In terms of the other big question, why did his attempt succeed and others fail? I have struggled with this and think it can only be answered by faith. I have to believe that those who are still alive today have been spared for a reason. Their soul has something still to do. It is not their time. I am not sure why, but there is a reason - there has to be. Conversely, it was okay for Josh's soul to depart - he had done what was needed and could leave. Perhaps in his death, he could affect many more lives than if he lived. This makes sense to me now and brings some measure of peace to my heart.

This may seem odd to you, but it is my prayer now, that God and/or Josh would give me a sign to let me know that all is well. That my thinking is correct and his soul is truly at peace. I hope that I haven't had my eyes and heart closed to miss this sign. If you would pray anything for me, please pray for this.

If you are comfortable, please keep posting comments. I believe that the stories and experiences that are being shared are for a reason - not only to help me but to help one another.

As always, I and everyone in my family appreciate the continued demonstrations of love, support and prayers from so many. While they cannot take away the pain and loss that we feel daily, they make it more bearable.

God Bless


Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing this.

Biggie-Z said...

I had a dream the other night that we were all hanging out together, including Josh. He was happy and relaxed and smiling. Nothing much happened - I can't remember any specifics about anything we talked about or did. But I choose to take this as a sign from Josh that he is ok.

I wish he were still with us, and I am still very much in denial. But Josh's spirit lives on in all of us. My memories of him through the years will never seem enough, but they are sharper now than ever before.

Peace and love.

Anonymous said...

Josh's Mom, i had a friend several years ago that father commited suscide and after he was at my home crying and asked me if his dad was in heaven. I told him i did not know, but would ask my pastor. My pastor asked if he was a christian and said No one or action can take us from the lord and if he was a christian he was with the Lord today. This is true i think the devil is alive and well and Josh's moment didn't change his destiny. You will see him again and know now his suffering is over. Josh is not suffering and i know he would want you and family not to grieve but to cherish every moment you had with him. They say the loss of a child is the worst heartache on earth and reading this blog testifies to this. To the ones who have written hurtful words, lets forgive them because they know not what their talking about and pray they never will experience you pain. God bless you and your family
Rita, Bartlett, Tenn.

Emily said...

It is so windy today here in GA. The gusts are ringing my neighbor's wind chimes nonstop.

It makes me think of Josh.

I feel some comfort today because I think of Josh being swept up to heaven in the wind like Elisha in the Bible. I picture God carrying him home.

Biggie-Z said...

(edited to remove email address, which has been forwarded to Sue separately)

Sue, I read your blog every day, sometimes more than once. I see when you post at 3:45am and then when you post at 9:30 the next morning. I am drawn to your honesty, your rawness, your ability to question yourself and everyone/thing else. I've met you once or twice before (teen camp or when i was an R camp counselor) and remember feeling slightly intimated by you. it was obvious you were a strong woman..but perhaps, the woman you'd never see crack. Now your cracks are all over the worldwideweb for everyone to feel, hear, see, read, and even judge.. and i'm intimated by you even more! Not every mom would do this. or even have the technological prowess to figure it out. God knows how you even can type or find the words to make concise sentences, but you do. That says something. Not only are you strong, but you are being used as vehical, a medium to break people's hearts, open up their eyes, and connect the dots for either themselves or the people in their lives. I've shown this blog to my closest friends--who don't know Josh or the Andersons--and i've called and talked to the ones who did. Believe me, this has spread. I only met Josh when he was 10 or 11, but to have even a loose connection to him and your family makes it real. Everyday I've probably thought of him--when I went to the movies and laughed the day after (i almost cried after laughed for even laughing), when i took my dog to the dog park on a sunny day (i could see josh there with his dogs), when i see little kids playing (i thought these are all little joshies), when I bought tickets to go see a concert (i thought how lucky i am to hear music and go to shows), and a million other times. My best friend (who didn't know the Anderson's) finds it funny how many times I bring up Josh or you for that matter. I relay everything your write. I'm just astonished by how serious life is--to all of us. I could go on and on.. I've wanted to post something for awhile now, but felt intimated by the magnitude of it all. If you want to contact me further, my email is "", otherwise I will keep reading, breaking, smiling (baby andersons are so cute!), and loving.

much love.

Anonymous said...

I am a life coach and I am a friend of Sheri Burnham's.
I think that the term for what happened to Josh is "Soul misery".
I am intending to start writing a book on this topic, in the hopes that I can reach others with this condition, more than I can reach working one on one with people day to day.
One day a successful looking business man came in and said
I have a wonderful family, a lovely home, and car, yet every day I feel like driving my car into a tree"
That is the essence of what it is to have soul misery.
I hope that knowing this term, which I think I have coined helps.
We can ask others who are struggling, do you think you have soul misery? And then talk from there.
In our technological culture, our souls may not be getting the attention they need. We know about our bodies, hearts and minds, but what about our soul and her needs?

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty and opennes and i know that it is bringing awareness to people in all different situations everywhere.
I am praying everyday that God is giving You the peace that your heart is reaching for everyday
I love you soo much and am really looking forward to spending time with you and your family this weekend!

Genesis said...

My thoughts and prayers are going out to all of you right now. I know we have not been in contact for years, but news of such a wonderful person such as Joshy travels quickly. I am so sorry for your loss. As soon as I heard, my first thoughts were of us as children running around the house playing and me constantly playing with Josh's ears. I know I wasn't lucky enough to have any further contact with him or to watch him grow into such a loved young man but I am grateful for the time I was given.

He will be missed...

Love, Genesis Bridge

Anonymous said...

He Will Carry Scott Wesley Brown

Praying for you all.

Anonymous said...

I had just gone to the Washington post on line to see if Langley was ranked in Lacrosse. My son played for them last year and I was missing those high school days. The story of your son jumped out of the page at me and I cried for 20 minutes. My younger son is closer to the situation that was described in the article, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for having the courage to let this story be told. You are not alone in your grief. May your honesty, integrity and courage be a focus for change for the good.

Anonymous said...

But for the Grace of God, this could be my child. Or anyone's child. Call for an immediate halt to out of school suspensions/expulsions - there must be a better way.

Anonymous said...

As a mom I cant imagine not being able to hold my child. My heart goes our to you and your family. It has been many years since I have spent time with your family and all the memories are pleasant. I remember Josh and his love for the Power Rangers. My prayers are with you.

Verna Pregnon

Andrea White said...

Mrs. Anderson,
Honestly, I visit this blog every single day. And I really appreciate how honest you've been with us. It helps me and everyone else out there remember Josh for how he was--the greatest friend anyone could ever ask for. He was a friend to everyone.
Sometimes it still doesn't seem real to me that he's gone. But I know that it is real and that Josh is in peace now. He's with God. I know he's up there right now watching down on all of us, especially you. I know he loved you dearly.
I just wanted to say thankyou for being so open and all my prayers are with you, always.
Andrea White

Anonymous said...

Sue and family,

You are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I can relate to depression and suicide so much and am happy to share my story in hopes that it helps.

Back in college I suffered from depression and was days away from taking my own life. As I have shared this story with many, I tell people that I was walking around like a zombie. My roommates, friends, siblings, family never knew how sad I really was. It was like I was living two lives. The life that I tried to keep up with, fitting in and everyone thought I was happy etc. And then there was the life when it was just me and my own thoughts. I felt like if anyone knew what was really going on they wouldn't like me, they wouldn't love me, they wouldn't be proud of me. I remember thinking I was so far down in a pit that I would never be able to get out and the only option I had was to end it all. At that moment you are not thinking about the people you are going to leave behind and their sadness, you just want the pain and sadness you are consumed with to end so badly. Looking back now I know that my mom, dad, sister, brother, family, friends would not have judged me, would have listened and showed me nothing but unconditional love (and they did). But in that moment I don't know how to explain it, you just are not in your right frame of mind. Satan has your thoughts and logic so twisted. In that moment I didn't think that I had anywhere to turn, these were my actions and consequences that got me there.

One day someone close to me asked what was going on. I can't explain what it was at that moment and why it was her but I broke down and told her everything.

I think about that time in my life very often and shared it with many as I can. I am here 15 years later by the grace of God. I had to work through ALOT. I am so grateful to God for sparing me and intervening. I feel many times over and over like "why am I still here, I don't deserve to be here". The only answer I can come up with is to share this story with as many as possible.

I had worked with teens in our church for over 11 years. After Josh's death I wanted to go back into the teens. I am praying that God will continue to lead me to those that need the help and can benefit from my story and my experience. And like one of Josh's uncle's shared at the funeral that I will always take the time to listen and ask people how they are really doing.


LEA said...

I was on an airplane tonight and thought that in the sky I was close to him. A little girl behind me was talking to her mom asking if this is where the angels lived. I know this is where Josh is and he is an angel but it is so painful how much I miss him. Josh: please be my personal angel right now to help me get through this.

Anonymous said...

Sue, I haven't commented yet because I honestly didn't feel I had a right to. I didn't know your family personally, only from afar at church @ Oakton. But, in light of the recent article and the hateful comments left, I felt compelled to speak. I left my own comment rebuking the name-calling and blame-shifting done by those who have no clue how painful it is to lose a loved one. I am embarrassed for these people to even have the nerve to make such comments. Steve and I are praying for your family and friends. This whole event is striking a close chord with me and I pray future tragedies can be avoiding through your sharing. I admire your courage and strength.
The Shamon Family

Anonymous said...

Anderson Family,
Last november (2007) i lost one of my best friends to drugs. In your note you mentioned that your prayer is to get a sign from God or Josh to let you know everything is okay. I went through that with Maggie's death, however there were never any signs given only the feeling of her presence. I believe that when we all stopped trying to feel something or believe that something was a sign we actually got it. Its small, its something you cant really figure out. but the less you look for it the greater the feeling of him by your side will be. I believe that when Josh feels safe and comfortable in his new home he will give you that sign, it takes time and a lot of prayer to make it go away, i truly believe that Josh is in great hands, he was the most amazing guy and when he was ready to talk he would take, and i think the same goes for the sign your praying for. josh is still josh just with wings.

Biggie-Z said...

(edited comment from Stephanie)

I just read the article from the post.

I wanted to tell you how sorry am I for your loss.

God give you peace.

I'm so sorry...