I was a bit concerned when I woke up crying on Tuesday that it would be more of the same. However, I felt more numb than anything else the past two days. I guess the body can only take so much emotion before a self-preservation mechanism sets in.
The type of feelings/thoughts that I am experiencing are so intense that I have begun to do some reading to try and better understand them. Probably most people like myself have heard of the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). However, I found a web site that lists 7 stages of grief that appear to be more comprehensive.
- Shock and Denial - provides some measure of emotional protection from being completely overwhelmed with grief.
- Pain and Guilt - excruciating and unbearable.
- Anger and Bargaining
- Depression, Reflection and Loneliness - can occur months after the death of a loved one as the true realization of death settles in. This period can last for months and should not be discouraged by others.
- The Upward Turn - adjustment to life without the loved one begins.
- Reconstruction and Working Through
- Acceptance and Hope - will find a way forward.
Also, a dear friend sent me a book called "No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One" by Carla Fine. While we have received a number of books from other friends, which we so appreciate, this one in particular, speaks to what I am trying to understand at this time. I want to share some of what I have learned from my reading of these three sources.
- When dealing with death by suicide, survivors experience a more complex kind of grief.
- Along with the sudden loss, there is overwhelming feelings of blame, anger and guilt.
- Survivors are often consumed with trying to find the meaning or reason behind the suicide.
- It is a difficult topic to discuss and often a stigma is attached to this particular mode of death.
- Many people have been touched by suicide as approximately 1 out of 4 people know of someone who died by suicide.
- The closer the survivor is to the deceased, the more intense the feelings will be. Intense anger towards self, closely linked with guilt is often felt by this survivor.
- I think we all know that death of a loved one is an event that causes much stress. However, in Fine's book, she found through her research that the stress caused by a suicidal death is catastrophic - likened to the experience of a concentration camp.
- I have underlined a number of sentences from her book that seem to speak directly to me:
The suicide of a loved one irrevocably transforms us. Our world explodes, and we are never the same (pg. 20). The worst part of suicide is the shock of it (pg. 36). The initial impact of discovery scars us forever (pg. 37). The immediate response to suicide is total disbelief. The act itself is so incomprehensible that we enter into a state where we feel unreal and disconnected (pg. 40). Guilt suffuses every aspect of a survivor's healing process (pg. 47).
- Perhaps of everything I have read so far, two paragraphs from Fine's book describes what I feel every day since I made that terrible discovery.
Suicide is different from other deaths. We who are left behind cannot direct our anger at the unfairness of a deadly disease or a random accident or a murderous stranger. Instead, we grieve for the very person who has taken our loved one's life. Before we can even begin to accept our loss, we must deal with the reasons for it - and the gradual recognition that we might never know what happened or why (pg 13).I have learned new things through all of this, for example, I never realized how many people have been affected by or have know someone who has departed this way.
Suicides are messy deaths, there is nothing neat about them. The lives of those of us who are left behind have been shattered into thousands of tiny fragments, and we do not know how to begin cleaning up the devastating damage. Our loved ones have departed by their own will, even though they knew that they were planning to leave us forever, they did not give us the opportunity to bid them Godspeed (page 35).
In a strange way, it comforts me to know that the stress related to Josh's death is one that can be described as catastrophic, for this is what I have felt since that fateful day.
It also helps to know that grief from suicide is different than if a loved one died by tragic accident, illness or even by the hand of someone else. This death was self-inflicted or horribly put, self-murder. And that the closer the survivor is to the deceased, the more intense the feelings will be.
In my view, this is nothing that compares to a mother's bond to her child. And I don't think it has to be a naturally-born child, as I have friends who have the same intense feelings about their adopted child as I have towards my own children. It is different than any of the other strong family bonds such as a father, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle, as close as those relationships may be. Think of the phrase, "a mother's intuition". Or the picture of a mother fighting anyone and everyone for the life of her child - even to the point of giving up her own life.
I think this is why I struggle so much with all of the intense feelings, emotions and thoughts. I am comforted by the fact that this is normal, given that I am Josh's mother. He was conceived and carried for nine months in my womb. I gave birth to him and have been a part of every moment of his seventeen years, 2 months and 2 days of life. The grief can just overwhelm me at times: I actually hear a roaring in my ears, my head feels like it is in a vice and the tears flow unchecked.
My own mother is pained by seeing how much I am suffering. For grandparents, this is a double-whammy. They feel deep grief for the death of their grandchild, but in addition, there is the knowledge of the pain and anguish that their own child is going through. There is nothing that can be done about this - except to work through this with each other's support and help. Tim and I are lucky to have such loving parents, who have given of themselves to us tirelessly in this terrible time of loss.
Tim and I also want to thank you so much for your continued support and love. We are encouraged by all of you who are providing comments on this blog and we hope that you and others will continue to do so. Please continue pray for our family and if I can be a bit selfish, I ask that you say an additional prayer for me, Josh's mother.