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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

39 Book Reviews - updated 5/15/2011

As mentioned in other posts, I've been doing some reading to help me cope with Josh's sudden death (still so hard to type these words). I must confess that my memory is not that great - and Josh would've been the first to say so. Therefore, in an effort to help me remember what I've read as well as when I've read it, I've decided to keep a reading list and book review on the blog. I plan to update it as books are read or re-read.
The books that I am reading first have one thing in common - they are all written by SOS or "survivors of suicide". This term certainly applies to family members, but I would say that anyone who has known and loved Josh as a friend could also relate to the feelings that are described in these books.
It is heart-breaking to read about their loved one's suicide and the subsequent painful journey of grief and survival, while knowing that I have my own such road to travel. In the book that I am currently reading, "Grieving A Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers and Hope", Albert Hsu describes what it is like to be part of this group. His father committed suicide nine months after his wedding.
Suicide bisects your life with a thick dark line. Everything is divided into "before" and "after". Against our will, those of us who have experienced the suicide of a loved one have become part of a unique grieving community. Our particular kind of grief is incomprehensible to many, since death by suicide is radically different from death by car accident, heart attack or old age. It is a society that no one wants to be a part of, one that we wish we had not been initiated into (page 20).
I have a habit of reading with a pen and when there is something that really hits home or I need to ponder further, I underline and/or write in the margins. Most of the books below have writing in many of the pages as I can relate to almost everything that is read - the initial feelings of shock, disbelief, and numbness. Followed by the unending quest to understand why - coupled by the sorrow and despair, guilt, regret, and feelings of being a failure as a parent.
Each author has put pen to paper in hopes of helping others. It is a brave thing to do as they've had to re-live the nightmare in order to accurately describe what occured. Just as it has been more difficult for me to go to Josh's grave site these days as it is a stark reminder of our horrible reality, so it is sometime difficult to write on this blog. It forces me to think about how I am feeling, which has the affect of making the dull, background pain come to the forefront and become acute, raw and overwhelming. Many tissues are used with each post.
Although difficult, I have to believe that facing the pain and sorrow is better for me than to bury it or not let myself feel it. I have also heard that what I am writing is helping others - this encourages me to continue........

No Time To Say Goodbye: Surviving The Suicide of a Loved One by Carla Fine
The first book that I read which was within the first 2-3 weeks after Josh's death. My emotions were extremely raw, but I found this book to be exactly what I needed. I was the one who found our son, so her detailed description of what she found with her husband did not shock me, nor did the details of survivor stories that were gathered from her interviews. These accounts might be too much for others - so beware. I skimmed through it again recently and am writing some notes in my journal. This is definitely one that I will re-read as I journey through my own grief.

My Son....My Son: A Guide To Healing After Death, Loss or Suicide by Iris Bolton
Second book read after Josh's death - also within the first three weeks. I read this in one night - lots of pages earmarked and many sentences underlined. I have gone back, almost 4 months later and journaled through the book. These survivor books will have to be re-read as time passes. These authors are speaking and writing after they have come through on the other side of the grieving process, whereas I feel as though I've just begun.

Take The Dimness Of My Soul Away: Healing After a Loved One's Suicide by William RitterThird book read - These are 5 sermons given over a period of 5 years from a minster who lost his son to suicide. I will need to re-read as time passes. What he says after 1 year is not something I can relate to very well right now.

When Suicide Comes Home: A Father's Diary and Comments by Paul Cox (no book photo)
Fourth book that I have read after Josh's death. I could relate to almost every feeling this father had as he journaled his way through the tragedy of his son's death, who was in his early 20's. From the book, the father had a very close relationship with his son; they had common interests and seemed to spend a lot of quality time together. His son had admitted having suicidal thoughts at the time of his high school graduation and as his father's request, saw a counselor for a year. He seemed better so his visits stopped. I will keep this book on hand as I go through my journey.

Grieving The Unexpected: The Suicide of a Son by Dr. Gary LeBlanc
Fifth book read about 3 months after Josh's death. I could relate to the father/author in several ways. He is the one who found his son and they had absolutely no idea that his son was contemplating suicide. This book was written three-and-a-half years after his son's death and after going over everything in his mind in the months/days prior to his son's death, the author could still come up with nothing. No signs, no warnings. This is one of the hardest things to deal with. As a result, the author's feelings, questions, heartache, grief and pain are what I can relate to the most. As opposed to the other books (Bolton, Fine and Cox) that were written on the other side of the grieving process, this author appeared to still be wrestling with his son's death. This is not surprising as three-and-a-half years is not a long time. This book is also written from the view of how his faith has been challenged and strengthened through this time which has been helpful to read.

The Pact by Jodi Picoult (fiction)
My first Jodi Picoult book read, although I've seen her books everywhere - even more so, with the release of the movie "My Sister's Keeper", based on one of her books. The reason I picked this up was because of the subject matter - teenage suicide pact. With the unexpected and sudden death of our 17 year old son by suicide, a little over three months ago, I am obsessed with trying to understand why, although intellectually I know the answer is unobtainable. Although being fiction, the characters give a realistic view of where the mind of teenagers can go. A few pages give a glimpse of how a teen could get the point of completing suicide.
"She was well and neatly trapped, with only one small and hidden exit, so dark and buried that most people never even considered breaching its hatch.....there were really no options at all" (pg 206). "I don't want to be here....I don't want to be" (pg.274). "She didn't feel frightened. Now that she'd found a way out, even the thought of dying didn't scare her. She just wanted to end it before other people she loved were hurt as badly as she was" (pg. 325). "In that moment, with the night shrinking around them.....there was no alternative" (pg. 372).
In our case, how does a well-liked, athletic, smart young man take his own life? I think this question may haunt me for the rest of my life. The book offers some possibilities that I will have to ponder.

Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers & Hope by Albert Hsu
Sixth book read after our son's suicide - over four months later. So many thoughts, feelings, struggles, questions that were shared by the author resonated with me. Due to all of the marks in the book, I have a feeling it will take a while to journal through this one. This author writes from a Christian perspective - which was very helpful.

Writing through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen by Elizabeth Schaefer.Just "happened" to pick this up in a small bookstore in Vermont. What a gem. Especially the bibliography and resource list in the back. I read this in two days and ordered another 7 books. While I do not have the daily struggles of the author, I do feel like life is dark and grey since Josh has left us. So it has helped.
Lament For A Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff
Written by a father grieving the loss of his twenty-five year old son from a mountain climbing accident. He writes what I feel and has been quoted in my recent posts. The last third of his book chronicles the struggle in reconciling his son's death with his faith. I have made a note to read this section when ready to ask myself the same questions. Would highly recommend.

Those They Left Behind: Interviews, Stories, Essays and Poems by Survivors of Suicide. By Karen Mueller Bryson, Ph. D.
The interviews with survivors of suicide are divided by the relationship with the victim: parents, children, siblings, extended family and friends. Reading the book is like being at a support group where each person shares their story of loss. My focus was on the ten parents who courageously bared their hearts and soul. I could relate to many if not all of their feelings. It helps to know that we are not alone.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (fiction)
I read this book a while ago and remember thinking, "interesting story." Re-reading after our son's death - wow, totally different experience. I found myself thinking and wondering what heaven or the afterlife is like for our boy....can he see us? Know what we are doing/feeling? Can he see how much he was loved - by so many? Made me want to read Sebold's memoir, Lucky, which I did in one night. Powerful memoir. Would highly recommend both books.

Aftershock: Help, Hope and Healing in the Wake of Suicide by David Cox and Candy Arrington
Read this short book in one night. Author's father committed suicide when he was only nine years old. He compares suicide with an earthquake through out the book and I agree. A very personal account of a boy's nearly successful suicide when he was a junior in high school, written in his words was most helpful to me. Up until this point, I had not read anything that gave a glimpse of where the mind of a teenage boy could go in attempting suicide. It gave me a lot to think about.

Surviving Suicide: Help to Heal Your Heart, Life Stories from Those Left Behind by Heather Hays.
A compilation of stories from survivors - broken down by relation to the loved one. So sad as some of them had to write more than one since several of their loved ones took their lives. Personally, I do not think I could survive another suicide in my family. The format is very personal - an introduction to the victim and circumstances around the suicide and then a letter to their loved one. I read the stories from the parents who lost a child and could relate to almost every thought and feeling. Again, like being in a support group without having to attend.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Excellent book. I saw the movie first, otherwise I would have probably been quite confused while reading. Since Josh has passed away, I read everything from a different perspective and this book was no exception. We say that "hindsight is 20/20", meaning that if we knew what would happen, we would do things differently. But this story makes me wonder if that is really true? Even if I did know that Josh was going to take his life a little over 6 months ago, could I have changed events to prevent what happened? I used to think so which caused a tremendous amount of angst and guilt. Now, I really do wonder.

Paula and The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende (memoirs)
A well-written two part memoir by an author I have not read before. Her young married daughter, Paula, contracts a disease that puts her first into a coma, then a vegetative state, and ultimately results in her death. Isabel spends a whole year completely devoted to her daughter's care, hoping that she will recover. During this heart-wrenching time, she deals with her pain and sorrow by writing - about how she feels, about their family history - like a letter to her daughter. Paula is a very poignant memoir written by a grieving mother. The next book is written fifteen years later and it is clear this author/mother still grieves for her child. I like her writing style and look forward to reading her novels.

Dying To Be Free: A Healing Guide for Families after a Suicide by Beverly Cobain and Jean Larch
A short book, but very powerful. Statistics on prevalence of suicide and yet the difficulty in predicting and preventing. Formula for suicide: "psychache" + thought of death as an escape. I found the chapter called "The Fatal Journey" especially helpful in my attempt to understand why Josh made his decision seven months ago. A couple of chapters are devoted to the grieving process of survivors and some helpful thoughts on how to cope. A chapter called "Staying Alive" is relevant for those who know someone who is suicidal or struggles with suicide. The last chapter recounts stories of the connection between survivor and loved one who died.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie GoldbergI really, really liked this book. Her metaphors and stories are very encouraging to just take pen to paper and write, write, write. She espouses writing practice as a way to learn how to write from the depths of one's soul, to become centered - forgetting all the "rules" of writing, such as punctuation and spelling. Basically, let it all hang out. Very motivating. I am eager to read other books by her.

Journal to the Self: Twenty-two paths to personal growth by Kathleen Adams and The New Diary by Tristine Rainer
Two excellent reference books for those who are brand new to journaling and those who are looking for new ideas. They both speak to the modes of diary expression: catharsis, description, free intuitive writing and reflection. The use of dialogue, lists, portraits, unsent letters, varied perspectives and other techniques in writing are described in detail. Motivating and encouraging as well.

The Empty Chair by Beryl Glover
A short book which can easily be read in one sitting. I found it useful in a supplemental way.

The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham
This author explores unanswered questions regarding her father's suicide fifteen years after the fact in this riveting memoir. Although my loss is not the same, I can relate to the suppositions, questions, "what if's" and "I wonders". I'd like to read other writer's journeys through grief and loss. It

Ordinary People by Judith Guest (fiction)
Tragic accident in a family is used to reveal how varied grief responses can be, the effect on one another, and the struggle to heal and survive. One son dies by accident, the other feels so guilty, he attempts suicide. As a result, he spends a good amount of time in a psychiatric hospital. The book begins after he comes home. It is a well written book that I would highly recommend, as well as the movie.
By Their Own Young Hand: Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents by Keith Hawton and Karen Rodham
Researchers in England were able to give a survey to over 5,000 teenagers (15-16 years old) that asked questions about deliberate self-harm thoughts and actions. As a parent who is looking for answers as to why our 17 year old son took this life, this book was helpful. I wrote a post on the things learned from
this book.
Hold Tight by Harlan Coben (fiction)
Very quick read. Meaningful references: parents raising teens, to spy or not to spy on them, secrets, teen suicide, and grief. Although I don't feel this way, I found the mother's description of their house after her son had been found dead by suicide, haunting. "The house was dead. That was how Betsy Hill would describe it. Dead. It wasn't merely quiet or still. The house was hollow, gone, deceased - its heart stopped beating, the blood had stopped flowing, the innards had begun to decay. Dead. Dead as a doornail, whatever the hell that meant. Dead as her son, Spencer."

The Worst Loss: How Families Heal from the Death of a Child by Barbara Rosof
Grieving is hard work - unavoidable. For parents: take care of yourself, give yourself time, reach out to others. Timetable varies but generally will take four years before life feels like it is on track. Meaningful references: impact on family as a whole, parents, siblings (based on age), rough timetable, tasks to work through while grieving, specific chapters dealing with various types of death (stillbirths/infant deaths, terminal illness, accidents, murders, suicides).

Beach Music by Pat Conroy (fiction)
Main character's wife committed suicide. He flees with his young daughter to Italy but eventually returns to his hometown in South Carolina. I picked this book up because of the suicide theme. The author does not go into much detail regarding the mind of the wife, which is what I was hoping for. 

After The Death of A Child: Living With Loss Through the Years by Ann Finkbeiner The author lost her only child, an 18 year old son via a train wreck. She wanted to know what happens to parents in the years after losing their child - what are the long term effects. Bottom line - while the pain of losing the child may recede over time, parents never, ever get over the loss. They only learn to live with it. Always there. Has become a part of who they are. This makes sense to me. 

Life After the Death of My Son: What I'm Learning by Dennis Apple
The author's nineteen year old son was an otherwise healthy young college student. He died unexpectedly from complications due to mono, in the middle of the night, at home, on the family room couch. His father found him the next morning after taking his younger son to school. Seventeen years later, he wrote this book. While a quick read, this book was helpful to me as noted in a recent post called "Grief Journey - How Long?"

Legend of a Suicide by David Vann (fiction)
I picked this book up while browsing through a bookstore as naturally, the title caught my attention. It is a collection of short stories of which the longest, is so unexpected and disturbing, it is difficult to recommend. The author's explanation is in the back: "My father killed himself when I was thirteen, and for three years afterward, I told everyone he had died of cancer, because the way he killed himself felt too shameful. And I also didn't quite believe in his death. So this book is as true an account as I could write of my father's suicide and my own bereavement, and that was possible only through fiction."
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (fiction)
Very disturbing story about five sisters who commit suicide within one year. I picked up this book in the hope of learning about the suicidal mindset of young people, which was not a focus for the author. Fiction is an easier way for me to look at this topic, but leaves me thirsting for more. It is a dilemma as I can't bring myself to open non-fiction books that sit on my shelves, such as No One Saw My Pain: Why Teens Kill Themselves. A bit too much right now.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Platt (fiction)
A classic novel based on the author's life, who does end up committing suicide at age 30. In the book a young college student, Esther, struggles with feeling inadequate which fuels insecurity, leading to depression and an obsession with suicide. She has no fear of death, but her attempts are unsuccessful, landing her in an asylum for a period of time. It is a story of a rational mind's descent into the irrational. I have dog-earred a number of pages, wondering if Josh felt, by even the smallest measure, the same as this poor girl.
After Suicide by John Hewett
This book was listed in the bibliography of Hsu's book. I read this short book in less than one hour and did not find anything new. Also, this was not written by a suicide survivor, which is now an important factor to me. It is difficult to write about coping with suicide if one has not lived it.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
It is amazing what this author has accomplished in spite of her constant battle with manic-depression or bi-polar disorder. She is a Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University and has made her illness the focus of her academic research and writing. I knew she had attempted suicide, which is the main reason for reading the book. Her mindset at the time was irrationally rational, an oxymoron, I know. "I was doing the only fair thing for the people I cared about; it was the only sensible thing to do for myself. One would put an animal to death for far less suffering."
Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber
I recently bought a Nook, an e-book reader from Barnes and Noble. Each Friday, B&N offers a free book. One such book was the first in a series by this author; about a knitting shop on Blossom Street. This book is the 4th in the series and addresses the topic of grief, from four women who have lost their husbands. These women decide to write a list of "twenty wishes" as a way of moving forward with their lives. Examples are buying red cowboy boots, learning how to belly dance, going skinny dipping, going to Paris with a loved one, dancing barefoot in the rain. I spent some time the other night writing down my own list and came up with 25 wishes - a good sign, I think.
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
This book begins with death, has flashbacks of death in the middle and ends with a near death. Various modes of death are used by the author: murder, accident and suicide. The latter, of course, is what interests me. As a result, this book is heavily dog-earred, written in and passages are quoted in my journal with thoughts.

The Grieving Garden: Living With the Death of A Child by Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert
22 parents have lost their children by various means and at different ages. They responded to questions from the authors and this book is the result. It is like having a parent support group on hand at any time it is needed. It took me a while to get through the first half, but once focused, I read through the last half within a couple of days. Very helpful so I would recommend to any parent who has suffered the worst loss imaginable - the death of their child.

Beyond Tears: Living After Losing A Child by Ellen Mitchell
Nine mothers found each other and formed their own support group after losing their children, all young adults from 16 - 24 years old. This book is about their journey. I can relate to so many of their feelings. This book gave me the idea to write on a white balloon and send it up to Josh on New Year's Eve.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
This is a story of a typical working mom whose life if her family.  She struggles with wanting to be close to her three teenage children who are simultaneously wanting their independence, a marriage that is ok, not great, and a secret she has chosen to forget.  Then "IT" happens and this woman struggles with just surviving.  I can relate to a number of quotes from the book.  A full review is on my reading blog.

I am now maintaining a full list on my reading blog.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coping - 14 1/2 weeks later

It is difficult to know how to begin this post. I still have a hard time believing that Josh is gone - never to return. I keep hoping that it was a terrible mistake and that one morning, he will walk down the stairs as if nothing had ever happened.

Many things remind me of him - such as sitting by the pool on a nice sunny day and picturing him with trademark sunglasses, laying on a float and just "chilling" as only Josh could do. Or as probably most families do, we enjoy barbecuing in the summer. For Father's Day, we grilled steaks and sausage and I couldn't help but recall how Josh loved a huge, thick steak - cooked medium rare.

We are big Red Sox fans as Tim grew up in Boston and we actually met while in college at Boston University. We always make it a point to attend a Red Sox game when they are playing the Orioles at Camden Yards or "Fenway South", as we like to call it. Last week, we were fortunate to get tickets through one of Gillian's college friends, to see the Red Sox play the Nationals. This was our first trip to the Nat's new ball park. I know that Josh would've enjoyed being at the game, sitting next to Gillian, cracking jokes and making her laugh.

Other memories are triggered unexpectedly - most recently by things that I have found. When this happens, I find it hard to breathe and it is like a spigot goes off and tears stream uncontrollably down my face.

For example, I was clearing a flashdrive the other day and found a Word document for school that Josh had saved. It was basically a note to his English teacher regarding some feedback she had given to him on an essay. It made me cry because I could actually hear him speaking the words - as he was trying to explain himself.

There were some comments that I can't argue about, like that I needed more analysis or that I needed to better explain the significance of a quote, or something like that. I thought the first quarter was alright, there was some room for improvement. I look forward to get better grades in the second quarter and we'll see if I can. Things might be a little bit easier because football season is basically over. That's my goal for the second quarter. Josh Anderson

Most homes have some space that is dedicated to storage. In our case, it is a large crawl space located in our basement, which over the years, had become filled with unused items - most of which I could not remember. This space is located directly under our laundry room and unfortunately one night, when the water from our washing machine did not automatically shut off, not only did that room get flooded, but water flooded the crawl space. For four hours, with the help of our two girls, my brother and sister-in-law (who arrived just in time to help!), we emptied the entire space.

Over the past few weeks, we've needed to sort between what to keep and throw out. As a result, I found boxes of memorabilia and various pieces of art work that had been done by the kids. When I came across Josh's baby book and scrap book, I wish I could explain the emotions that overcame me. Suffice it to say that I could only take a cursory look through my tears and put it in a fresh box to review later. Some photos of what I found.....

A page from Josh's baby book.
I had forgotten that he was a big baby, 8 lbs and 11 oz. and was born at 3:45 am. This book also contains the ultrasound pictures as well as a picture and a locket of hair from his first haircut.

Josh was a good artist - even at a young age.

Josh's picture of himself and his dad.

Self portrait with a note from his art teacher:
Joshua - I'm sorry that I have had your self-portrait for the whole year. I simply am amazed by your talent. I hope you don't mind that I trimmed and mounted your picture. You should keep it for as long as you can to remind you of your skill!

It has been over three months now and I feel the need to make sure that all memories of not only Josh, but our family are preserved. This is an overwhelming task as we have photos in various photo albums - many of them in those awful, sticky pages of another era - as well as in photo boxes. We took hundreds of pictures in the "pre-digital" age where the originals are stored as negatives.

I know that any kids who are reading this cannot even imagine the time when you did not have instantaneous access to your photos and had to wait until the film was developed. I recently asked my 19 year old how many pictures she had. The answer was over 3,000 in her iphoto library and even more saved in other files. In our day, that would've meant a lot of money in film and developing. Technology is amazing.

So with the collection of memorabilia uncovered, and the need to organize decades of photos, my dining area is no longer recognizable. I have known that this needed to be done for some time, but for some reason, there was never a pressing enough reason to tackle such a monumental task. Until the passing of our beloved son.

So for the next few months, or however long it takes, I will be spending my spare time going down memory lane - with a box of tissues close by.

God Bless

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Father's Day - June 21, 2009

This post is for Tim - who is a great husband and father. In their cards, our children expressed their love and appreciation for everything that he has done for them through the years. As with many other children in our area, our kids were very active throughout their school years; involved with soccer, basketball, football, lacrosse, and dance team.

We would often have to "divide and conquer" in order to watch all of their games on the weekends. Tim never minded - he loved going and watching them compete. Once the older kids were in high school, it became a bit more challenging as we had four kids in four different schools. Both Lauren and Tyler played basketball so I remember the nights when we would go to Lauren's JV game and then race to Tyler's varsity game - many times across the county.

Probably similar to other father and sons, Tim had a special bond with Josh through sports. He NEVER missed a football game and often chastised me for being a few minutes late, which to him was like a mortal sin; for me, it meant missing the opening kick-off and a few subsequent plays.

Successful high school sports depends on a lot of parent involvement. While I was content to sit in the stands and cheer Josh on, Tim was up above the press box, filming the game. This, apparently is very serious business, of which he was the most dependable game-filmer ever. No matter what the weather, he was up filming and providing some commentary such as, "first and ten", then "second and four", then "third and two", etc. etc. Sometimes, I would go up to watch the game with him, but would have to really censor myself as I can be quite loud and one can't have a mother's voice on the film that is given to the coach and watched by all the players the next day!

Gillian gave a special gift to her dad this Father's Day. I will end this post with a photo of her card and gift (a mug with a collage of pictures on it) as well as a slide show of some photos of Josh and his dad.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poem by Josh's friend

Tim and I spent an unexpected afternoon this past weekend with two of Josh's really good friends. Independently, they each called me to see if they could come over to see how we were doing and to talk. It was so great to see them and reminisce together about our son and their friend.

It was clear to us that Josh's death impacted them deeply and still does. We are all grieving - individually and together.

They were able to give us continued insight into the difficult waters that teenagers must navigate these days. Not only are the academic pressures so great, especially for teens who live in the Northern Virginia area, but as we can all guess, the social pressures and temptations can be overwhelming as well. If this were not enough, stress within the family can take what is difficult and make it almost unbearable.

Was Josh feeling all of these things? I would say "yes". Getting into trouble at school for the second time meant facing probably expulsion and leaving another group of friends that he had just made. And although it was clear that we were willing to support and assist him, we were disappointed that he made decisions that brought him back to where we started in the first place when he had to leave Langely HS. I am beginning to think that all of this was just too much for him to bear and that he did not have the ability to cope, nor the motivation to reach out to call someone who could help him.

How I wish this weren't so because then, maybe he would've had the ability to see himself through that awful night, and have woken up to a new day with all of its possibilities.

A couple of days after our visit, I received this beautiful poem written by his friend. With her permission, I'd like to share it with all of you. God Bless.

You Are Near
By Hayley Savage
I can't believe this happened, I feel so dumb and blind,
Everyone's in pain Josh, all the people left behind.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, that's not how death's designed.
I wish you would have thought twice, I know you would have changed your mind.

Josh, I don’t know what to do now, this is way to much to bear,
Who do I go to when I need help? Now that you are not there.
It's real hard to move on Josh, I’m reminded everywhere
I'm so angry that you did this, for all of us it is not fair.

The future that you had, well I guess we’ll never know
You could have done so many things, its amazing how you’ve grown.
The pain you must have felt, I wish we could have known
We would have been beside you, so you didn’t feel alone.

I guess you’ll never understand all that talent gone to waste
All the tears and all the thoughts and struggles we must face.
Josh I really wish that you would fill something in the place
Of all of our broken hearts because there is an empty space.

I know if you could go back, you would probably undo
The thing that caused our hurt and pain, all we want is you.
As we look up in the sky and try to find a sign that you are here
I feel the wind and hear the trees and know that you are near.

Friday, June 12, 2009

June 12, 2009 - Weekday or Date?

This probably seems like an odd title for a post; I will try to explain. Josh decided to leave us on March 18th, which was the the third Wednesday of the month. So, when do we commemorate his death? For example, the third Wednesday in June is the 17th. But three months is on Thursday, June 18th.

This might seem like a trivial question for many, but for Tim and I, it means the difference between a somewhat "normal" day and one that is filled with memories, questions and almost unbearable pain. And for me, non-stop tears.

This question is not unique to us. I wrote in an earlier post that I had been doing a bit of reading to help me deal with this tragedy. One such book is called "When Suicide Comes Home - A Father's Diary and Comments". It is the journal entries that the author, Paul Cox, made after his son committed suicide, a couple of years following his high school graduation. He dedicated this book to his young son's memory and to the hope that it would offer help and assistance to others facing the same tragedy.

This is what Paul wrote two years after his son's death:

I thought I would have worked out when to commemorate it by now. I haven't. I don't know whether to mark it on the month and day, or mark it on the third Friday of November. Should I commemorate on November 20th, no matter the day of the week, or the third Friday no matter the actual date? It seems silly, but it is important to me.
As I compare his thoughts and feelings at certain days after his son's death with my own, I am finding that virtually everything is the same. This may be in part because this poor father was all alone in the house when he found his son. It was the same for me. I can relate so well to his struggle with the mental picture that "just keeps playing like a continuous film loop". And the complete and total feeling of blame, despite what everyone says.

We have posted on this blog a playlist of songs that were Josh's favorites, based on how frequently they were played. I have listened to these songs over and over because it felt like Josh was speaking through them. I should not have been surprised to read that the author also found songs, three of them, left on a CD in his son's CD player. The lyrics were sad as well, about "dying, being missed, and going to Heaven."

He journals about having days where he begins to feel good and then feels guilty for feeling good. For me, it is like being in a perpetually cloudy, overcast day in which at times, the sun breaks through. Perhaps for only a moment or for a few hours. But never for the entire day - at least for now. According to my reading, sometime in the future, when I have come to the "acceptance" stage of the grief process, it may be opposite. Maybe at that time, most days will be sunny with momentary times of cloud cover.

He also journals in the days immediately following his son's death, the need for a "sign" or some communication that he was okay. I can relate to everything that is written on various days: "my poor, sweet son, I long to know that you are okay." Or "I sure would like some communication from him, or God, letting me know he is okay". Or "I long to see him, if only for a few seconds in a dream" or "I could sure use a short visit from him."

Those who have read previous posts know that I was praying for such a sign as well. And received one - on Easter Sunday, witnessed by family and friends. I am thankful to have received this so early on, but confess that I have been praying for another sign that Josh is okay. Just another confirmation that he is at peace would make it a little easier to move forward with our lives.

I feel a bit greedy because I may have received another sign from Josh, based on the feedback of those whom I have told this story. For me, I am not sure so I will relay the story here. In a previous post, I shared that Tim and I went to Hilton Head for a nice getaway trip. During this time, I made it a daily habit to walk on the beach as there is something about being by the water that I find refreshing and relaxing.

One of the days happened to be the one month anniversary of Josh's death. I was on the beach listening to the CD of the memorial service, the first and only time since the funeral. After doing so, I sat for a while and wrote in my journal while listening to his playlist. Needing to stretch my legs, I got up and walked to the ocean. Lo and behold, about 40 yards in front of me was a lone dolphin. It was so surprising to me that at first, I thought the water was playing tricks on my eyes. But sure enough, after floating in front of me for a little while, the dolphin slowly moved to my right and further out to sea. Within five minutes or so, I could no longer see the distinctive fin moving up and down. I wish I had my camera with me to record these precious moments.

According to our hosts, there are a number of dolphins that are sighted off of these shores. However, is it more than coincidence that this one dolphin was there - the exact moment that I decided to walk towards the water? I wish I knew for sure. At the time, I did immediately think of Josh and will end this post with the lyrics of one of the more haunting of his songs that came to mind.

"Into The Ocean" by Blue October

I'm just a normal boy
That sank when I fell overboard
My ship would leave the country
But I'd rather swim ashore

Without a life vest I'd be stuck again
Wish I was much more masculine
Maybe then I could learn to swim
Like 'fourteen miles away'

Now floating up and down
I spin, colliding into sound
Like whales beneath me diving down
I'm sinking to the bottom of my
Everything that freaks me out
The lighthouse beam has just run out
I'm cold as cold as cold can be.....


I want to swim away but don't know how
Sometimes it feels like I'm falling in the ocean
Let the waves up, take me down
Let the hurricane set in motion, yeah
Let the rain of what I feel right now come down
Let the rain come down

Where is the coastguard?
I keep looking each direction
For a spotlight, give me something
I need something for protection
Maybe the flotsam junk will do just fine
the jetsam sunk, I'm left behind
I'm treading for my life, believe me
(How can I keep up this breathing?)

Not knowing how to think
I scream aloud, begin to sink
My legs and arms are broken down
With envy for the solid ground
I'm reaching for the life within me
How can one man stop his ending
I thought of just your face
Relaxed, and floated into space


Now waking to the sun
I calculate what I had done
Like jumping from the bow, yeah
Just to prove I knew how, yeah
It's midnight's late reminder of
The loss of her, the one I love
My will to quickly end it all
Set front row in my need to fall
Into the ocean, end it all
Into the ocean (goodbye) end it all (goodbye)

Josh - please let me know again that you are okay.

God Bless

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009 - 11 weeks

I have always been a reader, in fact my favorite time of the day is at the very end, when all chores are finished and a good book is waiting on my end table. Some people watch TV before bed or drift off while listening to music. For me, no matter how tired I am, I must read something in order to fall asleep.

I learn by reading as well. Therefore, as one would expect, once the shock began to wear off, I began looking for books to read. Books that would help me understand how Josh could do this and books that could help my family and I survive.

The resources on the Internet are amazing. Through two web sites, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology, I have found lists of over 100 books that deal with this tragedy.

Many are books for survivors with titles such as "After Suicide Loss: Coping With Your Grief" or "Silent Grief: Living in the Wake Of Suicide". Other books are written for those who are trying to understand how someone could get to this point with titles like "The Suicidal Mind" or "Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide".

A few weeks ago, I went on-line and ordered 11 books. I have only read one so far. I find it hard to read during the early evening hours as there is always so much to do. So the only time I open up a book is before bed. As you can imagine, it is hard to read these types of books before sleeping.

Although, any type of book could be difficult, as I found out last night. I have been reading an engrossing tale of two women who became best friends in HS and have stayed close all through their adult years. Long story short, there is a major breach of trust, they don't talk for several years and one of them now has cancer and it is terminal.

As my kids can attest, I cry pretty easily - with all types of media. A book, a song, a touching article in the newspaper or magazine. In fact, my family were a bit embarrassed when I cried in the theatre during the Lion King. Tears have also appeared while watching TV - once such instance happened when Josh and I were watching something and a short preview came on for the movie, John Q. I started sniffling; he just looked at me, shook his head slightly and smirked. Shortly after we were married, Tim and I saw Terms of Endearment. To this day, he calls it Tears of Endearment because I cried for an hour after we came home. I don't know where this comes from as in general, I am not an overly emotional person. Maybe from my mother, as she cries easily while watching movies too.

This book made me cry, and cry and cry. Then I thought about Josh and couldn't stop. When someone is ill and is dying, at least their loved ones have some time to be with them before the end. With Josh, it was so sudden. One day, he was there and everything was "normal" and then he was gone. No good-bye, no last words, no nothing.

How could this have happened to us? Why? What could we have done? What didn't we do? Why did it have to end this way? Why didn't we know? What did we do wrong? These questions kept circling around and around in my head for quite a while. I know there are no answers but the questions still linger.

I have to confess that it is very difficult to go to his grave site now. The days are pretty busy and although I never forget what has happened, it is not always in the fore front of my mind. But when I go and see the cold, hard stone that has his full name, Joshua Lee Anderson and his date of birth, Jan. 16, 1992 and the date of his death, March 18, 2009 - the reality and all of its horrors and implications hits me anew. It is so sad to stand there and think of what he would be doing now if he were alive.

Sometime I take a walk around and look at the items that other families have put in trees that are near their loved ones. During one such walk, there was a "Happy 16th Birthday" balloon that was tied to a grave stone vase. Sure enough, when you look at the dates on the stone, this young person would've been 16 years old. Then I think of myself buying a "Happy 18th Birthday" balloon next January, coming to the cemetery and placing it on Josh's grave site. This image is almost more than I can bear, but it is now our reality. I honestly do not know how I will be able to cope when the time comes - only by the grace of God, the love and strength provided by our families and the thoughts and prayers of friends.

I will end this post with some pictures taken this weekend with family.

Josh's grandma fixing the mixture of fresh and silk flowers in his vase.

A new pink dogwood tree which was a Mother's Day gift and planted in memory of Josh,

Everyone in the family wearing our new "Josh" T-shirts.

Josh - you are always in our hearts. We love and miss you so much.

God Bless.