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

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My "Grief Journey" - Why, Josh, Why?

Consider this - everyone’s life is a journey, a linear road in which things happen, events occur and memories are made. There are forks in the road when decisions like moving, going to a new school, taking a new job, getting married, or having kids changes the landscape and makes the journey new, exciting and sometimes scary. At other times, unexpected obstacles make the road difficult and challenging but hopefully not insurmountable.

Our son, Josh was on such a road – a pretty typical teenage boy’s life as one can see by reading the posts on this blog. Granted, in the past year his journey was more challenging due to the changing of schools and just prior to his death, the probable expulsion from Fairfax County Public Schools. Difficult? Yes. Worth ending his life over? No, nor did he ever give any indication that he felt like it was.

But for some reason, still unknown to us and anyone else who has known our boy in his short life, he faced something he could not overcome nor could he share. Had he told either Tim or I, we would've done anything to help him. So whether this obstacle was like a Mount Everest that he could not climb, go around or pass through; or a deep chasm that he found himself unable to climb out of, he decided to end his journey. I don’t understand it and in my journal, I am writing the same three words over and over: “Why, Josh Why?”

To say his action has changed my life is an understatement. It has changed me - permanently. Prior to March 18, 2009, my own journey was pretty “normal”. Childhood, adolescence, college, marriage and over time, the normal chaos of juggling work and raising four kids with two dogs. Post Josh’s death, it's as if I have woken up from a horrible nightmare and am now on this somewhat familiar road minus a part of my heart - without any idea of what just happened and why. Why me? Why us? Why our son? Why, Josh, why?

I don’t want to be on this "grief journey" as it is not part of life’s natural order – a parent is not supposed to bury a child. It should be the other way around. I don’t like this journey as I am not prepared and am here against my will. Plus, it is so emotional - draining my energy and making the simple things more taxing. Why, Josh, why?

As a kid, the passing of our pet dogs was sad but did not put me on this journey. Nor did the deaths of my maternal grandparents (I never knew the grandparents on my father’s side). So at 48 years old, this is new. I feel for my own kids and Josh’s close friends who find themselves on this road at such a young age.

Regardless of my feelings or unanswered questions, here I am. Unexpected things have occurred, such as this blog. The writing has helped me and as I have been told, it has also helped many others. Of this, I am grateful.

These days, the bookstore is a magical place for me. At home, I frequent the large chains like Borders or Barnes and Noble. On our vacation in New England, however, I found locally owned bookstores similar to the one that Meg Ryan’s character operated in the movie “You’ve Got Mail”. With hardwood floors, tall wooden bookcases overflowing with books, comfy seats in various nooks where one can sit undisturbed for hours and friendly, knowledgeable employees whose love for books is unmistakable - a book lovers dream.

I have always been a reader, as mentioned in a Book Review post, but why this almost insatiable desire to read, read and read? I don’t know except that it is an important part of my journey.

A couple of days ago, as I was browsing through a bookstore in Vermont, this title intrigued me: Writing through the Darkness, Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen by Elizabeth Schaefer. The author, who suffers from bipolar disorder, uses writing to successfully help her cope with her illness. She has also formed a writing group for others and the book is a result of what she has taught and learned.

Though I do not relate to her daily struggles, I do feel as though life is now dark and grey. After reading a few sentences shared below, I not only bought the book, read it in within a couple of days but also ordered seven more books based on the bibliography and resources listed in the back. This book is a gem.
This book and its approach to writing and healing are designed specifically for people coping with situational depression due to a difficult life event, or with major depression or the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (pg. 18).

Writing can help you overcome the trauma of a situational depression more quickly and assist you in finding perspective on how this event fits into your whole life (24).

Writing will help you discover your feelings, too. It can help you acknowledge the hell you may have gone through, validate how it may still pain you, and digest those feelings to bring you into a new place and perspective (52).
As I had read through the book - with all of my customary underlining, notes in the margins and dog-eared pages - I think, "Aha! This is why the blog is so important to me. And why I always feel better after writing a post, even though it is often difficult emotionally."

I never realized there were so many books on the topic of "writing to heal" or on "journaling". Here are some that I am eagerly awaiting.
  • With Pen in Hand: The Healing Power of Writing by Henriette Klauser
  • Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo
  • Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval by James Pennebaker
  • Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and Loss Through Writing by Susan Zimmerman
  • Journal to Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth by Kathleen Adams
My "to read" stack is tall. The grief journey has led me to books written by survivors of suicide, books about why people commit suicide (I have not been able to read these yet), fictional books on the topic of suicide/grief and now, these books on writing/journaling to heal.

I read to learn and if helpful, I plan to share this on the blog. I also realize that I am reading to become a better writer. This is one of the most surprising things on my journey as I have never liked writing, nor would I ever consider myself a writer, but here I am, and it is helping. Who would ever have guessed?

I think that writing has helped some of you as I hear there are still friends posting on Josh's facebook wall. Many of you have written a letter to Josh in my book while in our home or at the funeral service. I cherish what was poured out from your hearts. Since then, maybe you have written a poem or a song or a story. If so, would you share it with Tim and I? We would love to read it.

Writing has been healing. This blog has been healing. Thanks again for the love, support, thoughts and prayers from all of you - it means the world to us.

God Bless


Jim Watson said...


Judy and I continue to pray for the Anderson family. I have not been able to write my 'story' of Josh yet as the pain is still very deep and constant. The day will come when the story will flow, in the mean time I know God has you, Tim, Lauren, Gillian and Tyler in His hands.

Our love,

Judy and Jim.

Biggie-Z said...

I can't tell you how many times we see a picture of Josh, or think of him, or are doing something he would have liked, and we say the same thing. I guess we will never know but we still can't accept that.