Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak
Whispers the o'refraught heart and bids it break (Macbeth IV, III, 211-212)
Yesterday was our 26th wedding anniversary. Tim and I found each other in college, fell in love, got married and had our first child eighteen months later. After seven years, our fourth, Josh was born. Having four children while just turning thirty and thirty-one ourselves is quite a challenge. With the support of our faith, family and friends, however, we managed to navigate the bumpy waters of raising a large family.
As time passed and the children grew, while celebrating our 10th, 15th, 20th and 25th anniversaries over a romantic dinner, one of us would always remark how lucky we felt. Lucky that we found one another; lucky to have four beautiful, bright, talented children. When others gave us positive comments about our family, we simply said, "We have not done anything to deserve this - we feel so blessed."
No more. Unbelievably, we are now part of a small minority of parents who have had to bury their child due to the violence of self-murder. Our lives do not feel very blessed right now. We are not so lucky anymore. In fact, we are extremely unlucky - to have someone commit suicide anywhere in the family tree, in any generation, is profound. To have it happen in your own nuclear family - within your four walls, in the sanctity of your own home is incomprehensible.
One minute, we were normal parents - dealing with all of the joys, challenges and issues that face anyone who is raising kids. The next minute - in a millisecond, in the time it takes to register a thought, take a breath, blink an eye - we were no longer a normal family. What happens to other people, other parents, other families has just happened to us.
In an instant, our entire world - life as we knew it - was gone. Changed forever. Irrevocably altered. Turned upside-down. Shattered. Devastated. Disintegrated. Blown up. Thrown out-of-whack. Discombobulated. There aren't enough words in the English language to describe the effect of suicide on those of us left behind.
The old "normal" is gone and there is no going back. Josh's loss and the mode of his death will forever be a part of our family. Henceforth, his absence will be felt at every family gathering, every holiday, every milestone event such as a graduation, wedding or birth.
And now, a "new" normal needs to be found. I suppose this is all part of the grief journey - to "right the ship", so to speak, so that life can go on - without the physical presence of our Josh. As a result, different words have found their way in my journal: recalibration, rebalance, reinvent, reintegrate and reboot.
Because of my analytical nature, my journey involves processing everything in my head: asking the unanswerable questions, coming up with every possible answer and thinking through each one ad nauseam - it is exhausting, but necessary. For me to get through this pain. To get to the other side.
For I do see light at the end of the tunnel.
During the week, my mind is taken up by work; things are busy as there is more than enough to do in an eight-hour period. I think this is good as it gives my thoughts a break. So on the weekend I visit Josh's grave, read, think, and cry. And plan what I will write on the blog. It is difficult, but critical. Just as air, food and water are necessary for survival, so facing the pain, sorrow and grief in my writing, head on, through this blog, is essential for healing.
Week by painful week, I feel the light getting closer - moving towards recalibration & rebalance. The new normal. I am reluctant to say peace, because how could I ever be at peace with Josh's death? Acceptance - yes. Peace - no.
I see this movement in the letters I write to Josh and will end this post with what I wrote yesterday....
I am sitting in the car by your grave site because it is raining outside. I am kicking myself for not coming yesterday when it was sunny and warm. I am starting to let myself understand what was going through your mind that night and perhaps earlier. The dark place or tunnel in which you found yourself: maybe overwhelmed and exhausted with life, and perhaps even contemplating getting help, but in the end, the thought of reaching out was unappealing. Perhaps your future seemed more like a dream than a reality and in general, your life felt out of control. And this was the only way you could be in total control.
Is this how you felt?
In a book that I am reading, the author recounts a very scary 12-hour period when she had a loaded gun on her bed with every intention of ending her life. She says that in that whole time, not once did she think about her family, her kids, her therapist - nothing but her pain. Everyone important to her was outside of her mind and not even a factor.
Was this true with you?
You would not hurt a flea - you had such a tender heart. I have to believe that you would never intentionally want to cause me this much pain. But the reality, son, is that it has. When my mind goes to the place where your death is before me, I have a physical reaction. I feel the blood rushing to my head, my mouth grimaces in pain, my eyebrows furrow, my entire face tightens and the tears flow unchecked - all within a couple of seconds.
This can happen anytime - while talking on the phone with someone who doesn't know and before getting off she asks a very innocent question, "How are your kids doing?" While driving in the car, doing yard work, taking a shower, listening to a song. Anytime, anyplace, with anyone. I cannot control these emotions. So although you did not mean to hurt me, it has - so deeply, so profoundly that I am forever changed.
And it is more than hurt, Josh. If you had died by illness, accident or even murder, a part of me would've have died too. I think any mother who loses a child prematurely, whether in the womb, a baby, child, teen or adult would feel this. But when I found you dead - by your own hand - there was a whole other part of my heart and soul that died. I can't describe it - there is a deeper pain knowing that you were suffering so much in your mind - for how long, I do not know and that death was your only option. How can I ever stop feeling as your mother, connected to you in the womb and who gave birth to you seventeen years ago, that I should have known? I should've have done something more?
In my mind, I know that it is unrealistic to think that I should be a mind reader. You didn't want anyone to know so no one did. But I can't help wishing that you had opened up and shared your heart and pain with me or someone who could help you. Because if you had done this, maybe you would be here now. Maybe we would be a lot closer as I came to understand your inner turmoil.
I would've have done anything to help you - to save you. There is nothing that would be too much. I don't say this flippantly - I would give you anything: a kidney, my liver, my blood, my life. Without a doubt. Without question. I would trade places with you if I could. You were only seventeen; I am almost fifty. My life for yours - absolutely.
But this is not to be. I suppose a saving grace is that your story is saving others. It is making people think more - especially those who struggle with the dark thoughts. My prayer is that what is on your blog will prevent their own demise. But I would take it all back to have you here with me - my baby boy.
I am moving forward - slowly. Doing things and finding interest in things that I stopped after you died - like watching Food Network, Numbers, and House. I am cross stitching the "Footprints" pattern and it is helping me. I have been watching the baseball playoff games with Dad although the Red Sox are not doing well - one game from begin eliminated. When watching, I cheer with enthusiasm.
William Shakespeare said, "Give sorrow words". I guess this is what I am doing - in my journal, in my letters to you, in your blog.
You are free from your pain and suffering. But when yours ended, mine began. I know you didn't mean for this to happen but it has. I forgive you - I hope you can forgive me.
I love you son.
Rest in peace.