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.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Teenage Grief

I shared in my last post about the difficulty that Gillian was having in dealing with Josh's death. We know she is not the only teen who is finding it hard to deal with all of the emotions and thoughts that surround his passing. One minute he is there: on the other side of a text or in class or on the phone or hanging out at someone's house or on the practice field. The next minute, your whole world, as ours, has been changed - in an instant - once you heard the horrible and incomprehensible news.

At first, you think, "no way, it can't be true. It isn't true!" Then you hear from more and more of your friends that it is. Many of you came to our home the first couple of days and saw for yourself that the worst has happened - your friend was gone. Just like us, you couldn't believe it. Just like us, you wondered why he did it. Just like us, you wondered why he didn't say anything to you. And just like us, you might have had thoughts that started with, "if only" and "what if".

This week, Tim found a blog that was started by one of Josh's friends and had a couple of posts - expressing real grief, anguish, confusion and pain. We received an email from one of Josh's best friends who shared that the blog has helped as he could relate to many of the feelings that have been shared. And lastly, I got a surprise and welcome visit from someone who knew Josh in elementary and middle school - who also felt that life has not been the same since that fateful week and finds the blog postings and comments helpful.

Tim and I went to the cemetery today to view the grave stone that had been ordered. It was so hard to see it, as it is something else that makes Josh's death real and not just a terrible nightmare. When we were there, I picked up a few pamphlets that were written to help deal with grief. One of the pamphlets was called "Teenage Grief" written by Kelly Baltzell M.A and Karin Baltzell, Ph.D. I found the words on the cover to be very poignant and have quoted it here:
Being a teenager is an emotionally vulnerable time in one's life. Being a grieving teen can make you twice as vulnerable. Death can make you grow up in a hurry. You may find you are no longer invincible. Beware that the adults in your life may not be available to meet your needs.
The authors shared some tips on how to deal with your grief such as:
  • Write a story about the person you lost.
  • Journal - put your feelings, thoughts, worries and fear down on paper, for your eyes only!
  • Talk to your friends and family
  • Keep physically active
  • Talk to counselors at school or someone outside of school
  • Lean on your faith
I think these are some very good ideas. Many have helped me. If story telling is not your thing, maybe you can express your feelings in music, art or some other creative outlet. I received a scrapbook ready for pictures and words from a dear college friend. This will be my way of telling Josh's story. I really want and need to do this as I am afraid that we might forget certain things with the passing of time.

I would highly recommend a journal - it has helped me to write about my feelings, thoughts, questions and emotions every day, so much so, that I bought a blank book for Gillian so she can start.

Talking to others is so helpful. This blog has been our lifesaver. Maybe this post can be a special place where Josh's friends can share comments with us and with each other. If you are not comfortable with posting on the blog, but want to share your thoughts and feelings directly, feel free to email me at jandermom@gmail.com.

I know that Josh's friends grieved deeply at his passing. We witnessed this firsthand in our home and at the memorial service. I suspect that many are still grieving and are finding these feelings hard to deal with or understand. Please know that we feel the same way. If you want to visit, our door is always open. If there is anything else we can do, please let us know.

It helps us to know that you are still thinking of our beloved son - may he rest in peace.

God Bless.
Josh's Dad and Mom

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Five weeks after burial

Today was the first time that I went to Josh's grave site by myself. I took my journal and this is what I wrote.....

Josh,
I am sitting in the shade of a bit tree by your gravesite as it is quite warm today - the first really warm weekend of the year. There is a slight breeze and I hear your wind chimes gently sing. Last week, Grandma put a butterfly wind chime in "your" tree. I found a Langely Saxon lanyard in your room which I placed today. The trees are blooming - especially the bright pink dogwood. It is really beautiful here.





Gillian came home last night - she is finding it hard to be at school where everyone carries on as normal, despite her whole world being turned upside down in the last 5 weeks. We had a long talk about her future - whether she would take a semester off, or even go back to UVA or transfer elsewhere. The bottom line is that we want her to do what is best for her.

We felt the same way about you. Why couldn't you have talked to us about all of your feelings regarding your future - we would've listened and worked to figure out a solution for you. And if you couldn't have talked to us, why didn't you talk to someone else? So many people cared for you and would have listened.

Maybe you tried to and it was just too hard. Or maybe you didn't even know how to articulate all of the feelings you had. One of the hardest things for me is to think that you were suffering so much in your heart and mind by yourself - all alone. And that sometime, taking your life presented itself as a viable option and, in the end, became the only and right option for you.

I am having a very hard time understanding this as there is no way that I felt there were no options left. Yes, maybe things might have been a bit tougher or maybe there would be a few more obstacles to overcome, but your life was not at a dead end.

I only wish that Dad and I could have conveyed this to you more concretely so that even if you didn't have your own faith in the future, you could have lived off of ours until yours took root.

But now, it is too late as I write this with tears dropping on the page of my journal. For whatever reason, you did not reach out for the help that was there. Or we did not open our eyes enough to see the signs that you might have been giving off.

I only hope and pray with all of my heart that you are in a better place - where you can watch over all whom you love - and be at peace.

Farewell my beloved son,
Mom

Friday, April 24, 2009

Op-Ed Submitted to Washington Post

Dearest Anderson Family
I am a SLHS parent. My son Matthew Shinrock and Josh were friends and LAX teammates. We continue to think of him, your family and you remain in our prayers daily.

In addition to being the mother of 3 teens/emerging young adults, I am also an MSW/PHd candidate/student at VCU...pursuing my degrees with a concentration in family counseling and with a research focus on resilience and risk and protective factors throughout the life course. At the time of Josh's death, I switched my semester research to teen suicide, to gain insight that could help my son, and his other grieving peers through this process.

I am attaching an oped piece I recently submitted to the Washington Post, and to Marc Fisher directly, that is a subset of my research, as well, my personal feelings and opinions. While it may not ever be published, I would like you to have a copy.

Warmest Regards.
May God Bless you and comfort you during this difficult time.
Barbara Shinrock


Please click on the link to view this moving piece.

What Really Matters: Keeping Our Kids Alive. In Loving Memory of Joshua Anderson

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wings Fundraiser

Tim and I want to thank everyone who participated in the fundraiser on May 1st at the Buffalo Wing Factory in Reston. All told, $300 was raised for Josh's Memorial Fund!

It was so successful that another day, Monday May 18th has been designated to where 10% of all receipts will be given to Josh's fund. We specifically asked for this day as it is the 2nd anniversary month of his passing. It would be nice to be together with friends on that day.



Grant's T-shirt in memory of Josh.




Coach Huber made this collage of Josh that will be hung up on the wall by the South Lakes jersey. Special thanks to the Buffalo Wing Factory manager for doing this.



There will be an event at the Buffalo Wing Factory in Reston, VA on May 1st. All day, 10% of your receipts will go to the Josh Anderson Memorial Fund.

Please see this post for information on the Josh Anderson Memorial Fund and the Great Falls Optimist Club.

*Special thanks to Coach Huber and Grant Kyle for organizing this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I remember...

I have a box on our dining room table that is full of cards and letters from so many friends and family. We have not seen many of you in years - it has meant so much to know that we are in your thoughts and prayers.

I was going through this box the other night and pulled out an envelope that we received from the funeral home just after Josh's service. In it were printed messages that were posted on their web site - these we had seen. However, there were also over fifty messages written on small cream paper to finish the sentence: "I remember....." that somehow we had missed. Most of them were written by his friends. It actually was encouraging to read them and see once again, how much our son meant to so many.

I remember.....
  • when I was at a South Lakes game...and I said who made that awesome tackle #33? Oh that's Josh the new guy.
  • "I'm a Joshasaurus"
  • coming to visit last summer and Josh had become the coveted Man-Boy!
  • you were a man among boys, your influenced people more than you know. Have fun with the big guy upstairs.
  • video games on the weekend and not going to sleep even for a little...lifting after school every day freshman year, I really got to know you. You made even the worse times fun. I love you Jander, always will.
  • at about 11-2 years old, again his joyous personality, smile.
  • all the times you cheered everyone up with your unforgettable smile. God Bless You.
  • the first time I met Josh. My son introduced me to him after a football game, "Mom, this is Josh Anderson". He talked so much about you. The picture in Facebook reminded me of that exact moment. We are never aware of how much of an impact someone has on another person's life until after they are gone. Josh will be missed by all. He was a terrific friend.
  • the first time I met Josh, he offered to help me carry the tray of food I had. I'll never forget...
  • sitting in Latin on my first day and not knowing anyone in a class full of juniors and he introduced himself and asked if I wanted to play Ultimate Tic Tac Toe. Everyday after, I would leave a note in his jacket hood, and he would thank me for it later, even though it was really stupid. I helped him clean out his backpack and make memory groups with him. I love you Janderbee.
  • when I saw you walk on my bus with that smile. We all know you really made me smile every moment I saw you. I will never forget you Josh. I love and miss you deeply.
  • when I started playing football and when I was last in sprinting, you would always come to the back and push me to finish strong. Or when we were at Williamsburg at lacrosse camp and played cards in your room for hours. I love you man R.I.P.
  • while Josh was in weight training and I was in gym. He would always walk in with Drake and we would laugh and call them "Drake and Josh". It was so much fun talking with him and playing ping-pong. And whenever me and Sami were sitting he would always come over and pull us up and we'd go flying. I miss you.
  • when Josh came over and beat everyone at Guitar Hero in a few minutes. Then he'd proceed to go outside and blast off fireworks for about an hour with my dad. I will love him forever....
  • Josh's smile, his words that meant so much, his attitude that always made my day better...when Josh let me win ONE bet on a football game...out of the 20 games we bet on. All of my memories would never fit on any amount of paper. Love you Josh.
  • that he was the most genuinely nice and sweet guy. Never said anything bad or hurtful to anyone.
  • Josh's first football game....
  • having English and History together. You were a very sweet boy. I never saw you be mean to anyone. I hope you are better!
  • He was trying to put his contacts back in and I was telling him to open his eyes wider and he just looked at me and said "I'm Asian, my eyes don't open any wider!"
  • the time you tried to teach me Guitar Hero. I failed at easy but you told me not to quit until I finished the song. You were a great teacher, I was just that bad. You were always so patient and I thank you for that.
  • your beautiful smile :)
  • I never got to tell you that I love you xxxxooooo
  • admiring the way Josh played with the dog and took care of the yard. My six year old daughter liked to watch him because he was so cute.
  • when we would all sit together at lunch and crack jokes on each other. Josh's smile was the best part of sitting there because whenever he would catch your eye, you would just crack up. I remember loving being everywhere with him.
  • Josh's energy and spirit. He brightened every room he entered and every life.
  • every good time since I met you since kindergarten.
  • what a joy Josh was to have in class. He brought a smile to everyone's face! He will be missed.
  • the stupid fights I would have when I was younger and you were the one who always helped me out and realize things like that don't matter.
  • the one day when you were leaving Springhill ES. I went home and cried because you left during first bell instead of second and I never got to say goodbye. The next day you came back and it was one of the happiest days I had that year.
  • every day we would see you walk by our lunch table where Rachael was sitting. We'd convince you to come sit by her and you'd blush and a smile would emerge on your face.
  • hanging out and the never-ending smile on your face. Love always...
  • all the times on the bus and playing basketball, football, whatever, whenever. You were a good athlete Josh and an even better person.
  • how he always had a smile, how he made everyone feel better.
  • his gymbag...ha ha...his jokes.
  • Josh's interception at his first game at South Lakes against Heritage.
  • how Josh was one of the most unselfish people I've ever met.
  • when we were playing Stonebridge and Josh got a headache and coach wanted me to go in and Josh saw I was nervous so he stayed in for me. He always used to wear his shades and eat seeds at practice. He had a best smile, hands down.
  • your laugh, the puzzles, the jokes, the football, your smile, your hugs, your appetite for sweets. I love you!
  • that smile could to anything.
  • every day at school being cheered up so much, getting a head nod and smile from Josh. No matter what he did, he did it with a smile on his face and cheered up everyone around him.
  • the water bottle Josh kept in his locker filled with grass and assorted bugs.
  • Josh - for the rest of my life.
  • watching movies with Josh, Rachel and others and Josh always bringing peace and calm to the atmosphere.
  • Josh's beautiful smile, even when he had to go chasing after Shelly, Rachel's dog, behind my house. It just showed what a kind and caring person he was.
  • how fun and chill he always was. He never let anything get him down. He worked hard on the field and was a good friend and encourager. I'm gonna miss him as a brother and friend.
  • how Josh would sleep in class all the time and he'd be able to wake up and answer the teacher's questions right. He was a peaceful, loving guy and will be missed.
  • his smile....
  • THE SMIRK...
If you did not have a chance to write something down for us, please post a comment on how you would finish the sentence: I remember.....

Thanks,
Josh's Dad and Mom

Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18, 2009 - One Month Later

The eighteenth of every month will now have new meaning for me. It will mean one more month has passed since Josh decided to leave us. We have been spending the past few days in Hilton Head with good friends, Tom and Nancy. Before all of this happened with Josh, Tim had planned to be a marshall with Tom at the Heritage golf tournament. He decided to keep the committment and I am tagging along as it seemed to be good timing to get away for a little while.

It has been a good decision as it helps to be in different surroundings. I have been taking a walk on the beach daily, at which time I prayed to God for his comfort and strength, and I remember Josh. The conversation here has been about everything except for our loss. This has been a welcome relief from thinking and talking about it 24/7 while at home.

Ever since we received the "sign" from Josh, (please see the Easter Sunday post to understand), I have felt more at peace. Unfortunately, this feeling of peace is not something that stays in my heart. It is more like the wind - blowing in and out.

On one of my walks, peace was elusive. My mind was filled with thoughts of blame: why didn't I make sure he did not mess up again, why didn't I talk to him more, why didn't I know that he was capable of suicide? I was getting quite agitated and going down the depths of despair when in my head, as clear as day came the words, "Chill, Mom." This is exactly what Josh would've said to me when I got worked up or went on and on about something. This was a bit freaky - does the spirit of someone who is no longer here on earth speak to us? I am not sure, but my mind did calm down after that.

Generally speaking, I think I was doing fairly well - until last night. For some reason, it hit me again like a ton of bricks. I was re-living the entire tragedy all over again. The question "Why? Why? Why?" was echoing in my head. The picture that I had brought of Josh became too painful to look at. I can't even describe the depths of the anguish, pain and grief that overcame me - it literally felt like my heart was broken - again. Thankfully, after awhile, I slept and awoke to the most beautiful morning.

We have an audio CD of Josh's funeral service that Tim has listened to, but I have not - until this morning at the beach. Because I had been feeling really sad the night before, I debated on whether or not to do this. I am glad I did. There was not a cloud in the sky and while the gentle waves were lapping over my feet, I listened to the beautiful service for our son while looking out at the ocean. The beach was virtually empty which was good as no one could hear my unchecked sobs.

I was reminded of all the songs, scripture readings, sharing done by friends and family and of the sermon (please scroll down the blog to "Memorial Service Sharing" to read what was shared). This is what helped me today. To remember that "why" does not have an answer, but "how" does. How will I get through this? How can I move forward? How can I keep living when I feel like a part of me has died? The answer is by faith.
  • Faith to believe that God is "close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" Ps. 34:18
  • Faith to believe that with the continued love and support of friends and family, we can get through this.
  • Ultimately, faith to believe that by the grace of God, things will get better.
Unfortunately, as I have experienced in my heart, Faith and Peace have fierce competition in Doubt and Despair. It feels as though a battle is raging as to which two will reign, with the sides changing back and forth like in a mighty tug-o-war. I suspect that it may be this way for an extended period of time. I can only take one day-at-a-time and continue to pray for God's hand to guide us through this very difficult and painful time.

God Bless

SLHS vs LHS Girls Varsity LAX Game

Three of Josh's friends from Langley HS, Elspeth, Natalie, and Sarah made ribbons for both the South Lakes and Langley teams for their lacrosse game. The ribbons had Josh's number and initials on them.




Thank you girls, so much for doing this and emailing the pictures.

If anyone would like to share additional photos, please email them to me at emilyanderson5 at gmail dot com

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Leave Out All The Rest

Tyler shared a song with me that he said really applies not only to what we are feeling at the loss of our brother, but to what Josh must also be feeling. He told me to read the lyrics while listening to the song. The first time I listened to it, my eyes welled up and tears streamed down my face. I could almost hear my brother singing the words. When I shared it with my sister and my parents, they were equally moved. It's especially appropriate because it's performed by one of the bands my brother and I often listened to. I still remember sitting at the kitchen table with him, replaying one of their songs over and over so that we could memorize the lyrics.

The song is "Leave Out All the Rest" by Linkin Park. It plays in the slideshow below.




video

Here are the lyrics:




I dreamed I was missing
You were so scared
But no one would listen
Cause no one else cared

After my dreaming
I woke with this fear
What am I leaving
When I'm done here

So if you're asking me
I want you to know

[Chorus]
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed

And don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory

Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest
[End Chorus]

Don't be afraid
I've taken my beating
I've shared what I made

I'm strong on the surface
Not all the way through
I've never been perfect
But neither have you

So if you're asking me
I want you to know

[Chorus]
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed

Don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory

Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest
[End Chorus]

Forgetting
All the hurt inside
You've learned to hide so well

Pretending
Someone else can come and save me from myself
I can't be who you are

[Chorus]
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed

Don't resent me
And when you're feeling empty
Keep me in your memory

Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest

Forgetting
All the hurt inside
You've learned to hide so well

Pretending
Someone else can come and save me from myself
I can't be who you are
I can't be who you are

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter - Day 25

I am writing this as a note to Josh.
Happy Easter Josh. Dad, Lauren, Gillian, Rachael and I met Grandpa and Grandma at your grave site this morning. It was a beautiful day, but a little cold. A little later, Roxanne and Jade visited you too. Here are some pictures taken from today.

Rachael found another chili pepper wind chime to put on the tree. Now there are four wind chimes that have been put in the tree especially for you. They sound really nice together when the wind blows. There is also a South Lakes lanyard with a football that was put there by Coach Huber.





We put a lot of flower petals on your site. Grandma brought an Easter Lily. Roxanne and Jade put red flower petals down so that with everything together, it looks like a beautiful flower quilt.






Josh - I have been praying for a sign from you that everything is okay. Others have been praying this as well. Today - I think you gave us this sign. Below is a picture I took today. Lauren and Rachael were watching a random football movie on TV and I asked Lauren to stop the movie so that we could all say "hi" to Grandpa and Grandma. When we got into the family room, your sister told me, "Mom, look at the TV." Grandma thought the girls were watching one of your game films, but it wasn't. One second earlier or later, we would not have seen this image on the TV. Your number, 33. Your color, blue. All of us who saw this, said or thought the same thing, "Josh is here with us." Thanks for giving this sign to all of us, but especially to me.



We miss you so much, it is painful at times. Here is something that Judy shared with me. One of her friends, Joan Stokes, had a terminal illness and passed away in May, 2008. She had time to prepare for her death and wrote something that was put on her prayer card. These words comfort me.

Death is nothing at all - I have only slipped away into the next room. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was: there is absolutely unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of your mind, because I am out of your sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well.

Nothing is past, nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before - only better, infinitely happier and forever - we will all be one together with Christ.
God Bless Josh. We miss you and love you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Why Biggie loves Josh

When we got our puppy, Biggie, in July 2007, the entire Anderson family met Biggie before we did. Josh's brother and sisters formed a relay to pick him up in TN from our breeder, and then they drove him up to Northern VA, where Biggie hung out for the day while we drove down from NYC to get him.

Here is Biggie's first video, taken by Josh. Watch with the sound turned up.

video

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Recent Years Slideshow

Football Slideshow

Early Years Slideshow

One of the things I love about Josh


One of the many, many things I remember and love about Josh is his love for animals and his gift of silent communication with them. His easygoing manner and his gentle smile made all dogs want to snuggle with him. Our dog Biggie (pictured here in June '08) thought Josh was the best human big brother EVER. And Josh had an ability to calm him and commune with him that was uncanny. Such a pleasure to watch them together.


What do you love about Josh?

Working Through My Grief - Week 3

It has been a roller coaster few days since my last post. Monday was a very tough day for both Tim and I. Maybe it was because it was the day after the Washington Post article, and we received lots of phone calls and emails that confirmed in a more definitive way, the loss of our son. I basically cried all day and night - in every call, with every new comment or email that I read. I had a hard time keeping the thoughts of guilt and blame at bay - perhaps in part due to the comments that I did read on the Post web site (I don't read anything now, except for what Tim prints for me).

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.

  1. Shock and Denial - provides some measure of emotional protection from being completely overwhelmed with grief.
  2. Pain and Guilt - excruciating and unbearable.
  3. Anger and Bargaining
  4. 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.
  5. The Upward Turn - adjustment to life without the loved one begins.
  6. Reconstruction and Working Through
  7. Acceptance and Hope - will find a way forward.
While these stages of grief are helpful for me to think about, there is something unique about coping with grief after suicide. I found a couple of sites that speak specifically to this type of grief. I have named them: Grief after Suicide 1 and Grief after Suicide 2.

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).

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).
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.

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.

God Bless

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"JLA" T-shirt

Gillian designed a "JLA" T-shirt and can be ordered at CustomInk.com


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

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Article in Washington Post - Sunday, April 5, 2009

Marc Fisher from the Washington Post sat down with us last week after hearing about the circumstances around Josh's death and finding this blog. His initial email to us said:
I am a columnist at The Washington Post and I have written frequently over the years about the devastating and unproductive impact of the zero tolerance policies in the Fairfax school system. I've been alerted to Josh's tragic story through your family's blog and I wonder if it might be possible to sit down with Josh's mother to talk about what happened and how this terrible experience might be an opportunity to put new pressure on the school system to reform its approach.
We agreed to meet with him because we do have questions regarding the zero tolerance policies in FCPS and the way Josh was treated as a result. For those who are new to the blog, please refer to the following post to understand the circumstances surrounding Josh's death.

His article ran in today's paper; it is on the first page of the Metro section.

There is a place to post comments on the article and I've had to make sure that I was ready to read them, as it is inevitable that many would not find any problem or issue with the zero tolerance policies in FCPS. Perhaps, not having been subject to the School Board hearing process with our other three children, we would've agreed.

However, for any parent who has had a child suspended with the recommendation for expulsion, and the subsequent treatment as if he/she were a hard-core drug dealer or someone who has brought weapons to school, our contention is that the policy of a "one-size-fits-all" does not do justice to our young adults and the resulting punishment does not fit the crime. One of our main issues that was not really brought forth in the article as much as we would've liked is this: Why aren't there varying degrees of consequences that are aimed at teaching our young people about their choices? Shouldn't expulsion be reserved for those kids who are a genuine threat to the school community? Why isn't this question being asked on the teacher/counselor evaluations?

It is too late for Josh, but not for other parents and teens who are reading this blog. I would urge you to post comments to his article and decide at the very least, to demand that the School Board provide statistics on the effectiveness of this policy. Once the stats have been disclosed, the parent community can then determine if the School Board should look at what, if any, revisions are necessary.

This is an important issue for all parents who send their children to FCPS, as despite our best efforts to raise kids to make good decisions, anyone with a teenager knows that they are their own person.

In memory of Joshua Lee Anderson, 1992-2009 - iTunes playlist

Here is a list of the songs that were among Josh's favorites, and were played at the memorial service. We created a published playlist on iTunes if anyone wants to download it, just click on the playlist title:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Songs Performed in Dedication to Josh

Tim and I went to a gathering of South Lakes students on Sunday, organized by Josh's assistant football coach, who has quickly become a good friend. We heard that on Saturday, March 30th, there was a Sing Strong A Capella Summit at SLHS. Two of the student groups performed and dedicated their song to Josh. We were so touched to hear this and requested a video of the performance.

Prayer of the Children performed by the South Lakes Singers of Reston, VA opened the professional show and took first place.








Can you hear the prayer of the children
on bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room?
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
turning heavenward toward the light.
Crying," Jesus, help me
to see the morning light of one more day,
but if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take."
Can you feel the hearts of the children
aching for home, for something of their very own.
Reaching hands with nothing to hold onto
but hope for a better day, a better day.
Crying," Jesus, help me
to feel the love again in my own land,
but if unknown roads lead away from home,
give me loving arms, 'way from harm."
(oooooo la la la la etc etc.)
Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.
Crying," Jesus, help me
to feel the sun again upon my face?
For when darkness clears, I know you're near,
bringing peace again."

Dali čujete sve dječje molitve?
Can you hear the prayer of the children?

Stand by Me Medley and Promise performed by South Lakes Mens A Capella Chorus (SMAC). They took second place. You will see on the video that the boys had Josh's number, 33, on their shirts.

Soloists: Yoan N'Komba, Steven Meyers, and Will Johnson. Promise performed by Yoan N'Komba with help from Steven Meyers. Yoan N'Komba took best male solo vocalist.





We are so grateful for the continued love, support and remembrance of our beloved son.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Working Through My Grief - Week Two

Last night was a weird night. All I kept thinking was, "Two weeks ago, at this time, Josh was alive." I was looking at my watch and remembered that his girlfriend was over for a couple of hours before dinner. Why didn't I sit down with both of them and talk about the future - what we could expect from the School Board hearing in a couple of days (most likely expulsion from FCPS), what our course of action would be, and encouraging Josh to hang in there until the summer, when he could hopefully find a job and spend the rest of the time hanging out at our pool with friends. (For those who are new to the blog, please refer to the following post to understand the circumstances surrounding Josh's death: http://rememberingjosh.blogspot.com/2009/03/our-school-board-hearing-experience.html).

At 10:30pm, I remembered that Tim had said that they were watching TV and Josh was appeared to be quite relaxed while playing with our two dogs.

Around 12:30 am was the last time that I saw my son alive. He was still watching TV and drinking a Sprite and I told him to go to bed so he could get up on the early side (11 am) to get some school work done. Why didn't I sit down, hug him and ask how he was doing?

I know that many young people are reading this blog and I have wondered if I am being too open and honest with my thoughts and emotions as I struggle with his death and in particular, the mode of this death, suicide. But then I think, "No, this is real. This really happened. They knew Josh, many have been in my home and hundreds came to his service. I want them to know how difficult this is on a parent. I've told several of his closer friends, Don't ever do this to your mother." I think they listened and heard what I was saying. I value their feelings, so until I get comments or emails from these young adults asking me to censor my posts on grieving, I will continue.

As I have posted previously, I am trying to understand Josh's thinking that horrible night. I believe that to comprehend even a little bit, I will have to understand more about suicide. If I had struggled with this personally, I would have a frame of reference with which to think about this painful topic. However, I must admit that I am almost void of this (although not entirely, as I did fleetingly think about it the day after Josh died).

My neighbors have been wonderful; bringing meals over every night so I would not have to deal with the mundane task of preparing dinner. Yesterday, I returned a bowl to someone and as I shared about how much I was struggling to understand what happened, we ended up talking about suicide and what Josh might have been thinking. She thought that during that night, this option must have seemed to be not just the only thing to do, but the right thing to do. Of course, I and everyone who is thinking clearly knows in the heart of hearts that there is nothing "right" about taking your own life, but then, in that moment, his mind had to have been somewhere else.

I have been pondering what she said and want to ask those of you that are part of this special blog community and have some experience with suicide, to help me understand this. I have been touched by those who have bravely posted comments about their own personal struggle. Can we continue to help one another? Can you tell me where someone's mind can go? How does someone in the midst of that pain, chose life? How can a young person, who is not fully mature in their thinking, process this deep, dark place and make a better choice? Where can young people turn to, if they are not able to talk to their parents?

I would be so grateful if we could have open and honest dialogue on this topic. The pressures on our young people are so vast; academics, athletics and social. I want them to have a safe place to seek help or answers and to know they are not alone.

On another topic, I wanted to share about the enormous range of emotions that engulf me - sometimes all in one day. On one extreme, I am completely numb - my heart, my mind and my soul. You could yell at me, kick me, slap me and I would not feel it. My eyes are completely dry and I feel nothing. His death does not feel real and I have a hard time comprehending that he is gone.

At the other extreme, I am so emotional that it feels that every cell in my body is a nerve that is feeling this pain. It is overwhelming and more than I can bear. I have to stop everything, stare at something and just weep. My shoulders shake with crying, my nose is running and I can barely breathe. I would do anything to have my son back - even at the expense of my own life.

Then I feel anger. So angry that I want to take a kickboxing lesson or class so that I can kick and punch a something until I hurt myself. I am so angry at him for doing this - it makes no sense and it is such a waste of a young, vibrant life.

So I vacillate between these emotions with varying degrees of each, in-between. It is exhausting. I have been contacted in various ways by those who are like me - have had a child who has taken their life. It doesn't matter what age the son or daughter was; as most parents know, your kids never stop being your kids, not matter how old they are. I confess that I have not been in touch as I do not feel the energy to have these discussion just yet. However, if you are reading this post and are comfortable, perhaps you can write a comment and share something from your experience that you feel would help not only myself, but others as well.

I have been reminded of a couple of things during this painful time. One, we are not alone and two, we need each other.

Please continue to keep the Anderson family in your thoughts and prayers - we are strengthened and encouraged by them.