- March 18 - the day Josh left us
- May - Lauren's graduation from college
- July - vacation
- September - start of school and football season
- November - Thanksgiving
- December - Christmas and New Year
- January 16 - his 18th birthday
Then I think of what we've done because he is gone.
- The funeral service and burial
- Picking out his gravestone
- Regular visits to the cemetery or " Josh's Park" as my mother calls it
- The monthly fundraisers at the Buffalo Wings Factory
- A photo scanning project that has overtaken my dining room
- The dogwood tree planting at the youth league football field
- My "jandermom" email address
- New license plates for our cars
- Accruing a mini library with titles like Grieving a Suicide or No Time to Say Good-bye or By Their Own Young Hand: Deliberate Self-harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents
- Three filled journals
- White christmas tree
Never, ever, in a million years would I guess what would transpire within two months. That Josh would smoke pot again, be caught at school which enforces a strict Zero-Tolerance policy, face expulsion, and choose to take his own life - the day before the School Board hearing. It is like a nightmare that replays over and over again.
Everyone in our family is traumatized. How could we not be? Totally and completely blind-sighted with no warning or time to prepare emotionally. One minute, we were living normal lives, then the unthinkable happened: I found our Josh dead. Gone. Never to see, hear or touch again. He took himself out with no explanation and left a boatload of unanswerable questions.
Ten months later, we continue to reel - trying to come to terms with this most incredible, horrific event. How do we live with his death? How do we live in spite of his death? How do we go forward with our lives - without him? I think of it like being at a rest stop while on a family vacation. We have to get in the car to keep going but Josh cannot continue with us - at least in a physical form.
After a number of conversations with our daughter, who is having a particularly hard time right now, I wrote this in my journal.
Everything has caught up with her. She has to stop and think about how she feels regarding her brother's death and how to incorporate "it" - Josh's suicide, his tragic, sudden and senseless death and our subsequent loss into her young life. And as much as she'd like to bury and ignore everything, "it" must be faced and dealt with. "It" is life changing; she will never be the same, none of us will. I think this is part of grieving, to process not only losing Josh, but a part of our family and a part of ourselves - very overwhelming and difficult.As well, we've not had to deal with death prior to this as both sets of grandparents are living. Even our pets have survived Josh. A distant concept has become a living reality. The shadow of death is an unbidden and unwelcome presence - constant, relentless, and unmerciful. Permeating conscious, subconscious and unconscious thoughts. Casting a permanent grey cloud over previously sunny skies. Poking its head in our dreams and thoughts while causing a general feeling of malaise. Unshakable. Unlike guests that eventually leave, death and all of its partners (grief, sorrow, pain, etc) have taken up permanent residence and we have to figure out how to live with them. "One day at a time" is my motto and mantra.
In addition, feelings surrounding the mode of death are complicated - in comparison to say, an illness or accident. In these situations, one can say, "my son died by X disease" or "he had cancer" or "he was in a car accident". In our case, "he committed suicide" or "he died by his own hand" or "he decided to take his life" brings up questions with no known answers. Even after ten months, I cannot think of one thing he said, did or didn't do that could have alerted us to his fatal mindset.
For all family members who lose a child, at whatever age, the grief is immeasurable. But when it is via suicide, processing this death is more challenging. The waters are muddy, the way is unclear, the path like a maze. One question leads to ten others. None with answers. So because the reason for death is unclear, there is no resolution. Feelings include the expected sorrow and grief, but also a tremendous amount of guilt and even a little anger. Difficult terrain to navigate for a middle-aged mother, much less for siblings who are 19, 22 and 24 years old or friends who are 17 or 18 years old.
Josh did not understand the far-reaching consequences of his actions - I am sure of this. For if he could see even 1/100th of the pain we are in, he could not have gone through with it.
Rest in peace, my dear boy. We love and miss you with all of our hearts and promise that as we move forward with our lives, we will take you with us.