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.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Surviving Suicide

Our daughter has recently attended a survivors of suicide support group in Atlanta at which those who lost fiance, parent, son, daughter, sibling, friend to suicide gathered. It was very emotional as these survivors shared their thoughts, feelings, pain and grief. One young lady is just like our daughter: one of four children where the youngest, a brother, took his life. One marked difference however, which I see as tragedy upon tragedy. She said that all of her friends have abandoned her.

Our daughter was shocked and immediately thought of herself. "What if my friends did that? How could I ever get through or "survive" this horrible loss?" It prompted her, upon returning home, to email her closest friends a note of thanks for being there: supporting, encouraging and loving her through the past 12 months.

As I shared this with Tim, we shook our heads with incomprehension. We felt sadness and sympathy for this young lady who is trying to make sense of a devastating loss and marveled at how our experience has been completely different. We have felt nothing but the highest level of support from the community, work colleagues and friends. And very important to me, Josh's friends.

I shudder to think what it would be like if we felt shunned or judged because of what Josh did to himself. One of the reasons that I think we are doing "as well as can be expected" is because of the love, thoughts, and prayers still being received. Our half/full marathon run has raised over $3,000 so far. The letters and notes that accompany the generous checks are full of support and encouragement. We hope to well exceed our goal of $4,000. This keeps me going on the challenging 10 mile runs that are part of my training.

And as each day goes by, I hear of more of ours and our children's friends who plan to be with us over that weekend. To remember Josh: tell stories, laugh, cry and just be together. It makes what would be an unbearable 1 year anniversary something to share with those who love and miss our beloved boy.

I have visited with several of Josh's friends in the past couple of weeks. One is organizing a "black out" on March 18th at school (participating students wear black to remember Josh). Another said that several of his friends have approached the principal to ask if an empty chair could be placed in what would have been Josh's seat at graduation. "Yes" was the answer, with our permission. When asked, all I could do was nod in affirmation as the tears rolled down.

I received an email from another of his friends who sent a copy of her well researched and thought out position paper for English/Government titled: "The Zero-Tolerance Policy in Schools Is Not Effective". I am encouraged to see students study, think about and write about policies that affect themselves and classmates. And in our case, a tragic and senseless loss of a young, vibrant life which was directly linked to such a policy.

A few weeks ago, I visited Josh and found this letter to him. With permission, this is what it said:
I don't know where to begin. There's so much to say. I wish you were still here so badly I can't describe it. It's incredible how much your passing has affected us all. I wish that so much had been different, but most of all I wish you were still alive. I feel like I could have been so much of a better friend to you. I am sorry that you didn't have enough reason in your eyes to stay with us. I miss you always & forever. I hope that wherever your are, you are happier now then you were on earth.

I feel the same way as what is penned in this heartfelt note by a young friend.

I speak for Tim and each one of our children when I say that without the love, support, encouragement and prayers from family and friends, we could not bear our loss.

Thank you and God Bless


drmedhus said...

I find your blog both insightful and comforting. My son recently committed suicide and has communicated with us in many ways. This inspired me to write a blog as well: Channeling Erik: Conversations with my Son in the Afterlife. ( It is my hope that, with the help of a talented medium, a book can come of this. The goal would be to, with Erik's help, elucidate and demystify the death process, the nature of the afterlife, the survival of consciousness after death, reincarnation, how thought creates reality, and the quantum physics behind all of it, among other spiritual matters. I hope to help those who are bereaved, those who fear death, and those who are curious to understand the bigger picture. Healing others seems to be important to my own healing process. Please keep up the good work. Your wisdom is sorely needed in a world that yearns for spirituality and a deeper understanding. xoxo Elisa

Mssss. Champion said...

Dear Family,

Having just recently dealt with a Zero Tolerance saga at my son's school, I've been getting news alerts and stumbled upon your blog.

I've been reading it for the past hour now and weeping for your loss. He was a lovely boy and though I can't possibly wrap my brain around the depth of your loss of your child, my first love took his own life many years ago now, and he continues to visit me in my dreams. I cried with his mother on many occasions and we continue to keep his memory alive, as you are bravely doing for your son.

Seeing the pain of what my 11 year old son just endured from his potential expulsion experience drives home the major issue of how volatile and sensitive it would be for a high school boy such as your son. It is a policy that has the ability to devastate and ruin the lives of good children.

My heart goes out to you - from one mother to another. I understand and admire your need for the blog and thank you for sharing your son's life and your honest and raw human emotion.

I wish all the best for you and your family and will be fighting my own battle to end this unjust policy that will continue to hurt good kids.

My own heart breaks at the thought of how my son is being treated now that he's back in school, and I will protect his sensitive nature at all costs.

Thank you for sharing your story.

All my love to you.

Roxanne said...

Isn't it amazing how far and wide your words are reaching the hearts of other Mother's.

Your healing process is helping so many others heal as well.

I love you so much and will be there to cheer you and Lauren on in the race.

All my love Roxanne

carlalaura said...

Sue - I continue to read your blog. It is powerful and gentle at the same time. This latest blog post raises a lot of feelings for me, especially about my concern for my younger son. His brother was his best friend and it hurts me so much to see my younger one (13 yo) without his older brother (would be 18 now, died at the age of 17 by impulsive suicide). As far as I can see, my younger is doing very well, but that doesn't stop me from hurting for him and worrying about him. BUT the main reason for my comment today is about how Josh's school is handling the one year anniversary of his death, as well as their plans for graduation. This is very different from the experience I've had w/T's school and also very different from some other moms I've heard from who lost children to suicide. Most of the schools want to run away from the whole subject, anxious to stop talking and thinking about the subject, the sooner the better. Why do you think Josh's school seems to be the exception? Enlightment? Guilt? What?

Iheartfashion said...

You have my deepest condolences on the loss of your son. I hope as you approach the one year anniversary that you are able to recall more and more of the happy memories and continue to heal.
I lost my husband to suicide 7 weeks ago, and I'm so moved by your thoughts and feelings about Josh and although our situations are entirely different I can identify with a lot of what you write.

Josh's mom said...

Dear Carlalaura,
What is happening at Josh's two high schools is entirely driven by his friends. The school administration would not come up with these ideas on their own. In fact, in the days immediately following Josh's death, we felt they wanted to "push it to the back" and forget that it happened. Move on with instruction and definitely not draw any attention to his death. Perhaps for fear that it might cause a suicide cluster which is known to happen with adolescents/teens. My view is that the more open we are about what happened to Josh, the more chance his story could help another teen avoid his fatal decision. Or help other parents understand what turmoil/pressure our kids face.

So no, I think our experience with his schools is the same as yours.

Josh's mom said...

I am so sorry to hear about your husband's suicide. Regardless of the relation our loved one was to us, I am sure that most of our feelings are the same. My sympathies are with you as your "grief journey" is just beginning. I am not sure if you are ready to read any books, but if you are, I would recommend "No Time to Say Goodbye" by Carla Fine. Her husband also took his life and she was the one to find him. I read this book very early on and found it helpful, even though my situation was different than the author's.

I hope you have a lot of will need it.