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.

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE QUESTION - Over Eighteen Months Later

Where has the time gone? It has been over eighteen months since Josh's passing. So hard to type the three italicized words. Not only that, there are several ways I could say it. For example, very straightforwardly: "It has been over eighteen months since Josh's death." Or if I wanted to indicate how he died: "It has been over eighteen months since Josh's suicide." Or if my fingers cannot type the "s" word, I can say: "It has been over eighteen months since Josh decided to leave us."

All say the same thing - he is gone. No longer here. No smirk....gone.

It has been over eighteen months and in some ways, I still can't believe it. Yes, the room is still empty. Yes, it is just Tim and I at home with our dogs. Yes, he was not in our family Christmas picture last year. Yes, I "visit" him every weekend and bring fresh flowers, trim the grass around his stone, scrub the dirt away and once done with my little "chores", sit and write a letter to him. Yet in spite of these truths, it is still hard for me to believe that he is really gone. I can't explain it. Maybe in God's mercy, it is His way for this awful truth to seep into my heart, mind and soul rather than be borne full force as He knows a mother could never survive.

But the reality hits me in other ways. Recently, I went to a friend's baby shower. Most of the women were strangers and while in the past, I would've engaged them in conversation about such innocuous things that are part of "mother talk" like: how many kids do you have, how old are they, what are they doing, etc., I was panicking internally that someone would ask me these questions. So I was a quiet guest, aloof and stoic. There was nothing in my demeanor or body language that would invite conversation. I was successful. No one approached me and asked THE QUESTION. As a result, I felt a bit sad while driving home. "Pre-Josh", this would've been a time to be refreshed as a woman and mother - connecting with others about life, family, and children. Instead, I felt empty. But small price to pay as THE QUESTION needed to be avoided at all cost.

In Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert's book, The Grieving Garden: Living With the Death of a Child: 22 Parents Share Their Stories, there is a whole chapter devoted to this issue.
One of the incidents many of us dread the most is being hit with THE QUESTION when a stranger asks about our children. It feels like a body blow to our most tender and vulnerable places. THE QUESTION is excruciating when it assults us in situations like a dinner party, the dentist's chair, or an airplane seat. What do you say when you're asked, "How many children do you have?" (pg 31).
One parent's response
Even though I know my answer, I still dread hearing THE QUESTION. Most of the time I can feel it coming. It's often especially hard, as for many people, discussions of their children are "happy talk", relating how much they enjoy watching their children grow and be happy. I know my answer is going to change the atmosphere from happy to horror, as all suddenly contemplate the worst fear of every parent - loss of a child. After "the answer" from me, there's "the reaction". All of us have experienced the reaction of totally ignoring what's been said. Maybe the other party even immediately changes the subject. Maybe a quick acknowledgement and then back to "happy talk" (pg 35).
What more "happy talk" occurs than at a baby shower??? No, THE QUESTION had to be avoided at all cost. In fact, as shown in the next example, one can get very adept in avoiding THE QUESTION.

Last week, I was at a training meeting for work. The night before, several of us met at the hotel bar for drinks before dinner. While most of my work colleagues know about our tragedy, some did not. I was talking to one "uninformed" colleague and the conversation got around to children. She turned to me and began asking THE QUESTION. I immediately focused on what was showing on a nearby TV screen and made some comment that distracted her and everyone else. Mission accomplished. It was a very deliberate move on my part, but one that still feels foreign.

At this time, I am most comfortable with parents that knew Josh or have kids who knew him. We recently went out to dinner with 3 such couples and I was genuinely interested in knowing what was going on with their sons who have gone off to college. Keeping up with their kids is a thin thread to Josh - what he might be up to if still alive. The night did not pass without some tears on my part as we remembered him, but thankfully, they understand and are not afraid of my emotions.

There are ripple effects to Josh's passing, his death, his suicide in terms of how my life has changed. The way I interact with others at a baby shower or a work event is one small example.

God Bless

Friday, September 17, 2010

"One Strike, They're Out" - September 17, 2010

Two months ago, I shared in a previous post about being interviewed by a reporter for a local newspaper and how difficult it was. Well, the article came out on Friday. I hope that parents in our area will demand that the School Board reform the Zero Tolerance policy to one that would help our children, rather than hurt them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Reminders - September 10, 2010

In a previous post I had shared about a cross stitch pattern, Footprints, that I was working on as part of my grief journey. As one who is notorious for beginning projects and letting them languish for years, I finished this in record time. When completed, off I went to the craft store, taking advantage of their 50% sale to get it matted and framed. It now is on the living room wall, next to the piano, on which numerous items received in the months after Josh's death are displayed.

These items, like many other pictures around our house are reminders not only of our beloved Josh but of our loss. This blog is also a painful reminder. When I read previous posts or write a new one, I have to be ready. Prepared to feel the loss or the "abyss" as one mother , whose 21-year old son died after being hit by a car, puts it in the book, The Grieving Garden: Living With the Death of a Child by Suzanne Redfern and Susan Gilbert. Her description of the abyss: "the searing sense of the full realization of his death....breathtaking, staggering intensity of pain...shattering, unbelievable quality of knowing that my child is gone."

This is what she felt on a daily basis in the days, weeks and months after his death. Then, nine and a half years later, she writes:

I live the bulk of my life at a safe distance from the edge of the abyss. Those early months and years, I often felt that I was right on the edge. Living so near to that abyss left very little room in my life or heart for anything else. And I truly didn't think I would survive if I fell in. Now, while its always in my peripheral vision, my field of awareness, I'm usually not at the edge. But I can go there. Sometimes I am swept there unexpectedly. Other times, on anniversaries or simply on a quiet afternoon, I can choose to go there and feel this primal grief, that bottomless sorrow. For me, to hold his life forever, forever alive in me means that I must also hold his death forever alive in me. I hold it all: the gift of him, the miracle of his life and being, and the abyss. (249-250)

These words really spoke to me. Especially the words: primal grief and bottomless sorrow. This is accurate. This is true. It is what I feel when the loss of our son hits me. When the reality of his death slaps or smacks me in the face. There is no consolation, nothing that can be said or done to make me feel better.

Then the other reality sinks in....that life goes on. The living must continue to live. Josh is gone, but I am not. And so, I have my time of weeping while writing this post, and then onto other things. It is like living on an emotional roller coaster - quite draining. This is why I reserve writing blog posts for the weekend. It is too much emotion for the week as I work in a fairly high-stress job. So it is trying to manage. Cope. Deal. Figure out what I can handle and what I can't which is not easy. And while reading books is helpful, this grief journey is individual. It is unique for each person. So in many ways, one has to figure it out as they go. And with the help and support of family and friends, hopefully I can come through on the other end.

I will end this post with photos of my finished project - in dedication to our much loved and missed boy, Joshua.

God Bless