After Josh had been gone a little over 18 months, I wrote a post on "The Question."
Over two years later, I am still struggling with this. I started a new job two weeks ago where no one knew about Josh, his death, his suicide. I am reluctant to share about what happened for fear of instant judgement. If they knew I had a son who chose to end his life, would they view me differently? And is there a part of me that likes to be with people who have no idea? With whom I can pretend that "it" didn't happen? That I am just like them - raising kids the best way we can?
Last week, while at the regional office, I was asked to fill out a contact sheet with the names of my spouse and children. Immediately, my mind began racing - what do I do? What do I write down? Do I write Josh's name with a (D) for deceased or (3-18-09)? I know what that means but would others?
After sitting for a few minutes, pen poised above the paper, I did what felt right at the time and put down Tyler, Lauren and Gillian. After turning it in, I was filled with doubt and even worse - guilt. Now, when my new colleagues see it, they will think I only have three children. Am I deceiving them? Am I taking the easy way out? Am I betraying Josh's memory? Or is it okay that I know the truth and that I am sparing them the awkwardness of a very sad and tragic story in which there is nothing to say? If Josh could see what I did, how would he feel? I still don't know if I did the right thing.
I made another trip to the office this week and while in the car going back to the airport with a colleague and the CEO of the company, he asked me point blank, "How many children do you have?" This specific question has only one answer - four. I said, "That's a hard question" then realized how stupid that sounded. It is not a hard question at all. It is simply a number. I quickly said, "Three surviving and one who has died." I then talked about T, L and G. There were no follow-up questions. It was awkward. As I look back on it, I am not sure they heard, but of course they did. Now it's out there. But I realized something - that in the general course of the day, people do not want to hear about death. I got out of the car and wondered if I should've said something different....but what?
So I am damned if I do and damned if I don't. This bothers me. I am even a little mad at Josh for putting me in the situation where I feel guilty either way.
But I want to be fair to myself. I want people to get to know me before knowing what happened to Josh. This shows me that the stigma of suicide is alive and well. I don't know how people will react. I don't have complete trust in their reaction. I need to get to know them before imparting or sharing about my beloved Josh. His life and my memory of him is a precious treasure that I cannot entrust to just anyone. I need to get to know them - are they worthy of this knowledge? With they hold it in confidence or go blabbing as a juicy piece of gossip?
So now I've gone from feeling like I have something shameful to hide to feeling protective of Josh. Only the most empathetic, kind-hearted soul will learn of him. Only those who have suffered loss and are hurting - those whom my story may help will learn of him. This is how I feel now.
Through my writing, I see how fragile I still am. How wounded. Sore. Thin-skinned. Vulnerable. How easily, so easily the tears can flow. How crushing the loss still feels - as if he died recently instead of over two years ago.
RIP beloved son. You are still missed so very, very much.