Not So Sweet Sixteen

Dear Brady,

Happy Birthday. You should be sixteen today. We should be going to the DMV to get your driver’s license. You should be a sophomore in high school. I wonder if we would have figured out a way to give you a car for your birthday?

I wonder if you would still be in band. Would you have gone to homecoming a few weeks ago? Would you still be a straight A student? What would you want to do when you grow up, at this point in your life?

We’ll never know. And I need to stop with the what ifs, because all that does is lead down a rabbit hole of misery, and I’m getting better at avoiding that particular path.

Your sister’s doing well. She’s really quite beautiful, and intelligent, and is gaining confidence, although she’s still reserved, still prefers to hide in the background instead of take center stage. Sometimes I wonder if she’s hiding behind your ghost or if this is really, truly the personality she’d have even if you were still here.

I remember one year ago today, writing you a letter and telling you it doesn’t get any easier. But that’s not really the case anymore. It’s been two and a half years since you left us, and we’ve found our routine as a family of three. We’re making it through life, finding joy despite our loss.

You’re always there, of course, a constant reminder in my heart, but I’ve mostly learned to divert my thoughts when those emotional waves start crashing. It’s only fair, right? Just because you died doesn’t mean I should stop living.

Wow, it sounds so selfish when I actually write it down, instead of chant it like a mantra in my head.

I dreamt about you, about eight six or eight weeks ago. I haven’t told many people because I wasn’t handling it very well. It was such an intense dream, so real that I can still describe the red shirt you were wearing, the crooked smile on your face, your mused blond hair.

You had come back, but it was temporary. Like an extra chance to say goodbye, I guess. I knew what was going on, but you didn’t—you didn’t know that you had died or that you were going to leave us again soon—so you didn’t understand why I kept hugging you and couldn’t stop crying.

Suffice to say, it was the hardest day I’ve had in quite a while. I’m not sure what it was about, the reasoning behind it. Lord knows I have zero desire to relive those few days after your death, even though I often do because, well, sometimes you just can’t help thinking about the point when your life took a sharp turn no one saw coming and frankly, no one ever wanted to happen. There’s a logical order to this thing called life, and you threw it all out of whack, and we’re left here to figure out how to journey down this new path. Without you.

It’s only the second time I’ve dreamt about you since you died. The first was a few months after your funeral, and you were a toddler in that dream. That one felt more like a picture show of memories in my head, whereas this one was, well, real.

Except it wasn’t.

So anyway, your birthday is here, the beginning of what used to be my favorite time of year. Your birthday, followed by Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. I suppose it still is my favorite time of year, but like everything else in my life now, it’s different. Until you died, I loved the idea of creating traditions, anticipating doing the same thing each year, like pumpkin carving together or hunting for the perfect Christmas tree or taking the annual Christmas morning family pic in our pajamas.

Now I struggle, because I don’t want to give up those traditions, but it hurts to do them; the memories of years past are still too potent. We’ve compromised on a fair number of them, mostly by changing the tradition just enough that it’s similar but not the same.

We’ve started exploring different pumpkin patches and apple orchards than the same one we went to year after year when you were babies. We found a new Christmas tree farm two years ago, too, and actually, I think we are going to try another new place this year. The Christmas morning pic has been a group selfie since you’ve been gone. So while I’m still capturing that memory, it’s more relaxed, goofy even. Just different enough to allow me to get through and even find some joy.

Because, like I remind myself on a daily basis, we’re all still living.

Love Always,

Mom

And the Journey Through Grief Continues…

Since March 15, 2016, I’ve inadvertently explored a wide gamut of emotions, the strongest, of course, being sadness. I’ve been so deep, wallowing so desperately in it that I could almost understand what my son was going through, in his head, when the monsters won and convinced him leaving this life was better than living it.

And then I think, I’ve lost my son and my stepfather, my grandparents, a couple uncles. There are parents who have lost multiple children, kids who have lost their own parents—some have lost both of them. And I think, this is so hard, how could I possibly handle any more?

But someone else did. Someone else does, every single day. And eventually, I will too, because that’s the circle of life.

And we handle it.

It’s hard, so, so hard. There are days—still, two and a half years later—when I can get so caught up in my grief that I can’t focus on anything else.

But most days, now, the grief is secondary. It’s still part of who I am; my son still affects everything I do, but it isn’t the driving force anymore.

The first time I realized that, I took a few steps backward in this grieving process. I felt guilty for “moving on” as people tend to say. (Really, it should be phrased “moving forward.” You don’t move on from something like losing a child, but you do, eventually, move forward and start living your life—your new life.)

I struggled with trying to remember and wanting to forget, and determining where my “new” life fit into the whole mess. It was difficult interacting with my daughter, my husband, my family. I wanted to talk about him but it hurt to do so. Because I wanted him to be here, to experience everything we were going through. To still be alive.

(If ever there is a testament to the importance of grief therapy, you’re looking at her, folks.)

I think I’ve been going through this stage for a while now. At least since spring. The anniversary of his death was difficult, of course, but not as much as I anticipated. My husband, daughter, and I banded together, and while there was a cloak of sadness over the day, we managed a fair share of giggles and smiles as well.

Mother’s Day there were no tears. There were a few at the end of the school year, though. Then summer came, and I’ve been coasting, to be honest. I think about him regularly, daily, many times a day, but I haven’t had that gut-wrenching sadness for a while.

And then we’re at today, the first day of eight grade for my daughter. A first for all of us. She wasn’t supposed to be the first; I should have one starting tenth grade as well. But here we are.

I took the day off work, because I have every first day of school since my son started kindergarten. I took the obligatory first-day-of-school photo, because I have every first day of school since my son started kindergarten.

After dropping my daughter at school, I went to visit my son’s grave, a new tradition I started in 2016.

And I didn’t cry. I stood there for a moment, staring at the boulder with his name and date of birth and date of death and the little burst of fireworks carved into its face. And then I lifted my phone and pulled up the pictures I’d taken a short time earlier. His sister, pretending to be wholly focused on her phone because that’s such a running joke with today’s youth. Her attempts not to laugh, the smirks. The one that looks so much like him.

And I didn’t cry.

Because the life we have is pretty darn good, even though it’s without him. We’ve figured out how to move forward. And the guilt for doing that is finally mostly gone. I’m sure it will surface again periodically, and that’s okay. It’s part of the grieving process. It’s what shapes us as human beings.

I thought about pointing out to my daughter that one of her pics looks just like her brother. And then I decided against it. Because today is her day. She’s an eighth grader now. She’s carving her own path. She isn’t in his shadow anymore.

She’s moving forward.

And of course, now that I’m writing all this down, I’m crying over my keyboard. And that’s okay too, because sometimes, the tears need to flow. They’re cleansing, they allow me to look at the world through a fresh, new filter. Sort of like the landscape that’s covered by morning dew.

And so the grieving process continues… And life, it moves on.

As it should.

Funerals & Grief & Dealing

A friend of mine recently lost her husband, very suddenly, very young (40s), very tragically (it’s tragic to lose your spouse at any age, but 40s just seems far too young).

I found out via Facebook (isn’t that where we discover practically all our news these days?). I opened the app minutes after she’d posted, announcing her loss and the funeral arrangements, so it was the first one to pop up at the top of my feed. I thought, “This must be a joke.”

Which was the same reaction I had twenty months ago when I was driving home from work and my daughter called and said, “Mom, hurry home! Brady just tried to kill himself!” I yelled at her, “That’s not funny. That’s not remotely funny. Don’t ever joke like that again!” Turns out, she wasn’t joking, and now I carry an extra layer of guilt for shouting at her like that.

The next day, my friend’s tragedy was all we could talk about at the day job, as we discussed when we should go to the viewing and whether we should attend the funeral as well. (No funeral for me—I try my damndest to avoid them at all costs now a-days.) I pulled up her Facebook page to look at the viewing and funeral information, and I had to scroll through picture after picture, post after post, all saying, “I’m sorry” and “Remember when…”

Exactly what happened twenty months ago. I couldn’t even look at my own Facebook page back then, because I didn’t want to see all those pictures, didn’t want to think about the good times, how cute he was, how smart he was, because now he’s gone and all I’ll ever have are those memories, and frankly, that’s not enough.

I went to the viewing with a group of co-workers—current and past. So many people showed up to give their support to their friend, the bereaved; some the widow probably hadn’t seen in years.

Just like at my son’s viewing. I remember getting momentarily excited every time another person walked in who I hadn’t seen in forever … until we recalled why we were finally coming together again.

My friend looked exhausted, and infinitely sad. Greeting people and hugging people and accepting condolences for hours on end when all you really want to do is curl up into a ball and cry until the tears run dry will do that to a person. I know I looked exactly the same way. During tragic times, you cry so much that when you look in the mirror, those puffy, no-makeup eyes actually look normal.

She had someone checking in on her every few minutes—“You okay?” “Need anything?” “Hungry?” “Can I get you another bottle of water?”

I had the same friend. Well, not literally the same person, but that friend, that person who spent the entire viewing tending to my needs, the grieving mother. I’ll probably never be able to thank her enough for that.

And the video. Dear God, the video. Nothing makes people tear up more instantaneously than the video at a viewing. That walk down Memory Lane. Hundreds of pictures of the good times. The person’s life captured in a five-minute, heart-wrenching slideshow. Young, old, in between, the video takes no prisons and leaves no dry eyes.

When all the hoopla was over and everyone else returned to their nice, normal lives, the funeral director gave us a bag of “goodies:” the thumb drive of pictures, the actual photo we’d used for the announcement in the paper and the sign at the funeral home, a stack of thank you cards, the death certificate (so many mementos I never wanted…), and the video, captured forever on CD.

Many bereaved, I’m sure, watch that video, possibly regularly. Maybe on the anniversary or birthday. Maybe every week or every day. Maybe it brings them peace or offers a glimpse into prior happiness that helps buoy their hearts, their lives.

Me, I think I threw it away. Not sure, to be honest. It may be tucked into a drawer somewhere or tossed onto a shelf in the basement. One thing I do know: It’s not something I have any remote interest in watching. Those memories are in my head, and I can barely stand that as it is, let alone actually watching them, recalling all those good times that weren’t enough to eclipse the demons who ultimately took him from me.

All said, I do hope my friend can find some comfort wherever she can in the coming days, weeks, years. Whether it’s the video or the friends and family who rally ’round her, I hope she finds some peace … and happiness. Because as we all know, the living must go on … living.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

It Isn’t Easier

Dear Brady,

It hasn’t gotten easier. Despite the cards, the well-wishes, the hugs and phone calls from caring friends, today wasn’t easier than last year. I’m pretty certain your birthday is worse than the anniversary of your death. Probably because there’s more history, more memories associated with this day. Or maybe it’s because the memories connected to your death were chopped up into a bunch of days. So while the day you died sucked worse than anything ever, there’s also the day of the viewing and the day of the funeral and a few months later, the day we lay your ashes to rest.

So happy birthday, I guess. I mean, do birthdays even matter when you’re in heaven? They still matter to the living, even if the person we’re acknowledging isn’t here anymore. I doubt this day will ever be just any other day, no matter how many years pass. Unfortunately, it won’t ever be an entirely happy day, either. Not anymore.

We didn’t plan to do anything to outwardly acknowledge you today. I took the day off work because I knew I wouldn’t be worth a damn at the office, and then found out your sister had the day off school as well. Maybe it was divine intervention? We ended up having a girls’ day instead of me sitting at home alone feeling sorry for myself. And for a few hours, we were distracted, and it was fun, which is how it should be for the living. Although I ended up splurging and buying her practically everything she asked for, which I don’t normally do. I’ve decided to chalk it up to a subconscious need to give gifts to someone on this day, like I did for thirteen years of my life.

She’s mad at you, you know. Your sister. You left her to figure out this growing up business on her own, when she’s always had you to carve the path for her. All she ever had to do was follow in your footsteps, something she was content to do. Until you were gone. She isn’t a trailblazer. It’s difficult for her to try new things. She wants to keep hiding in your shadow but she can’t, and I think, nineteen months later, she’s starting to realize that.

Last year she practically threw a party on your birthday; this year she doesn’t even want to acknowledge it’s happening. She told me recently she didn’t want to talk about you anymore. Although the other night over dinner she regaled your father and I with gruesome, scary stories she said she learned from you. And when I dropped her off after shopping and told her I was going to head over to visit you for a few minutes, she told me to tell you hi. So I guess she’s not too mad.

(By the way, Hi. I actually forgot to say it while I was visiting you because this group of people showed up who appeared to be scoping out gravesites and I felt really awkward sitting there bawling like a, well, grieving mother, so I took off. Which I know is silly—it’s a cemetery, right? I mean, outside of the shower and my car, it’s really the perfect place to cry.)

And now we’re entering a new stage of grieving—and I’m scared all over again. My own grief I can handle. Your dad’s, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles; our friends. But watching my baby girl suffer and not having a clue how to make her feel better is the second worse kind of pain a parent can experience.

The first, of course, is losing you in the first place.

Not So Much Love For Fall

I used to love fall. But the riot of color in the trees no longer brings me the same pleasure it did just two years ago.

I have no desire to pull my sweaters out of hibernation; no excitement over wearing my multitude of boots (and I own some super cute boots). The cooler days only mean longer nights and less sunshine, and the darkness gives me far too much excuse to feel sorry for myself. It’s the perfect shroud for the tears I prefer to hide from the world.

You see, fall is a season full of memories, memories I haven’t yet figured out how to live with. My son didn’t die in the fall; he died in the spring, but everything about this time of year reminds me of him, of what I lost, of moments I’ll never get to experience again.

He should have started his freshman year this month. I should have a high schooler. Instead, I have one kid starting school, seventh grade, which happens to be the year my son let the demons win. It’s like living that year all over again, except accompanied by the nightmare of what happened and the constant fear that my daughter might do the same thing.

(For the record, she tells us all the time she won’t, which is both a relief and not remotely fair to the poor kid. She’ll never be able to have a ‘normal’ teen angst period, but I have no idea how not to stress over every little nuance in her personality, which occasionally resembles her brother’s.)

Sometimes I wonder what he would have been like. If he had not made such a permanent decision eighteen months ago, would he have gotten over his depression, his misery, conquered the demons who convinced him to take his own life? My husband doesn’t think so. He believes had our son lived, he would have been fighting those demons for the rest of his life.

But at least he’d have a life. And I’d have a son. And humans are fighters, usually. Maybe he would have found some semblance of peace, would have started high school with a fresh, positive outlook.

I’ll never know.

His birthday is next month. He should be turning fifteen. Ready to sign up for driver’s ed. It’s so odd; I spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on what will never be, yet I can’t bring myself to relive memories of his life while he was still here. It hurts too much. Still.

I often wonder if it always will.

Part of me wants to get to that point where I can talk about him, reminisce, smile and laugh over moments that occurred during the precious little time we had with him. That’s thirteen years of my life that I currently can’t even think about, let alone talk about.

And the other part of me hates the pain, hates crying, hates feeling sorry for myself, hates admitting that I will never have another memory with my son.

After his birthday comes Thanksgiving. A family holiday. The start of the family holiday season. A time of reflection, of appreciation for what we have, of feeling grateful for our family. Which is hard to do when there’s one missing, there will always be one missing. Forever.

Let’s not forget Christmas. ‘Tis the season of opening boxes filled with decorations and ornaments that all have some significance, some emotional purpose. So many that were handmade by my children or personalized with their names or purchased with some aspect of their personalities in mind. Then there’s the stocking with his name on it. The pictures with Santa.

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday. Now I can barely muster excitement; I almost want it to hurry up and go away, move on. Which I hate because that isn’t fair to the one child I have left, or the rest of my family for that matter.

So, like I did my first year trying to figure out the way down this fork in the road created by my son’s decision to leave us forever, I will try to find bits of happiness and joy, hopefully new experiences, new traditions that won’t hurt quite so much.

That’s all any of us can do: Try.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

Just When I Think I’ve Got It Together…

There are days when I actually think I have it all together. When I believe I’m managing this new life that was carved for us last year. Sometimes that feeling can go on for a week, even longer.

I made it through our entire family vacation last month, a week during which we hang out with my father and my brother and his wife and kids. We rent a cottage on a lake, the more remote the better, and we just forget about real life for a while. It’s a tradition we started shortly after my son was born, and have reenacted every year since.

Not a single tear leaked from my eye that week. I admit, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised, because I gotta admit, this grieving business sucks. It’s really frustrating how the dead manage to control the lives of the living. I never gave that thought much consideration until last year, when I was slapped in the face with my son’s death.

The entire next week after vacation was fine, too. Well, it sucked, but that had nothing really to do with my son and more to do with the fact that vacation was over, and as always happens when you escape reality for seven glorious days, you get to play catch up for the next one to two weeks. Not that I won’t do it again next year. Or the one after that, and that, and that…

And everything was going along swimmingly, and I actually thought the words, Maybe I’m finally there. That place where I have my life back, where each day is not marred by the nightmare of losing a child. No one has ever told me that place exists; conversely, those who have been through this agony, who have many more years’ experience than me, say it doesn’t. The pain never goes away, the memories never stop haunting you, the cloud of grief never stops hovering over every single little aspect of your day-to-day life.

I don’t know why I forgot that. Because when you forget and then it slaps you back to your newly forged reality, it’s almost worse than when you’re working through it moment by moment, day by day.

Yesterday was that day. I was punched in the face with my own personal reality, or as I affectionately call it, hell. I was scrolling through Facebook like any normal, redblooded human being, when I clicked a link. I should have known better, but that’s what those articles are for, right? To lure you in, to sell you whatever the author’s cooking.

In this case, it was about a woman who was getting married. A woman who lost her own son, and she’d donated his organs upon his death (we did the same thing – now there’s a call you don’t anticipate dealing with literally hours after your kid dies, while you’re still reeling from the fact it actually happened). And as people tend to do at weddings, she wanted to acknowledge him, to pay homage to his memory. So she left an empty seat at the front of the ceremony, and there was a sign propped there, something about her love for her deceased child, I think.

And then a man she didn’t recognize walked down the aisle. A stranger, but not really, because her son’s heart beat in his chest. The man’s presence was a surprise, contrived by her fiancé.

And much like I am doing now, I sat on my back porch and cried.

Here’s the article, if you want to cry too: SCARY MOMMY BLOG POST

I cried for that mother’s loss as well as my own. Cried because life is so very unfair, and while that man was able to live, that woman lost a son, and why can’t we have both scenarios? Why do we have to choose? Or possibly worse, why is the choice taken from us? I didn’t get to decide whether my son lived. He made that choice, and now I have to figure out how to live with it.

I don’t have answers (obviously) and I don’t expect you to either. They’re rhetorical questions, of course. The thoughts that run through a grieving mother’s mind. The wishes, the envy over those who still have their babies.

Later that same day, I came across a neighbor’s son while walking my dog. He and my son were friends, went to school together, were only two months apart in age. Now he looks like a man. I had the ridiculous (or maybe not?) urge to rush up the driveway and pull him into a hug. He probably would have let me, even though he would have thought, Holy crap, she’s going off the deep end. And maybe I am. There are still days I walk around in a fog a lot of the time.

I didn’t rush the poor kid. I smiled and waved and kept walking. Back to my house, my life. This not-so-new-anymore reality.

Hopefully tomorrow it will go back to one of those days when it feels all right, when I feel like I have a grasp on this life I’m trying so damn hard to enjoy.

Hopefully.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, award winner, and grieving mother. It makes her feel a teeny bit better to blog about her crazy, fucked up life.

Suicide is Not the Coolest Way to Die

I get it; you’re depressed.

Okay, no I don’t. I admit, I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never been in that deep, dark pit, so far down you can’t even see the light, let alone convince yourself it still exists … somewhere. I’ve never felt like everyone in the entire world was against me, that it will never, ever get better, and the absolute best choice of the myriad around me is to end it all. To leave this world. Because I’ll be better off; everyone will be better off.

I don’t know how that feels. But I know how it feels to be the one you left behind.

I know what it feels like to receive a phone call that cannot possibly, by any remote stretch of the imagination be true. I know what it feels like to stare at your dead child’s body, dressed in his nicest shirt and tie, lying in a ridiculously overpriced casket we bought two days prior and that’s about to head to the fiery oven at the local cremation company.

I know what it’s like to get a call only a few hours after your child killed himself, asking if you’d be willing to donate his organs to someone who is still alive, who gets to keep on living, whose parents still get to hug their son or daughter. Joke with them. Talk with them. Love them.

And I know what it’s like to tell that person that I cannot possibly make this decision right now because I haven’t even accepted that he’s actually dead. And then they tell you how sorry they are but the organs are only viable for a certain length of time and as difficult as it is, this gets to be the very first in a long list of extremely hard and far too real decisions you have to make over the course of an incredibly short timeframe.

I know what it’s like to be a control freak planner who hands over every possible decision to the funeral director and the priest because there are some choices that are impossible to make when you’re the mother of a dead child and it’s bad enough you actually have to be there, to participate in the ritual of burying your own son. No, I do not care what song you play at the funeral. I’m not even supposed to be here.

I know what it’s like to walk through a room full of rows upon rows of coffins, and have to select the one your son will be laid out in, will be cremated in. I know what’s it’s like to choose one of them, to have that surreal conversation with your husband, in which you actually say the words, “It’s a beautiful casket. It suits him.”

I know what it’s like to greet people for eight straight hours—except for those few minutes you sneak out to the parking lot to drink wine straight from the bottle—greeting people you don’t know, people you haven’t seen in forever, people you love to see and wish you could actually hang out with without this shroud of sadness hovering right behind you.

I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t know sidle up to you and say, “So, tell me how it happened.”

I know what it’s like to watch helplessly while your husband, your father, your brother, your best friend break down in tears because goddamn it, it’s real and how the hell did something like this happen to us, our family?

I know what it’s like to ask why a thousand times a day, every day. I know what it’s like to ask what if just as frequently. Possibly more. What it’s like to relive that day, that week, over and over and over until you almost crave that moment when you get to die so you can see him again.

I know what it’s like to wish and wish and wish and then lose faith because wishes don’t come true. I know what it’s like to live your life without a piece of your heart. It used to walk around on the outside; now it walks around in heaven. At least I hope that’s where it is.

I know what it’s like to experience happiness, only to have the tainted memory of the son I lost slap that happiness out of the way. I know now that I will never again experience pure, unadulterated joy. Every significant event, moment, situation, every single aspect of my life will be clouded with the memory of what I had, what I lost, what I can never ever get back.

My son.

So yes, you’re depressed, and it sucks. And I don’t know how to help you, other than to tell you there are a ton of professionals who have spent a fair portion of their lives studying how to make you better, who might possibly be able to shed some light—literally. Give you some light, some hope, a reason to keep plugging along, to try to find that sweet spot, that place where it isn’t quite as bad as the demons make it out to be.

And if nothing else, think about the people you will leave behind. The ones you think will be better off. And read this post again, and tell me how much better off they will be.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund. Author. Wine drinker. Award winner. Depressing blogger. But that’s how she gets through life. How she brings you the fabulous happily ever afters she provides as often as life allows.

 

 

Grief Gone Public

I recently read a blog post about a family who wrote an obituary calling out bullies. The obituary was for a teenager who had committed suicide.

Here’s the post (which includes the obit) from a blog called For Every Mom: http://foreverymom.com/family-parenting/sadie-riggs-obituary-is-going-viral-and-we-all-need-to-read-it-to-our-kids/

I spotted it in my Facebook feed and I hovered, considered whether I wanted to delve into this world I try on a daily—minutely—basis to avoid/forget/ignore.

I scrolled past. I came back. I hovered some more. And finally, I took a deep breath and clicked the link. And afterward, I closed it, shut down my phone, and went about my day, pretending I wasn’t thinking about what I just read.

About making sure your kids are aware of, understand the consequences of bullying, of suicide. The article cried out for all parents to talk to their kids about such important, life-altering matters.

Let’s be honest: My daughter has been slapped in the face with suicide. She understands better than the vast majority of kids her age what it feels like when someone close to you chooses that path in life—rather, to end their far-too-short life in such a way. She watches her parents, her grandparents, our friends, aunts, uncles, everyone around us struggle with managing the fall out created by suicide. It’s been fifteen months, and we still deal with it, some of us still haven’t fully accepted it, and all of us wish on a daily basis our lives—his life—had not taken that sharp curve that occurred when my son decided ending his life was the most optimal answer at that moment in time.

I feel reasonably certain this will not be my daughter’s first choice—or even on the list of options—in the eventual likelihood of her life becoming seemingly too tough to handle at some point down the line.

But that’s just her. What about other kids, the ones who were my son’s friends, or any child who has ever experienced something so difficult they are seriously contemplating a choice that has consequences that can never, ever be undone?

For the record, we have no idea why my son made such a monumental, earth-shattering, and incredibly wrong decision that day a little over a year ago. We have no proof bullying was involved. During the week after it happened, other parents from his school went online, screamed bullying, called the local media, and attempted to pull together a rally or picket line at the school to protest … what, I’m not sure.

Can schools do more to be on the look out for bullying? Yes. Can parents? Yes. Can everyone? Yes.

We can also conserve more water, eat better, spend more time at home and less at work … the list goes on. No one is perfect, and everyone can do something better.

Do I believe my son was bullied to death? No.

Am I being naïve or living in denial? Possibly.

What we do believe, in retrospect, which really sucks, because damn, if only we’d acknowledged these things a year, a month, an hour earlier…what we do believe is that he suffered from mental illness. Depression, maybe. Probably. Likely. There definitely were demons in his head. Loud, obnoxious, insistent monsters who convinced him they were right over all the people around him, people who loved him, who only wanted the best for him. Who wanted him to hang out on this earth for far more than thirteen pitifully short years.

Once upon a time, he was an easy-going baby. Took to breast-feeding with ease. Slept through the night before I went back to work. Smiled a lot. Was incredibly smart, super happy. I remember someone—no idea who—warned me that if he was an easy baby, he’d be a difficult teen.

Oh, were they ever right.

I’m pretty sure it started in fourth grade, but was definitely in full swing by fifth. And controlled his life by seventh, which is when the demons finally won.

Those bastards.

The anger. The misery. The refusal to be talked down once he’d worked himself up over something incredibly small or petty or insignificant. In November, 2015, four months before he’d make true on his words, during a heated argument with his dad and me, he screamed, “I wish I could kill myself.” Furious at such a horrible proclamation, we sent him to his room, told him he couldn’t come out again until he was reasonable. We didn’t know that to the demons whispering in his head, that was reasonable.

We thought he was being an angsty teenager, and we event said we couldn’t wait for him to outgrow this phase, so he’d be fun to be around again.

But he never outgrew it, and those asshole demons won. Somehow, some way, they convinced him he’d be better off—we’d be better off—without him.

They were wrong. And now it’s too late to convince my son, to somehow figure out how to prove it to him.

But it’s not too late for you, if you’re reading this. I have no idea how to shut up those demons—whether external or internal—but I do know what this world will be like if you let them talk you into leaving it.

It will suck. So much more than it does right now.

So talk to someone. Anyone. While I don’t know how to fix it, I know there are experts who can. Talk. To. Someone. And most importantly: Keep living. You’ll be glad you did.

I promise.

If you need them, here are a few options. I do not condone any over the other. I’m just giving you choices, because the demons aren’t right.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

https://afsp.org

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

http://www.sprc.org

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm

 

 

 

Living With Grief

It’s Sunday morning. I’m stretched out on the couch wearing comfy pajamas, a super soft fleece blanket draped over my legs. It’s dark outside, a rainy, overcast day. There’s no one else awake at the moment. I’m trying to write a book, but every time I glance up from the laptop, my gaze focuses on a family pic, one that includes my son.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve felt the waves of grief crashing over me. Admittedly, it’s been nice. Grieving is exhausting and if I’m really being honest here, I’m kind of sick of doing it. I’m not foolish; I know it will never go away, but I do welcome that time when it doesn’t encompass my life, when it isn’t a major player in every moment of every day. That will happen at some point, won’t it?

It’s coming again, though. I can feel it. That lurch in my chest on Saturday as I dusted the mantel, over which a gorgeous black and white pic of my two children hangs. I think they were five and two or maybe six and three in that picture. Her arms are thrown around his shoulders and they’re both smiling, so obviously happy. Like at that moment, they knew they had their whole lives ahead of them–together–and in general, it was gonna be positive. It’s amazing how swiftly such an outlook can change, isn’t it?

My daughter is starting to talk about her brother with more frequency lately. I know this is good, because I know she’s still grieving too, and she’s struggling to figure out how to get on in this world in a capacity she never, ever expected: as an only child. I know she’d sure as hell rather not have that status. Besides wanting her brother back, she doesn’t like having all the attention focused on her, plus I know she feels this new sense of obligation to be “good” for the sake of her parents’ sanity. So not fair to her. To any of us.

But it’s hard, so very hard. I’m not there yet; I can’t talk about the good times, the memories. I can’t look at the pictures for more than a moment.

Two of my nieces spent the night this weekend, and I pulled out his bike so they could all go bike riding. Just cleaning it up; greasing the chain, putting air in the tires, wiping off the dusty seat was hard, because it makes me remember. His birthday, when we gave him that bike. His surprise and elation; it hadn’t been what he was expecting, but he’d been thrilled. We’d nailed the birthday gift that year.

And now we have an extra bike taking up space on the back porch.

Even though one of my nieces is the tallest and therefore would have been most comfortable on his bike, my daughter claimed it as her own. She does that; what’s his is now hers, and she’s not really interested in sharing. I get it, although I’m not like that. I’ve been more inclined to throw things away—because what the hell am I going to do with them?—whereas she collects mementos, physical reminders of the memories. I don’t begrudge her this, nor was I about to suggest she let the taller girl ride his bike. Those seats adjust, and mine worked just as well for my niece.

And then they were off, riding up and down the street, armed with sweatshirts to protect them against the slight nip in the spring air. Enjoying themselves, the comradery. Life. The way kids should.

 

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund writes books, drinks wine, wins awards, writes blogs, and occasionally sends cool newsletters. Signup here: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

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