Robbie and I attended our second Survivor of Suicide (SOS) group Sunday evening. Our first one was at a different location. There are 3 that meet around Central Columbus – each one meets just once a month. It’s still surreal for us. As we got ready, locked up the house and headed towards the car we paused and looked at each other knowingly. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “welcome to our new fuckin life.”
I liked this second group we went to – I didn’t like the first one. The facilitator’s of the first group didn’t introduce themselves or share why they were leading an SOS group. Who does that? I want to know what you’re doing here… are you here just because it’s your job? Because you’ve read in some book about suicide grief? If so, I ain’t interested in listening to you. I normally would’ve asked how they had been impacted by suicide but I was especially pissy that evening so it was best I kept my mouth shut. I’m getting irritated just thinking about the leaders lack of eye contact as people were sharing their stories. Yuck.
The group we attended just a few days ago that I liked was run much differently. The leaders introduced themselves, they provided beverages, snackage, and free reading materials. We all shared who we lost, when we lost them, and if we were able how we lost them (no thank you). Then we talked a bit about “the first year” since there were 3 of us (me & Robbie + one other person) who were just at the 1-year mark. Everyone else there was 3+ years ahead of us in this grief journey. The leaders had each lost a son to suicide. It was nice to know why they were there.
When the group was over one woman asked me how I had survived a whole year without coming to an SOS support group. I got to share – once again – about what a wonderful church family I have. That’s such a foreign concept to the people I’ve met at these groups. Sometimes I just want to gather them all up in my arms and tell ’em how much Christ loves them and that there are normal people out there who love the Lord and want to do life with them!
As a survivor there’s a bond that’s present when I meet other people who have suffered a loss to suicide. Our pain is all unique but there are commonalities. One of the women had lost her boyfriend to suicide and she shared that just a few weeks ago her best friend died, too, but not from suicide. She said dealing with her best friend’s death has been so different. “So this is what it’s like to grieve more normally,” she said. “I don’t have to feel shame, responsibility or guilt in addition to all the sadness, pain and loneliness.” I was glad she shared that.
As we walked to our car Robbie & I agreed we’d go back to that group next month.
I’m all over the place with my thoughts and emotions today. I hate this. From peace and excitement to dread and anger. It’s painful. It’s confusing.
I got to baptize someone this morning… what a wonderful honor and privilege to be part of Debbi’s life as she learns more about God. So it was an emotional morning… listening to people’s testimonies is always so amazing. But like so many things it’s different now… Now I listen to a 20 something year old’s testimony through a different lens. He wore shoes like Drey. He was a few years older than Drey. He was built like Drey. He’d gotten into some of the same trouble Drey had got into. But this young man chose a different path from Drey. And he was standing there right before my eyes thanking his parents for always being there for him – and they baptized him. My heart was heavy with grief as I quietly wept and announced silently in my mind that I sacrificed so much to YOU GOD! I’ve given up so much. I won’t get to baptize Drey. I don’t even get to see him. Period. And I feel the anger swell up and it’s directed at YOU. YOU allowed this to happen. Damn it. There aren’t words.
When I’m triggered like this and these feeling show up I can’t always tuck them neatly away. God has brought me so far in learning how to handle Drey’s death, his suicide. So, so far. I mean, it’s not like I go for hours without thinking of Drey. He is on my mind regularly. So I’m triggered a lot but can fairly often stay “in check” and in the moment without spiraling.
I continued on with interacting with people throughout the morning… so many happy people. Sometimes I’m happy. But when I’m not it’s REALLY HARD when others are. I was irritable, hurt, sad, lonely and mostly angry with myself for not being able to be happy. No one can possibly understand the depths of this pain. This wasn’t just a normal death – if there even is such as thing. Why do I feel I must defend myself? Explain myself? Yea – I’m sad. My life has been shattered and I’m still figuring out how to put one foot in front of the other. Why can’t I just give myself some slack and rest in knowing I don’t have to have the answers. I don’t have 100% control of when the despair portion of this grief wants to resurface. I’m still learning how to walk this out. It is what it is. And I try to tell myself I don’t owe anyone an explanation.
My son is dead. My son took his life. Jesus God I don’t know how I got here.
I received my last daily GriefShare email today. Hard to believe I’ve read 365 of them already. It feels like closure receiving that last one. Only there’s not closure.
I praise You God as I continue turning my new life over to You because You promise not a single tear will be wasted. I didn’t ask for this sorrow but I sure as hell want to learn every single thing I possibly can from it. No tear wasted.
One of my dear friends was over recently and she confessed that she went through a stage where she was asking You for her old friend back. It was hard to hear. It was humbling because I was once again reminded there’s no snapping out of this and going back to “normal.” I know I’m different in many ways. She said “but I like this new, softer, Denise.” I believe her. I am blessed to have her by my side.
My life is not my own. It belongs to You. It always has. I’m just more aware and cooperative these days.
Run to God
Your recovery from grief is likely not complete, but we pray that you are encouraged to grow forward on your journey. We wish God’s best for you.
“The greatest and deepest Christians I’ve ever met are not the ones with the advanced degrees and not the ones who are always happy and cheerful, but they are people who have found God to be faithful in the worst moments of life,” says Dr. Ray Pritchard. “Instead of running away from God, they ran toward Him. And they know things about God that the rest of us haven’t yet experienced.”
Run to God, and praise His name.
These past several days I’ve seen so many pictures and posts about first days of school and moves to college. ‘Tis the season. Time keeps marching on. New memories are being made. It hits me at different times that my memories of Drey have a beginning and an end. There won’t be any new ones.
Robbie is on his way home with David… he started his freshman year this week at Thomas. I want to be happy… I want to hear about his classes, about band. I want to celebrate alongside Robbie these very important milestones in his son’s life. Sometimes I can. This is such a complicated journey for us. David told Robbie a few months ago he didn’t understand why Drey did this. He said him & Drey were just starting to hang out together. He was right. Drey was usually too cool for his stepbrother that was 5 years his junior. But the last year of Drey’s life he was hanging out more with David. I guess the 5 year age gap was more tolerable once David was 13. David reflected on how him & Drey did stuff together while we were on vacation – just a few months before Drey died. Trips to the gas station for candy, the arcade room, swimming. Sometimes I feel guilty for what I’ve done to David… like somehow my baby’s choice was my fault. David didn’t ask for this. He didn’t want to carry this tragedy the rest of his life. None of us did. Staying focused on what I’m responsible for – and not picking up add’l responsibility – has never really been my strength. So I choose to give it back to God. Sometimes daily – and sometimes moment by moment. It’s too heavy for me to carry.
First day of school – 1st grade and 6th grade. I treasure this memory.
Last year at this exact moment I was getting ready to leave for my son’s memorial service. It’s pretty unreal to think of that. In some ways I think I’m still in shock. Learning to live this new life I didn’t ask for – learning to integrate my baby’s death into my life – well it’s taking quite a while.
But I’m not crying this morning. I’m melancholy and reflective but I’m not distraught. Part of learning to live this new life is accepting that I can’t stay in the depths of despair that I was in the first several months after his death. Sometimes I welcome that realization. Other times it’s gross. How can I just go on with my life? Isn’t being distraught somehow “the right thing to do” if I really loved Drey? Learning the answer to that question is “no” is an ongoing lesson.
So why aren’t I experiencing the ongoing gut wrenching grief that dominated my life for so long? Truly, what do I have to live for? Yes I love my husband, my parents, my stepson, my friends. Yes I am blessed. But is that what I live for? No. Sadly I’ve learned my loved ones can be taken away in a second. I have a great home. Oh I know – I have my health. Hmmmm… for how long? Nope – I can’t place my hope there either. My hope is in God. My hope is in eternity. This life is not all there is. I love the one parable in Matthew and how it concludes… Matthew 25:23 shows that God praises us for when we allow Him to work through us. He does the work – but we get the praise! “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Can you imagine hearing those words when you are face to face with our perfect God? That is where I place my hope. In knowing I can delight my God as I chose to depend on Him. Not to earn His acceptance – that’s already a done deal because of Christ. But I have hope because He loves me. It gives me motivation to love others. I want my life to count for His glory. I feel it so deeply sometimes. I feel it so deeply now. I can’t help but to smile! Yes, my pain will remain for a while longer. I have made a very, very large deposit into heaven and since I’m still here I will ache. But I have joy, too! Yes. This moment I have joy! I’m learning to treasure these moments and to praise God for them. I may be crying in an hour… but for right now I have joy!
I started this post a bit sad and melancholy. But as I read that scripture and prayed throughout my typing my sadness transformed to joy even if just for a moment! I experience joy because of the sunshine, my dogs, my iPhone and even my purple nail polish. I experience joy for simple things BECAUSE I have my hope in God. These past few weeks I’ve experienced joy because of Drey’s friends and how they honor him, love him, and remember him. Look at the below page from the 2013 TWHS yearbook… what a blessing! Thank you Bethaney, thank you everyone! I love what you wrote about Drey. It’s always what I’ve thought about him – but I’m Mom. I’m biased! To read how you felt about Drey meant so much! And for it to be included in such a permanent place – thank you!
Yes, Drey graduated in 2012. But the wonderful Thomas Worthington High School 2013 folks included this page in the yearbook . Blessed!
I’m sitting here at Panera enjoying some quiet time. Praying silently. Meditating. Yes, it’s sometimes better to get away from the distractions of home in order to enjoy some intimacy with God. I don’t hear laundry, dust or dishes shouting for attention when I’m here. But there’s always that chance of seeing a teenager with that soccer build or – like this morning – a cutie patutie blond boy with glasses.
Drey was 5 when he got his first pair of glasses. Little round glasses with dolphins on the frames. He wore them with pride. The roundness of them somehow matched those pudgy, round, chipmunk cheeks he had. I smile and tear up at the same time just thinking of that little 5 year old face. I have a picture of him at a Christmas recital where he was wearing his brand new glasses. He was all smiles. I’d like to get that picture out. But not now. It’s too soon to look at any pictures other than the ones already sitting out.
I’ve been sitting here long enough now… I think the Mom and little boy have left. It’s safe to walk towards the exit.
An article I read recently said year 2 for the bereaved is harder than year 1. That’s hard to believe. I can’t imagine anything more agonizing than those first 6 months especially. So I’m trying not to panic at the emptiness I’m feeling this morning. I miss you. I mean I’ve missed you for months but I don’t know that that’s been the dominant emotion. Why did you do this? Where did I fail you? This can’t be real? How do I live my life without you? Questions about the past and the future have occupied so much of my mind so far. This level of missing you hasn’t been dominant.
I think spending time with your friends these past few weeks has triggered this new layer. This layer of missing you is more ordinary. I’m not even sure what I mean by that. I’m confused. I like it when I can name my emotions. When I can explain them. I can’t seem to do that this morning.
God I turn to You. I ask for Your direction and wisdom. I ask for Your timing as I consider engaging the suicide community – the organizations, the charities, the events. There are so many hurting people. People who don’t know You. When Drey died – that very day he died – I heard You in the chaos of my shattered remains saying “for such a time as this.” I asked You repeatedly “What? What? For such a time as WHAT?” I read Esther a handful of times. I watched a teaching series from Mark Driscoll on Esther. A guest teacher at church taught on Esther. You were clearly talking to me and I thought there was something I couldn’t hear because I didn’t – and still don’t – have an answer. “For such a time as this.” Why did you lay that bible verse on my heart, mind and soul the very day Drey died? What’s the “this?” I remember sensing Your non-answer last year… “Do you trust Me?” and “Rest.” I eventually quit asking You and just obeyed what I thought I heard. Not out of my own ability – You did all the work. I did and do trust You. I did and do rest. Thank You for reminding me of how You put that verse on my mind. And thank You for Your timing.