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Responsibility, guilt and suicide

I don’t think it’s humanly possible to live through the aftermath of your child’s suicide without feeling responsible.  I don’t think these feelings of guilt and responsibility are limited to just me and Fred.  They extend to the rest of our family and to friends, too.  But we’re Mom & Dad.  The feelings of responsibility we have run deep.

At one point I believed I contributed to Drey’s fearlessness – something he had in order to go through with this – because I took him on rollercoasters at too young of an age.  And I’ve believed – and sometimes still do – that we shouldn’t have moved… and if his Dad and I hadn’t of divorced Drey would’ve been safe.   And why didn’t I wake up when I got his text?  Why didn’t I drive to his Dad’s that morning?  And on and on.  It’s torture.  A torture that can’t be fixed with well-meaning words.  A torture that sometimes is too intense to just distract yourself from.   These thoughts aren’t as frequent as they used to be.  But they’ve recently been triggered and here I am.  Processing the impact of my decisions on his death at an even deeper level.

I write for me.  For my processing.  For my healing.  And I write to share with anyone else suffering from a loss to suicide… we are all different and what helps one may not help the other but we are all connected because of our tragedies.   We are all part of the stupid ass club that no one else understands.  I’m grateful for the survivors that I’ve met – both online and through SOS groups.

What helps me put my guilt, my feeling that I contributed to my son’s decision to end his life?   Absolutely nothing apart from God.  Nothing.  I have and still do attempt to “logic” my way through it.   I replay conversations and remind myself of all the times Drey expressed his love for me.  I try to reason that even though he didn’t live here anymore the fact that his mail still came here (and still flippin does.  that sucks) that he still considered me “home.”   I recall my feelings for him – easily expressed – were those of unconditional love and absolute delight.  God how I loved him!   These things bring me moments of relief – but it’s never sustainable for more than a few hours.  The only relief I’ve been able to experience for longer periods of time has been from God…

1) Saying out loud the thoughts in my head to my closest friends.  Getting them out in the open often deflates them of the power they had gained bouncing around inside my mind.  When the thoughts are out there my friends remind me of God’s truth.  Truths I know, and I try to rehearse.  But I get exhausted from trying to talk to myself – and that’s okay.  I don’t have to “go it” alone.

2)  Revisiting my faith.  I have revisited every single thing I thought I believed about God and his plan of redemption.  Digging into the book of Hebrews in particular has brought me a ton of comfort.  I’ve had several “holy shit – this IS real!  I CAN count this as truth!” moments.  It is NOT about me trying to clean myself up.  It’s about His mercy.

3)  Meditating on scriptures about suffering and sorrow.  Psalm 126:6 is one of my favorites.

4)  Reading biblically-based books about heaven.  I made a big-ass deposit in heaven… so learning more about it has become a priority.

5)  Being honest with God.  He knows my thoughts before I’m even aware of them.  There’s no point in trying to hide.  And recently I heard someone say, “Try not to dwell on what there is no answer to.”  So simple, yet so profound.  And I’ve found it’s not enough to just “stop thinking about it.”  I have to go the next step and replace the thoughts of guilt and responsibility with truth.

These are the things that have brought me more sustainable relief from the tormenting thoughts that creep in.  I wish I’d never experience a negative self-condemning thought again but that’s just not realistic.  I’m human, not God.

Guilt sucks.  Guilt and the accusations associated with it are not from God.

Lessons from my first Mother’s Day as a bereaved Mom.

Well here I am already…. My second Mother’s Day since Drey died. I’m grateful for how fast time seems to be flying by. Every day brings me closer to seeing him again.

Everyone handles grief their own unique way. Sometimes I hear people say Mother’s Day makes them sad because their Mom or child is gone. And they try not to think about it – they try to stay busy. Others can’t get out of bed. Others do something that reminds them of their loved one. And others don’t put any kind of forethought into how they’ll spend the day. That was me last year… Robbie and I didn’t decide what to do until that morning. We were having breakfast with a close friend – who has also lost a son – and he asked what our plan was for the day. “Uh – we don’t have one.” “Well you need one. And it needs to be something you haven’t done in the past for Mother’s Day. You need to create a new memory.” John is direct like that. He just tells you how it is. So we decided we would go to the zoo.

Lesson #1: have a plan. Even if that plan is to pull the covers over your head.

Lesson #2: have a second plan (thank you Connie). Options are important especially during intense periods of grief. Have a friend or family member on “stand by.” “You know, I thought I wanted to be alone today but now I just really need to get out of the house. Let’s grab lunch.”

Lesson #3: consider who you’ll be around when deciding on your plan. The zoo for year one was not our best choice. There were Mom’s and children everywhere.

Lesson #4 didn’t arrive until Father’s Day… Drey is/was my only child. Robbie is Drey’s stepdad and Robbie has a son, David. So when Father’s Day arrived and the typical, “where would Robbie like to go to dinner” questions bubbled up in my mind I got pissed. Like REAL pissed. Not at Robbie. The same reality was hitting him at the same time…. Am I supposed to make sure he gets a card, dinner or a gift like always? So he still gets to celebrate but because my son is dead I don’t? We try to just shove Mother’s Day out of our minds? Gross! Screw that! Not only am I still a Mom – but quite frankly I am surviving the unimaginable as a Mom! That makes me a badass Mom! We will not ignore Mother’s Day next year!

Lesson #5: whatever works one year may not work the next. Grief is complicated and special days may bring out a different flood of emotions from one year to the next. Just because for this year – year 2 without Drey – I want to be known as a Mom doesn’t mean I won’t want to bury my head in the sand next year. That response is NOT a set-back. It just is what it is.

Lesson #6: be grateful and acknowledge you are grateful as soon as you are able. It’s hard to be grateful when you’ve suffered a tragic loss. And if anyone mentioned that I still had a lot to be thankful for they’d get the “don’t make me hurt you” glare. Learning to be grateful was and still is a private lesson that no one but God could help me with. I don’t remember if I called my Mom and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day last year. I’m sure I did… But honestly the day is a blur. I love my Mom dearly. I am grateful for her every day – including Mother’s Day. Her selfless love and concern for me is indescribable. I am blessed.

What I’ll say – if speaking is even possible – when I see God

Thank You God that it’s over!
Thank You for dying for me.
Thank You for conquering death for me.
I tried to stay in the fight after Drey died.
I tried to do that in dependence on You.
My motives were almost always selfish but I didn’t let that stop me from sharing You – sometimes.
I wanted to be a blessing to those who mourn.
I feebly tried not to be angry with You.
I made pitiful attempts to refrain from believing You owed me something since You took Drey.
I tried not to be bitter when everyone moved on with their life.
I wanted to enjoy and selflessly love who was left in my life.
I tried to strip off the filmy residue of grief that coated everything.
On occasion I won the minute by minute battle and chose Spirit over flesh – because of You.
I had no success apart from You.
I did nothing good apart from You.
Thank You God. Thank You!
I can’t believe You love me.
Amazing grace.

In the Spirit

I hold out my hands open to You. I close my eyes and I hear myself grasping for breaths. Not panicked… Just deep, grace-soaked breaths.

Oh I have so many plans. So many human, mortal plans. And You direct my steps. Help me Lord to die to my self-serving desires. Help me to move forward in confidence. Confidence that You are not a God of confusion. You care deeply for people who mourn. My man-made desires to love people who have suffered loss can be used by You. I desperately want to be a vessel You can use! Teach me. Don’t let a single tear be wasted.

Thank You for these upcoming meetings and conversations about suicide Postvention. Don’t let a single tear be wasted.

I am feeling so blessed. Thank You for eternity. Thank You for loving my boy far more than I ever can. Thank You for delivering the message of my love to him even now. I miss you Drey. I love you.

Dear Drey

Neither my words nor my tears adequately express how much I miss you. You weren’t just my son you were my friend. We laughed together. We shopped together. We listened to the same music. I know I embarrassed you sometimes – okay a lot. I became your friend as you got older but my role as Mom was always top of mind for both of us. I was home. I was safe.

You can see my pride in every picture of the two of us. I loved to watch you. Not just playing soccer, walking across the stage to claim your diploma or whatever. But just to stare at you. Sometimes when you were sleeping. Or when you were typing away at your laptop. It’s a Mom thing.

Do you remember how much fun we had getting your senior pictures taken? Well, I did anyway! I had fun watching you. Do you remember me dancing like a fool behind Kama so she could steal just a few pics of the real, genuine big smile? It worked. God how I miss that smile, that laugh.

This picture means a lot to me. I remember exactly where we were. I remember acting like a fool. And I remember the feeling of accomplishment when I succeeded in getting the real, carefree smile from you.

You are still my pride and joy.

Love him so

Love him so

20 months

When you left you took so much of me with you.
My life continues on. Without you. Without your physical presence.
It’s not fair you know. Not to me or your Dad. And not to Robbie or Kris. Robbie was always second to you. I always delighted in you, Drey. And Robbie was patient and loving while I continually put you first.
And now… Now even in death you monopolize my thoughts, my emotions.
I’m quite tired of this.
The person I loved more than anyone killed himself. What does that say about my love? I take what you’ve done very personally, Drey. Even though I know – with my head – that I shouldn’t. My heart doesn’t always cooperate with my head.
So… It’s April 3rd 2014. 20 months ago we went to lunch. That was the last time I saw you. We went to Barleys. I still remember what you ordered, what we talked about, the videos you shared.
Occasionally I’m angry with you. Sometimes I just question everything. And always there’s the ache of missing you. But today I’m just quite tired of thinking of you. You took so much of me with you, baby. Can you please just give a little piece of me back?

I got “caught” staring at a dude in a wheelchair…

I was at Panera recently. Hell I’m always at Panera recently. My mind was drifting as I casually scanned the restaurant. My eyes landed on a dude in a wheelchair. Young guy – maybe in his 30’s. I pondered the challenges he may regularly face and I quickly considered him very blessed. Like uber blessed!

I’m learning some of us are “blessed” enough to live with something very wrong, very tragic in the worlds eyes – and in our eyes. And if God has had His way with us we are also blessed enough to know eternity with Him will be unimaginably amazing. So the grid we view this life through is different from others…

Sometimes the view from where I am leaves me irritable and judgmental towards others and their so called “pain” (apparently I am now the queen of pain and can judge whether your response to your circumstances is justified or not!?). But other times the view from where I am gives me more compassion towards others. Yes, sometimes this view even frees me up to be more others-centered. The view from where I now am has set me free. I can be bold and move towards others – in love (or in harshness – yikes!) in a way I couldn’t before… Without fear of rejection heavily skewing my decision to speak or not.

So does the dude in the wheelchair feel “blessed?” “Blessed” to have been given this challenge because of the person it’s shaped him into? Do I feel “blessed” by what I’ve been through and am still going through? Ugh. No, of course not. That’s so flippin gross. But I can feel “blessed” by how God is transforming me, right? That’s not gross is it? As I’m pondering these thoughts the chick sitting with the dude in the wheelchair gives me a dirty look. I’ve been staring at him this whole time…

Why year 2 may be harder

I’ve heard that sometimes the second year of grieving can be harder than the first. Given I’m 7 months into year 2 I’ve found reasons for this.

1) Expectations are that “surely the second Christmas, etc won’t be as hard as the first.” Many of my 2nds haven’t been as hard as the 1sts so I haven’t struggled in this area a lot.

2) Everyone assumes you’re over it. The phone calls and cards stopped, everyone’s gone back to normal life and they assume you have too. Because of this you don’t feel the freedom to talk about your loss or to openly have bad days so you start to stuff em. I’ve struggled with this some – but I haven’t stuffed my bad days. The fear I am disappointing people (or fear they’re judging me) because I’m still hurting is sometimes floating around in my mind. But I’m in the battle with this one… I’m learning to take my thoughts captive sooner and sooner. So these “fear of man” thoughts don’t have time to take root.

3) The shock has worn off. In the beginning your mind is able to shield you from experiencing the full brunt of this tragedy. That shield’s gone by year 2. I don’t know how to interact with that thought other than to say it hasn’t worn off and I don’t know if it ever will. Yes, my constant state of physical shock is gone now so in some ways it’s not the same as year 1. But I still stand in the doorway of Drey’s bedroom in disbelief. I still look in the mirror and have no idea who that person is looking back at me. And while I am now able to say “Drey died” or “My son passed” in conversations, I still feel like puking – literally – when I hear the words. It can’t be real. It just can’t be.

4) You begin to process the tragedy through other’s lens. In the beginning – pretty much the entire first year – I could only consider my loss and Fred’s loss. But now as time has gone on I’ve had to re-live the loss through others viewpoint. I went to my first funeral 15 months after Drey’s service. While I was getting ready my thoughts drifted to the day of Drey’s funeral. What was it like for my friends showering, getting dressed, brushing their hair in preparation for this horrible day? Were they worried about what to say to me? Were they dreading it? What about my friends who watched Drey grow up – were they crying as they were getting ready? Did they feel sick? Who was there to help them? And there’s been the realization of how horrifically hard it must have been for my Mom. How would I feel if Drey’s only child had killed himself? How would I handle watching Drey in depths of anguish that no words or hugs could fix? I don’t know how I’d bear it. I love him so. It’d be unimaginable having to watch him live this. Then there’s David… Just this weekend he shared a song with me that he said makes him think of Drey. Talk by Coldplay. He played the song. I listened to the lyrics. Again…. the questions, the nauseousness, the desire to puke out the pain and the reality of what’s happened and to be done with it once and for all. Your stepbrother was just about to turn 14, Drey. He needed you. How could you do this to him? He’s just a kid – why would you give him this to carry? What’s it like for him being a freshman this year at Thomas Worthington? Does he see you in the halls, in the classroom? How’s that feel for him? How does he handle it when the topic of suicide comes up at school? Drey’s friends. His friends. Talking to Britney just hours after Luke killed himself. Hearing her pain. What was it like for her to live through Drey’s death? I ache through a new lens regularly these days. My guess is that this won’t be limited to year 2…

So I don’t know if this years been harder for me or not. Maybe not harder – just different. But I need to be realistic… The worst part of year 2 (Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Dreys birthday and August) is still ahead of me.

The Half

I’ve signed up to run the Cap City half in May. When I signed up I had no idea we’d have such a horrible winter for training. And I had no idea my shoulder would be a hindrance. But I plan to run it nonetheless.

The pressure is off. I don’t have to be the best runner. My over-achiever tendencies died on 8.8.12. The time I set aside for running is very meaningful to me. I run alone. I walk when I need to. My playlist is carefully chosen. My memories of Drey running backwards, facing me and taunting me “come on Mom faster! You got this!” are top of mind. Yes, I definitely run alone. It is my time to imagine what could have been. What should have been. I shouldn’t be alone. But I am. And I won’t share that time. It’s mine. It’s mine and Drey’s.

No words for today.

It’s still the same profile picture on FB.
The same memories.
They began and they ended.
No new memories to be made.
The pictures on your friends walls remain.
No new pictures of you.
No college graduation.
No new roller coaster experiences.
No more backrubs.
No more danka danka with Max the ass.
I’m very tired today. I’m very sad. Maybe I did too much this week… Or maybe I did the exact right amount of things and feeling the lonely ache today is good and right. Maybe it’s part of my new normal.
It hurts baby. It hurts so much.
Where are you?
Who am I?
Were you real?
Who can possibly understand this?
Understand me?
Understand these questions?
There aren’t words.

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