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Stop talking flippantly about suicide. Please?

So many movies and tv shows reference suicide – either as a storyline or in casual conversation. There are conversations at work, with friends, even in public with strangers inappropriate things are said. Social media, songs, you name it. We’ve even heard comments in church. The comments are everywhere. “I have the worse migraine ever. I want to jump off a bridge.” “If I have to do that one more time I’m going to off myself.” “If I hear her say that again I’ll kill myself.” It’s especially lovely (I say with sarcasm dripping off each word in the sentence) when someone holds a pretend gun to their head and shoots themselves. Jesus, really? That just happened to me last week during a conversation. Do you understand where my mind goes when you do that? I know, I know. They just weren’t thinking. They didn’t mean to be hurtful. I get that, truly. But that doesn’t change the impact it has on me.

In the beginning I didn’t know how I thought about these comments because I was too consumed with trying not to puke. Then I started to get angry – with myself. I thought I had to toughen up. Then I started to get angry – with everyone else. I thought they were being insensitive. I remember the first time I took a stand – it wasn’t pretty but in hindsight it was what I needed. I was at work and a customer had donated a bunch of clothes for the teen mom babies. Before I unloaded all of them in the teen mom room I asked someone where the Director was keeping the clothes these days. Before answering my question the person said “She will probably want to shoot herself in the head.” She knew my circumstances… But that wasn’t on her mind when she said this to me. That day, that comment, I didn’t hesitate: “That’s the cruelest thing you could ever say to me.” She immediately burst into tears and apologized profusely. I felt bad for her. I knew full well she didn’t mean to be hurtful… It was just one of those off the cuff remarks that had crept into her vocabulary over the years. But I felt worse for me. And on that day – about 7 months after Drey had taken his life – I had had enough. So I let her know. I resumed putting the donation of clothes in their proper place and afterwards sought out my friend to see if she was okay. She wasn’t. She was still crying and felt horrible. I hugged her and told her I knew she didn’t mean anything by it. But I didn’t tell her I was sorry for snapping at her – and I wasn’t sorry. I had heard – and continue to hear – those comments regularly. And on that day I let someone else carry a small little bit of the emotional burden for a change.

So how bout now? More time has passed. I can “handle” the comments I suppose. They impact me and I still have to pray myself through. Sometimes I’ll say something to the person and over time I’ve learned to be more polite. But still sometimes I won’t say anything.

With all this said I definitely don’t want anyone to be afraid to talk to me. I don’t want to be avoided for fear something hurtful might slip out in conversation. Anyone who knows me knows I can say some pretty stupid stuff myself! If you realize you’ve made an inappropriate reference to suicide – anytime really – but especially in front of someone directly impacted by it – just acknowledge it… “That was an insensitive remark. I’m sorry.” Then just keep talking. A simple acknowledgement means a lot to a survivor of a suicide loss. And it makes it clear to everyone around that it’s hurtful to talk about something so tragic in a careless way. No other words are needed.

I’m a runner and have a subscription to Runners World. I was reading the latest issue just yesterday… Terrible choice of words Steve Prefontaine…

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It’s all mine. And his.

Do you miss him?
Sure.
Do you think of him?
Yes. Probably once a day.
Once a day? Wow. I wonder what that would be like.

My son remains very much part of me. Every song, smell, movie, car, roller coaster, commercial, meal, joke, click of our thermostat, race, graduation sign, and every reference to suicide and it bubbles to the surface. In other words it’s always at the surface. Mostly the shock of it, the confusion of it. His life is present too – but still not as much as his death, his absence. I’m told in time it’ll be his life and sweet memories that are front and center and not his death. “Its been nearly two years??” “That’s okay. A lot of people I know who suddenly lost a child take five years before they’re able to think more about their child’s life instead of their death.”

Sometimes it’s lonely. Being divorced and not being able to grieve with Drey’s Dad can be hard. But I also know “what might have been” is just an illusion. Drey’s Dad and I are very different and we would probably be in frequent conflict if we were grieving “together.” We do keep in touch (which sounds superficial but what we share is anything but). We had lunch just before Mothers Day. In spite of our differences the pain is the same. We share stories of our grief experiences and of the responsibility we continue to carry. And we share what we’re doing to try to cope. We’ve both learned skills we never imagined we’d have to. Learning to live without our son is indescribable.

Am I ever happy? Joyful? Sure. I am even capable of having fun. But it’s never instead of the pain. It’s always in addition to the pain. I don’t think it’s possible to understand what I mean by this without experiencing it. Again… learning to live without Drey is indescribable.

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“To Drey…”

Bitter much?

Sometimes it’s hard when someone complains about their “hard life” to me. But other times when someone complains – confides – I’m grateful that I’m being treated like a friend and not a fragile basket case. I didn’t realize until recently why I react inconsistently…

If you have not acknowledged the death of my son just shut up about your “hard life.” How’s that for brutal honesty? I’m not talking about people who didn’t even know me when my son took his life. I’m saying there are people who were part of my life that simply never acknowledged it. Recently I got an email from someone – who had never said a word about Drey – about what a hard time they’re having because they’re going through a divorce. Divorce sucks big time. And it is very painful. But honestly if you didn’t have 5 minutes to call, text (or god forbid you actually show up at the funeral!) then don’t reach out to me about your hard life. That probably sounds rough. Maybe I’m bitter. I don’t know. How bout if I’d at least get a “I never reached out when Drey died because I didn’t know what to say but I thought of you often” before the whining about your “hard life” starts?

Grief sucks. I truly get that it’s awkward to reach out to someone who’s facing the unimaginable. I am confident I said insensitive things to grieving people before 8.8.12. And in all fairness there may have been times I didn’t reach out at all. We say, “what could I possibly say that would be helpful?” And “they have others that are closer to them “handling” this situation so I don’t need to be there.” But let’s not kid ourselves – these justifications we tell ourselves are simply self-protection and have nothing to do with the bereaved parent who’s curled up in a ball in the corner of the kitchen sobbing. More realistically my pre-8.8.12 thoughts were, “What if the person cries the whole time I’m there? What if I don’t know when to leave? I just can’t see my happy go lucky friend in that emotional state. I don’t want to see them because I’ll feel completely helpless.”

I’m grateful for the comfort-level I now have with being with grieving people. It’s one blessing that’s come out of this wreckage. I am also grateful beyond words for all the support I received especially in those first several months. Including from a few people that hardly knew me – Jan, Deanna, Trish, WS folks! That made a huge impression on me! I treasure the ways God redeems this tragedy on this side of heaven.

And for those folks that have yet to acknowledge Drey’s death and choose to reach out now to share their “hard life” circumstances with me? Kiss my ass. (Can you see the light of Christ shining from me? Ugh… I’m a work in progress! Praise God for His mercy!).

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.