I was with a survivor at Panera this morning. It was the first time we had met. She greeted me by saying, “I don’t want to be here meeting you.” I remember that feeling and I ache for her.
I remember the day. I remember the last hug, the last text, the last laugh, the last meal, the last I love you. It’s all seared in my mind just below the surface. Sometimes it pops out sideways and a reaction I have to a situation is disproportionate to the circumstances. Other times I sit in it… I may listen to The Fray to make myself cry because it helps me stay healthy or maybe sometimes just to torture myself. Sometimes it’s not even clear to me why I make the choices I do.
Telling someone safe about the “lasts” or about the signs I had or about the day he died is still helpful – even after nearly 5 years. Sharing was a big part of my processing in the first few years. It’s a smaller part now but it’s still important. I’m blessed to have dear friends who want to listen.
I shared a precious video with a few folks a few weeks ago. I had one friend I shared it with at lunch. She knew Drey and texted me later that night because she had been re-watching it. “He was so alive.” “This isn’t how it was supposed to be.” I had a hard time making sense of her text messages because there were so many typo’s… it was clear she’d been crying. Praise God for my dear friend who’s journeying with me.
I need my friends – my old ones who knew my boy and my new ones who are suicide loss survivors too.
So many people have made sacrifices in the spirit of helping me emotionally since Drey died. I wonder if other survivors of a suicide loss have had the same experience. Everyone’s situation is unique…. I have a stepson. My husband is Drey’s stepdad. Just today he got David up at 6:00 a.m. to go to band practice. No – practice isn’t that early. But both Robbie and David know it’s too much for me emotionally to take David to band this “anniversary” week because practice is at the high school. So many memories and triggers. So they don’t even ask me. They just know.
The changes in our movie and tv routines. Perhaps small in others eyes – but are a big deal to me.
The first time the three of us went to the zoo together. I had to stop, sit on a bench, and just sob several times. David had just turned 14 but even then he was able to just sit there until I was ready to start walking again.
The sacrifices my friends and my parents have made are numerous too. I’m not even aware of most of the sacrifices. And knowing that I don’t know makes me feel that much more loved. I hope I could be as giving as my friends and family are and continue to be.
So for now, the 2 year anniversary of my son’s last day of life, I am feeling blessed and grateful. Even if only for the hour.
What do you say to someone who just lost her son to suicide?
Nothing. You listen.
And when she can’t talk because she’s staring off into space in utter shock you just sit with her. You silently stroke her hair.
You quietly pray to God in your helplessness that He’d comfort her somehow. Because only He can do the impossible.
Don’t ask her what she wants to eat. Even the littlest of questions are too overwhelming. Just set a small plate of fruit and crackers next to her. Keep a bottled water next to her, too.
Don’t tell her you understand. Don’t tell her you can imagine how she feels. She can’t even imagine how she feels. It’s the most sickening day of her life. There are no human words to describe this – just groans. The reality of living the rest of her life without her son is simply too much to bear physically, emotionally. It’s incomprehensible.
Make sure someone is with her at all times for the first several days. The temptation to be with her son may be strong.
It may take months or even years… But in time her grief will begin to turn into useful sadness.
Hang in there with her for the long haul. She needs you.
I had coffee with a dear friend today. She’s been in my life for over 20 years. I am blessed to have so many close friends. Like – real close. Not just work buddies who go their separate ways when they don’t work together any more.
She shared about her & her husband watching TV recently and they saw a little boy that reminded them of Drey. They both said it – they both realized it. So sweet. So, so sweet to know this. It is a heavy weight a Mom carries… the weight of keeping the memory of her child alive. It’s precious as others share memories of Drey with me. I love hearing what they remember. And God does it ever feel good to smile when I think of him!
This is a picture from one of our Florida vacations. It was 2005. I love the look on David’s face – he was clearly so impressed with Drey’s cannon ball abilities! Sweet memory.
Cannon Ball 2005 – Drey impresses David!
It doesn’t quite seem possible. A year.
What have I done this past year?
Here are some highlights…
Aug ’13: ran a zombie 5k.
Jul ’13: celebrated dreys 20th bday.
Jun ’13: bought a bench at the zoo
May ’13: planted a garden
Apr ’13: quit my job
Mar ’13: saw Maroon 5
Feb ’13: turned 47
Jan ’13: had my first day of not crying since 8/8/12
Dec ’12: changed home churches
Nov ’12: it’s a blur
Oct ’12: it’s a blur
Sep ’12: it’s a blur… Hey – I know. I started attending the Grief Share support group. There’s something I remember from September.
Aug ’12: planned my sons funeral
Nope – I’m not beating myself up for not “doing” more. I’ve found a healthy pace for me. I haven’t shut down – I’ve stayed engaged with friends and family, read a shit-ton of books, I’ve had some sweet time with God. But I haven’t gone to the extreme of throwing myself into a busy, busy lifestyle either. Yep, a nice healthy pace.
I’ve learned so much this year. So much about God, about this world, about friendship, about love, about sacrifice, about what’s important. Most of all I’ve learned humility (okay – I’m still learning humility). I’ve had nothing to give. I’ve accepted meals, $ to help pay for dreys funeral, books, cards, flowers and gifts. I’ve not written a single thank you note. I’m so grateful for so many people. I’ve dominated many conversations with Drey and my pain – go figure – as the main topic. Would I be able to be the friend that so many have been to me? People tell me they don’t know how I’m surviving this horrible tragedy. I often wonder how my family and friends are surviving me!
Have I told my husband lately how amazing he’s been through this year? He has helplessly watched me in so much pain. I only use the word “helplessly” because I know that’s how he feels.
I am truly blessed.
I believe there are a lot of people – maybe even a few hundred – who are remembering Drey especially now. Last conversations, last looks, last songs, last restaurants, last hugs. The last time I saw Drey was for lunch on August 3rd. I just spent the anniversary of that last lunch with his Dad, his Grandma and 8 of his close friends running a 5k zombie race. Probably not the “normal” way to grieve – but what’s “normal?” There is no rule book for how to grieve. Drey’s friends have been so good to stay in touch and to celebrate his life in a variety of ways. It’s meant a lot that they’ve included his Dad and I.
Somehow I’m still alive. I’ve lived a year without seeing my baby. It’s still so surreal.
I have one favor to everyone reading this:
During this month especially please take the time to check in with friends. Don’t make the mistake of assuming laughter, fun and smiles = happy and healed. Ask if Drey’s on their mind. Then listen. Don’t try to fix anything. Don’t try to make it better. Just listen. Please re-post. I want all of Drey’s friends to see this.