Do you miss him?
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.
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.
A parent feels responsible for their child. And to some extent for their child’s choices. That’s normal.
A parent who loses their child to suicide has an especially heavy burden. It can eat them up – literally destroy them from the inside out.
For several months this burden took a subtle, general role in my grief, in my thoughts. “Why didn’t I drive to his Dad’s that morning?” “Why didn’t I see his anger was a sign of depression?” “Why didn’t I talk to him more about Alex’s death?”
As time has passed the sharper thought is “I caused this because I moved from Worthington and because I quit my high-paying job.” As I was trying to follow what I thought was God’s will for my life I put a spiritual target on the whole family. It’s my fault you’re gone.
I read the last four months of your tweets yesterday. I haven’t decided if that was a smart move or not. “My parents are telling me I have to learn to be financially responsible but you quit your job because “god told you to” fuck you.” Wow. Really Drey? My worries that my decisions had impacted you negatively – at least in your mind – were now confirmed.
So did you see me sobbing after reading that, son? Did you?
Did you hear me call your Dad asking him if I had been a good Mom?
How about when I asked him if he thought you knew how much I loved you? Did you hear me ask that question?
Did you hear your Dad choke back tears?
Did you hear the song lyrics he shared with me?
Did you hear the other things your Dad said, son?
Do you see the lives you nearly ruined?
Do you see us fighting for air? Trying not to drown in this?
What an entitled, privileged, spoiled man you had become. It was probably just a phase… You would’ve matured. But you robbed us of getting to see that.
Dear God help me rest in You during this new, lovely phase of grief I seem to have entered. My son – the person I loved more than life itself – was at times a little jackass. Grace abound. Thank You God.