It has been 5 years this December since my son’s death by suicide. I still experience the crazy emotions you would expect any mom to have. Death by suicide is always a tragic event. It can trigger a host of complicated and confusing emotions because you are not just dealing with the grief of losing a son you birthed from your womb but you are also dealing with emotional trauma. Trying to process a suicide is not easy. It causes so much pain to those who are left behind to pick up the pieces.
NO PAT ANSWERS PLEASE
I didn’t realize there is still stigma around suicide especially around Christian Circles. Fortunately, I had an amazing church family who loved me through this difficult time. The most helpful people were those present with us who didn’t seek to give us pat answers and quick fixes. I know it is hard for people not to say anything but when they say, “Oh, he’s out of pain now” or “God has a plan,” it might sound helpful but it isn’t. It’s hard for people to know what to say because of the tragic event. But my church family ‘mourned with those that mourned and grieved with those who grieved.’
PLEASE NO JUDGING A MENTAL ILLNESS
The topic of suicide is perhaps one of the most difficult and painful discussions in the church community and it can cause division. And yes, I know that suicide is not God’s plan for anybody’s life.
But in my search for answers, I discovered that untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. I think the church and society are more aware of mental health issues now. I know my son had untreated depression and he felt like he could not go on. He didn’t see hope for his future. When this depression took ahold of him, he didn’t pick a rational choice. The illness of depression took that rational choice away from him.
Another thing I learned from an article I read way back then, was that young adults who are suffering with depression, are at their lowest moments, and they are not thinking of you – or anyone for that matter. They simply can’t think or experience any reality beyond the pain and anxiety they are feeling at that moment. Please understand that people who die by suicide are ill, and that illness eventually took my son.
I HAVE THIS HOPE
We must have compassion on and empathy for anyone who has mental health issues. Suicide is not the unforgiveable sin. My son loved his family and loved God. I will see him again.
As I write this, I am thinking of a promise in Romans 8 in my life manual that says, “neither life nor death” not even death by suicide, “can separate us from the love of God in Christ.”
There were a few people in the bible who committed suicide like King Saul and even Samson who ended up in the Hebrews Hall of Fame for heroes of the faith. Redemption.
So, first thing I learned is that there is no timeline for this journey I am on. Everyone grieves differently. I am always going to miss him especially on birthday gatherings, and Christmas and Easter celebrations. I am taking my time to grief my loss. You must experience your loss in a way that is right for you with peace being your goal.
I knew for me I had to get unstuck and lean into some happiness when it presented itself like talking about it with a close friend or going out for lunch with good friends, or having dinner with my siblings . Yes, it seemed impossible at times but I made myself respond to invitations. I didn’t feel like doing anything but I knew for my family’s sake especially my grandchildren I could not let grief overtake me.
MY NEW NORMAL
You will be surprised what is inside you that helps you move forward and not get stuck in your grief. I awakened to a new way of living without my son on earth. And after 5 years a new normal is kicking in. I grieve differently now.
I also gave myself permission to laugh and be happy again, to enjoy some of life’s pleasures, For instance, I took a nice trip to the Caribbean which gave my brain and heart a break from the pain. I discovered that I could not be of any use to anyone without first taking care of me. I allowed myself some personal time to simply enjoy life again.
It was a necessary kindness I afforded myself that helped me through some grief.
Oh yes, and rest. I allowed myself afternoon naps which relieved some stress I was feeling. I looked for inspirational music to relax with, to soothe my weary soul.
So give yourself permission to smile, laugh, and live again. It’s simply not possible to lose a child to suicide and ever be okay. Grief will strike you in many ways and at different times. Our memories seem to help with that.
However, you will be fine. Baby steps, baby steps…