My Forever Son–My Beloved Dylan
March 19, 1992-June 25, 2012
Forever my heart, my wings, my love
Suicide changes everything. and the deep, deep soul ache never goes away. Learning to live again is the hardest work I’ve ever done. I’ve gone deeply within the darkest, blackest, starless night, oceans deep, galaxies wide, to get my insides outsides, to release the soul screams, to hold clasped hands and fractured body, mind, and soul over a heart raw and bleeding. I have wept infinite tears, carried the weight of mourning and grieving, fallen apart, kept on keeping on only because of my family and friends’ carrying me when I could not take a single step forward. I have been awash in grief, alive in my life’s greatest tragedy. Nothing worse will or can happen to me. My son died by suicide.
I am Beth, Dylan’s Mom. I am in my third year of learning to keep on keeping on after losing my only child, my beloved 20-year-old son, to suicide on June 25, 2012. My life forever changed that day, and who I was died too. A great and terrible Tsunami swept in and through everything I knew and loved and cared about in life, and all that I was and loved and cared about was swept out into a violent, retching ocean, infinite fathoms deep, defying any earthly description here, blacker than a starless night. I couldn’t hear, see, be, hang onto, hold, reach for, grasp, touch, feel anything familiar or loved or comforting. I couldn’t find my son and reached, grasped, searched for him for days, weeks, months on end. When I came to, I realized that somehow, I was still alive and that Dylan had been washed out to sea. I had finally surfaced from the ferocity of the storm and there I was, alone without my son. I didn’t want to live without him.
I rose and drowned a million deaths at sea, being forced under by tidal waves, shoved down deep past violent destruction and floating and sinking debris, my life as I knew it, rising only momentarily to gasp, choke, scream and then be plunged forcibly down again. I lived in exile from everything–my own breath, eating, sleeping, moving. I couldn’t do anything I’d always done–work, listen to music, play music, cook, shop, take care of myself, shower, get food in my body, exercise, smile, laugh, be present, be there for any of my family or friends, drive, walk, live. I had to be reminded to breathe.
I lived this way for as long as it took to come to, the tidal waves to come less frequently, for me to be enough above the surface of the deep water to catch my breath. When I did, I couldn’t speak. I had no words, and for the first time ever, learned what keening really means. I cried out to God, to Dylan, to life, but in the end, it changed nothing. My child and I had been washed out to sea and in coming to, I moved into what will now be the forever season of my life–living without Dylan, being forever a bereaved mother, living outside the realm of “normal” for most people, having to travel a grief and life journey for which I had no equipping, no guide, no preparation, no direction. It will be 3 years come June since Dylan died and I am only just now beginning to get my bearings.
And so it is, slowly, in a stretch of days, weeks, months, years, I have somehow found the strength to get to a safe shore. But my world is small and I find I am on an island set apart from how most people live. I am learning to integrate Dylan’s death into my life, and on my best days, know, sense, feel, and understand that he lives yet still and is right there with me in everything I think, say, speak, and do.
But I am on a journey and truth be told, some days are just hell on earth. Holidays, Dylan’s birthday in March, his memorial day in June, Mother’s Day, seasons of the year, summer as a whole because in what used to be one of my favorite months of the year, my son took his life. I struggle still moving from January through June because Dylan attempted suicide 5 times before he died by suicide in June, one attempt for each month, January through June, each attempt worse than the last, an endless stream of critical care units, emergency rooms, psych wards, antidepressants, manic depression meds, counseling, treatment centers, lock-down units, suicide watches, and infinite love and the madness of not being able to make my son want to live.
If love could have saved him, Dylan would have lived forever. And actually, because I have faith and hope in seeing Dylan again, in being able to spend forever with him, I believe Dylan does live on, just not here in this realm where I can see, touch, hear, feel him–his love, his laugh, his quick wit, his beautiful original music. I miss him everywhere, all at once, all the years, 19 years, 3 months, and 6 days, and I am gradually growing to understand I will never know why Dylan couldn’t stay. I hear him say, “I had to go.”
I saw Dylan for the last time on Sunday, June 24th, 2012 when I brought him what he had asked me to get for him–Taco Bell, a Volcano burrito with extra fire sauce. I told Dylan I loved him, stood up on my tip-toes to reach the left side of his neck and kissed his beautiful salty skin, and Dylan said, “I love you, too.” These are my son’s last words to me.
I have struggled, I struggle still, but I am at my best and most at peace when I realize Dylan really did–and still does–love me deeply.
I live life so differently now–b.s. (before suicide), as is (after suicide). I hate the complacency and convenience of those for whom suicide of a child is not a reality labeling me. “New normal”–say what? Really? “New normal?!!!!” My life will never be normal and if I am to get my grounding and take flight in my own life now, then I best be learning to live “as is.” This is my term, “as is,” and it comes from practicing mindfulness, of being in the moment, of living the serenity prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Some days, it’s just “God, grant me the serenity.” And the term, “complicated grief.” Ugh and yuk. Obviously a term contrived by an overly educated wanna-be grief professional who again, has no idea, clue, ability to live out or understand learning to live after losing a child to suicide. Like “new normal,” I, too, cast off having my love for my son which is the real truth of my grieving labeled as “complicated grief.” In truth, all grieving is complicated, any loss of anyone loved deeply and wholly brings enormous pain and the necessary falling apart and rearranging of one’s life purpose, faith, beliefs, structure–everything. But losing a child to suicide is not for the faint of heart. And for me and those I know who are fellow travelers on this grief journey of having lost a child to suicide, there is no greater loss. It is, quite simply, a parent’s greatest tragedy. It is my soul’s, heart’s, body’s, mind’s, greatest loss and infinite tragedy.
And so it is, as is, that I write this blog 2 years, 9 months into my grieving, into my now, as is life, into learning to live with only part of me here, for a great deal of who I am walks and lives with Dylan in the spiritual realm, which for me is heaven. I know I will find my life’s greatest joy in this season of my life when I am reunited with my son. But in the end, I see that it really is a beautiful life, a privilege to be here, not a given, and I am at my best when I greet my day with a grateful heart and just living in the moment. Slowly, I am awakening and coming to. Slowly, I am learning to live again in the truth of how my life must now be. It is a long journey.
If you have found this blog and Dylan and me, then most likely, you, too, are a fellow traveler on the enormity and embracing of this agonizing life’s journey. For all of us and our children, I wish us peace. We, like few others, understand the great cost of losing our hearts. I now know that nothing matters save love, that all else in life is extraneous, that the “have-to’s” of everyday living mean nothing in the grand scheme of the majesty of love. It is sad that I had to learn this by losing my most beloved. Welcome to my respite and my healing and my stop along the way. We are on the path less traveled, not by choice but by life’s circumstance, and in finding our way along what can be a precipitous journey, we sometimes travel together, alongside, sharing insights, wisdom, tips for how to keep on keeping on, all things helpful for our travels–books, links, websites, communities, support groups, authors, speakers, awareness, our personal stories and confrontation and coming to terms with this great and vast life journey. Welcome to my as is, as now life, still with my son beside me, in me, of me, with me, around me, but no longer with my son in tow. I will never have grandchildren. I live life backwards with my child. There will be no new stories or day-to-day journeys of my son’s growing onward to share with my friends and family. I will never have a daughter-in-law. My name will die with me. And because I lost my only child, am divorced, and travel single, I am all that remains of my immediate family. I do not make plans beyond a short span of time, usually live only one day at a time, am at my best when I do not know the calendar date because my heart and head remember all the days of my most intense pain by the actual numerical markings of the calendar days and months. I am at my best when I take care of myself and am gentle, when I give myself permission to pull out of things I’ve previously said “yes” to, when I decide when and how to take care of what it is I need to cope with, deal with, process, live through, contend with emotions-wise.
I am Beth, Dylan’s Mom.
Dylan always was my heart’s song, my love’s greatest expression and joy, my peace and my happiness. He still is. I am grateful that he chose to spend all of his life with me here, and it is only in this interim that I struggle with integrating joy with sorrow, of fingers lacing prayer and deep sadness, my soul’s sorrow, together with joy. I now know laughter–sometimes, and smiling–sometimes, but sigh. . .I also know now that my life will always know this expression of the bittersweet. It is is my eyes, my private weeping, the way my smile now lifts only on one side of my mouth and not the other, my having to pull out of hearing about others’ children and grandchildren, of my having to live life differently, of having to shop at different stores. It just goes on and on. In learning to live, I have not been able to rebuild (after Dylan’s suicide, nothing remained), to reconstruct my life. I find this brutal and on some days, too much even to bare. And on these days, I simply hole up, tuck away, feel my feelings, write, journal, play music, write songs, play guitar, get out my art supplies and draw and color, call someone close–sometimes. But after 2, almost 3 years, I am also getting on with the inordinately difficult task of reinventing my life. I find I have retained some of who I was, but in the end, everything has changed and so going with the flow of what now must be always brings the greatest comfort and peace.
I have always loved Dylan’s smile. Can’t wait to see it again. Someday, child, someday. When God sees fit and it is time.