Where I Am Now after 3 Years of Grieving the Loss of My Son
1,095 Days Out and Still Counting
I am the mother of a suicide
I am the mother of a suicide. And in 4 days, Dylan will have died by suicide 3 years ago. 1,095 days ago. A lifetime, and at the same time, no time at all.
Some days, like today, I get exhausted just being me. Emotionally exhausted, beyond any description voice could put to words.
It is an ache, an edge, a cusp, a constant chronic weeping of my soul, even when I think I’m hiding my pain, even when I’m so busy running in circles to distract myself from the obvious, even when. . .
Grief still manifests itself in my face. Over the course of these 3 years, a little over 1,000 days, grieving the loss of my 20-year-old only child, my beautiful son, Dylan, has permanently changed the way I look. As I’ve moved beyond the insular circle and holing up of acute grieving and mourning, I can see that I’m not alone. We have a look, we who have lost children, and for those of us who have lost a child to suicide, it is a haunting not easily forgotten.
How to keep on keeping on? Just keep going, but you might have to be reminded to breathe. Losing a child has a way of taking one’s breath away.
Grieving a child lost to suicide completely tweaks and distorts time. In the course of one day, I can easily run the gamut of my life with Dylan over 20 years. Memories, feelings, longing all seem to play in slow motion, and as if that weren’t difficult enough, the visuals come with a full commentary intent on finding the one single answer to the ever-elusive “why” of a child’s suicide. In truth, there is no “why,” because in suicide, in the act of suicide, there is no reason, no logic, no grounding to life as we know it here, this rhythm of 24 hours, days and nights, months and years, coming of age, rites of passage.
Imagine living without your child. Most parents can’t.
I have only been on this journey of a lifetime for 3 years. Some, including professionals, might say I’ve had more than enough time to acclimate to this new way of life, the strange hollowness of being without Dylan beside me. Some, especially professionals, might call my grief complicated grief, for whatever that means. Of course it is easy to assign a condition to the status of one another’s heart, a mother’s heart missing, longing, loving, trying to process, trying to learn to love again, trying to learn how to just keep on keeping on, even in the wake of great pain and some days, all-out effort just to pull through. No one can imagine living a life without their child.
My pain makes some people uncomfortable–that’s okay, it makes me uncomfortable too
My pain makes some people uncomfortable. That’s okay, it makes me uncomfortable too. Just for tonight, I’d like the whole world to just stop whirring, twirling, revolving, growing. Tonight, I crave silence and solitude. Tonight I am reclusive. And in the end, that’s okay. That’s enough. There is no scrip for losing a child to suicide, no written agenda or how-to manual. It’s not like I’m on page 241 in Chapter 8 and I’m supposed to be writing a term paper on closing the chapter to yet another impossible year of supposed living without Dylan.
The shape of my grief has changed these past 3 years. I am learning to smile again-sometimes. Smiling feels unusual for me now, and I find when I do smile, my face hurts from using muscles I so rarely use anymore. But the acute grieving? I find the tidal waves still come leading up to Dylan’s memorial date. His birthday, too, is difficult for me to get through. I feel bogged down with grief the month of his birthday, and Christmas does me in completely. Tears still flow. I let them.
Dylan loved me deeply, I raised him much of his life as a single mom, we were close by necessity and circumstance, I adored and loved my son, and I put my all into this one incredibly precious baby boy. I played mom/dad for many years, which of course, in the end, never quite works because who can be everything to everyone? Not me, certainly, though I tried for a number of years to do it all for Dylan.
3 years. I’ve gone in hard, full-on, braced and whipped and tumbled everywhere by the greatest storm of tragedy I’ll ever know in this life.
And in the darkness, have found small ways to live yet one more hour, one more passage, dredge through yet more exhausting emotions, up, down, yanked every which way, uprooted, upended, opened up, raw, bleeding, cut and re-cut without ceasing, no peace, no rest, no perch for a landing amidst the storm. Exhaustion, just sheer exhaustion, and an invincible spirit within me that for years–years–has learned to fight against the ravages of depression. My own depression. My own suicidal thoughts. My own falling apart in my own nightmares.
I do not know if what I’ve learned and acquired along the way will help you, but if it does, then know this is how it works for me–
One of us reaching in to shine a beam of light in the middle of another bereaved parent’s darkest night. One of us sharing that while the passage is hard, the hardest, most difficult, most perilous, risky, dangerous, exhausting in every way possible, be it spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and/or psychological, there is rest along the way.
We come alongside, walk with–at least for awhile and at intervals and stops along the way, one another. We know that we are the only ones who “get,” really get, our pain.
There is no name for us. Survivors of suicide loss is inept and without the precision and accurate description of all that a parent is to a child. For other deaths, we have names, but not for those of us who have lost children to suicide. It is beyond imagining, beyond reconciling to anyone not having to be forced to travel this journey. Ours is an impossible journey, nameless save for the deep, deep, chasm and echo of our child’s name–Dylan, Dylan, Dyl. . .an–
How I Keep on Keeping On-
Sometimes, just stop everything and remember to breathe.
And I write. A Lot. Volumes of writing. Poems. Memories. Journal. Stories.
Sometimes I also–
- Stop everything and just say “no” to where I’ve previously said “yes”
- Call someone who gets my pain
- Call someone who is oblivious to my pain but so absorbed in their own chattering that they distract me for awhile from my own heartbreak.
- Talk to Dylan, all the time, everywhere
- Scream in my car, then usually sob because to release pain in screaming releases the storehouses of infinite ache in my soul
- Do all things art. Cray Pas. Sketching. Painting.
- Write letters to Dylan
- Do all things music. Write songs. Piano. Guitar. Listen to music.
- Practice Mindfulness. Focus on my cup of tea, how my feet feel on the ground, the soft fur of my cat, the sounds of the seasons–nature.
Sometimes I wear the opposite color of how I feel. I think I lived in black my first year of grieving, gray my second year, and in this third year, have intentionally sought out color in my wardrobe. Orange is my happy color, and it was always Dylan’s favorite color growing up, long before the black t-shirts of his teenaged years. And green. Green is my healing color. I love blue, but blue makes me forlorn and wistful, pensive and sad.
And it sometimes works to change what I’m doing and where I’m sitting. I have a grief chair, an old chair battered by years of having a big dog sleep in it and a cat with claws who used the wide arms as a scratching post. The chair used to be a gray/green color. Now it is covered with a blue chair cover. I love this chair, but when I am grieving, this chair does not love me. It absorbs me, pulling me down more when I need help coming up. I drown in this chair, despair in this chair, can’t rise from this chair, get completely without hope in this chair. When I’m down or grieving, I sit somewhere else, even in a different room. Silly as it seems, it does sometimes help.
- Tai Chi
- Distraction–reading, movies, window shopping, walking, nature, friends, life such as it is. It’s taken me 3 years to get here. In the beginning, I had no voice, couldn’t focus to read, then could only read about grieving a child lost to suicide.
- My cat wants to play. I find joy, as much as is possible now, in the little things, like playing with her. And so it is, I’m off to seize joy.
Once Upon a Blue-Sky Moon Once Upon a Blue-Sky Moon A Poem for Dylan by Beth Brown And once upon a blue-sky moon, We sailed our ships in your bedroom, With stars for light, we fled the dark But the lightening flashed, And the sky grew dark. You tucked away your childhood dreams On wings […]
If Only a Mother’s Love Could Have Saved You by Beth Brown Bones bear girth where once, love birthed you, arms cradled and rocking, love holding me to you. If only a mother’s love could have saved you, been there to catch your fall tears stilled by the heavens to where now and forever, […]
He Left Too Soon He left too soon— Lifting life from June, Casting torrents of rain His absence— Breath of pain whose exhale can only bring Heart heaving, this beating of tears Breaking loose— All hell in earth’s upturned rupture, Death shoveling shadows over me As I bend to lay flowers upon his name— Inscribed […]
June 29, 2012–Funeral for my son. 101 degrees dropping to 73 degrees in a matter of minutes. Whirling wind. Gusts of whipping wind. Snapping wind. Dark skies. Clotted clouds. Midday sun going away–suddenly. A piercing dark. A turbulent sky. Trying to get to the car before the rains came. Things blowing. Paper across parking lots. Light going out. Light extinguished. Darkness on the wings of violent winds. 60-80 m.p.h. Trees cracking. Branches breaking. Traffic lights swaying
Beth Brown, Derecho: A Storm Out of Nowhere, My Forever Son
A Poem about Losing a Child-Derecho: A Storm Out of Nowhere
Derecho He left too soon— Lifting life from June, Casting torrents of rain His absence— Breath of pain whose exhale can only bring Heart heaving, this beating of tears Breaking loose— All hell in earth's upturned rupture, Death shoveling shadows over me As I bend to lay flowers on his name— Inscribed and bronzed, A permanence come to stay My love laced now with pain— Standing over my son's grave, Death's derecho come to stay in my shadow. “Derecho” ©Beth Brown, 2021