The Unwanted Effect of Living Backwards After Suicide

Where Has Time Gone? 

I am aware, the further I come along this grief journey, the less I live forward. In the strangest of ways, it is always June 25th, 2012 or earlier. I suppose to some effect, my life is lived backwards. And I am in this weird, surreal space of not yet knowing who I am without Dylan and yet finding myself three years into this journey of being here, as is, as now.

Sometimes, I feel like a character in a book and that I’m moving, breathing, responding, doing things according to a chapter and genre and story I didn’t choose, would never even read, let alone choose to live in. I try things on the way I try on clothes and shoes when I’m shopping. On with one personna, off with another, on with this activity, off with that activity and trying something else entirely. I am creating a new me, a process of becoming quite exciting and extraordinary when you’re coming of age between the ages of 18 and 24. But here I am, in my 50’s, the stripping away of all of my life as I knew it. And the challenge and constant renewing of fortitude, strength, and courage for this reinventing is sometimes way more than I can tolerate. I am grateful for passages of time where I can rest easy, relax into my friends’ and family’s company, just be here now and completely in the moment. Watch a Netflix’ movie. Read compulsively. Just focus on a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea.

So much lies in a cup of tea

I am pursuing the renewing of my health with a vengeance. I refuse to succumb to a life’s worth of chronic, physical, disabling, progressive, systemic pain and inflammation, the end result of grieving 24×7 my only child to suicide. I am seeing an incredibly good medical team, and am working on holistic things when I can. I am proactive. I am eating anti-inflammatory foods–well, most days. There are always there times when I stray, but with straying comes the brute ache of chronic pain and lost sleep due to lying awake in physical pain. I find it ironic I should be struck with Rheumatoid Arthritis several years into my grief journey. When first diagnosed late last fall, I said outloud “really God, really? Like it’s not enough I lost my heart, my son, and that I have to live the rest of my life in some state of grieving, the bittersweet now lacing virtually all that I do? What is it that you want God? Me? I am here! Take me!” But God never does–take me, and for some reason way beyond what I can fathom, I am still here, on this planet, in this space and time, and Dylan is not.

But good meds, biologics, pain meds, heat, ice, rest, working to manage stress, Tai Chi practice, yoga stretches and walking when I can go far to bring a manageable level of pain. And distraction? It’s the best! When I write, when I play music, when I’m with friends doing things, the pain is less acute. There is a gift in this for me. I have learned to pull back and simply celebrate and enjoy the moment. Mindfulness principles help: radical acceptance, mindfulness, meditation (mine is always walking meditation). And resting. No multi-tasking. Any and all stress makes me hurt badly. For hours, days, weeks. I limit what I do, how I live, who I see, how my life goes. Actually, this is so freeing. I only wish Dylan could have stayed to see who I have become, his warrior mama, a fighter, proactive, embracing healing, determined to live the best I can here while I’m here.

With hope, we find our wings

I say this, and yet still sometimes my days echo nothing but the reliving the day of Dylan’s death. On these days, I awaken deeply disturbed, oftentimes in tears. I don’t want to get up on these days. I just lie there in bed, turn sideways, bury my head and face deeply into my pillow and just let the tears come. Anymore, they’re oftentimes quiet, whimpering sobs, quiet, resolved tears. Tears that reflect the  cold truth that Dylan died. But tears still-and always–that pour forth the depths of my love for him.

Thank God it isn’t always like this every day. When Dylan died by suicide three years ago, it was like this every day. My days were  drowned in sorrow, constantly. I never found relief until falling asleep, and then I would dream about Dylan, his beautiful face, my boy through the years, seemingly normal, then the abrupt interruption mid-dream of the horrific reality that he was either (1) going to die, upon which I would awaken abruptly, startled, terrified, coming to, and in a milisecond, realize Oh My God!–Dylan is dead, or (2) that Dylan is dead, in which case I’d awaken horrified and sleepless and sad and desperate. Sometimes, now, I have a third version of this dream: I dream Dylan is in danger. My heart quickens. Fear rises. I scream “DYLAN!” and it’s always, always, too late. He dies in my dream because I couldn’t save him. Sigh. . .
Here’s a link to a YouTube video well worth watching: Andrew Solomon’s “Depression, The Secret We Share”

Dylan Andrew Brown

It is June, a perilous month for me. On June 25th, it will be 3 years since Dylan died, and for the past 2 years, I’ve not even wanted to live to see June come. How to begin to explain the heartbreak, the heart shattering, the draining of my lifeblood, bones, body, mind, my everything, in the wake of losing my only beloved child, Dylan. Some people have said this to me, “there are no words.” They are right–there are no words, only keening, agonizing brutal tidal-wave emotional upheaval, and  hellish days and nights.

And so it is June 9th, and I am still standing. Moving, actually, moving. Staying busy. Connected. Reaching out to others. Calling friends intentionally to talk about their lives and interests, sometimes mentioning where I am. Calling a few close friends/family who have endured my acute grief and still stand by my side, knowing that while things appear “better,” more peaceful, perhaps, that this is a nightmarish month for me and that echoes of Dylan’s death are easily triggered.

Tonight I am headed to a support group for bereaved parents, The Compassionate Friends. It took me almost three years of grieving to find them, but I discovered them last month because I was reading a library book about losing a child and The Compassionate Friends (TCF) was mentioned
by the author as a resource for bereaved parents. I’ve read through their whole site and participated in some of their open chats for parents of suicide. Meetings in my community are held once a month on the second Tuesday. All parents, grandparents, and siblings are welcome for those who have lost a child of any age, for any reason. I have found especially helpful their “To the Newly Bereaved” page:

And tonight I will take Dylan’s picture to my bereaved parents group and two huge half-sheet pans full of decadent chocolate brownies to share. I like that we do this as a way of remembering our children at the TCF meetings. And I will say a few words about my son. You’d think this be easy, as these days, his memories of his growing-up-years come pouring forth regularly. But even when there is joy in the remembering, there is the insidious sad, sad ache of knowing everything I say about Dylan will evoke a sense of the bittersweet. And it is June, and the 25th is coming. His memorial day. A day I wish had never happened in a month I’m not sure I’ll ever sit easy with again. I want so much to share current photos of Dylan, to talk about his having graduated from college, digital media degree in hand, his having landed a first career job. I want to share pictures of possibility, of hope, of a future, his and mine, filled with infinite dreaming and Hallmark cards clicking off the seasons, rites of passage, and years: birthdays, Christmas, celebrations, congratulations. I want a normal life, or at least one that resembles so many others’ lives. I want to post pictures on Facebook of my son, I want to tell my friends excitedly, “Dylan’s coming home for Christmas!” I want, I ache, I need.

But truth be told, this is my normal now. I am Beth, Dylan’s Mom, and my son died by suicide only three months after he had turned 20 years old. My life has changed, who I am has changed, but my love for Dylan only deepens. I miss him more with each day that passes. Forever my heart, my wings, my love.

Forever Dylan

By Beth Brown

Rememberer of dreams. Whisperer of gardens green.
At the whim of "Most Beloved" and a hot cup of tea.
I live life between, straddled here now and then,
My continuity through writing--
Pen dripping ink, mind swirling confused,
Love lingering still, and Most Beloved's purring soothes.

Blogger at "Gardens at Effingham" (where cats do the talking) and "My Forever Son" (where a mother's heart runs deep after losing her son to suicide)
Musician. Writer. Literary Connoisseur.
At the whim of a calico cat and a strong cup of tea.

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