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Holiday Grief Series-Handling the Holidays After Suicide Loss

Christmas Cheer? My Forever Son

Christmas Day 2013
18 months out from losing Dylan

I ran the gamut of emotions today, from true gratitude and joy with being with my family, to the utter despair, sobbing, and heartbreak of grieving the loss of my only child, my 20-year-old son. Mom said to remember the good memories through the years. That is a nice idea in thought, but I am not in this place. Maybe I will be someday, but not now.

I made it through yesterday, embracing the day by opening a new box of dog biscuits for my Gordon Setter, then launching a search for a new setter, either English or Gordon. I poured myself into it, almost forgetting what day it was; I’d say happily distracted, but perhaps just frenetically and frantically trying-to-be distracted. 

During my search, Mom called and said to come on over. I dilly-dallied and didn’t get there until an hour later (she lives 10 minutes from me), because I knew that when I walked into her house, I would launch into 19 years of Christmas spent at her house, gathering with the same core family—my sister, my brother-in-law, my adult niece and nephew, eating the same Christmas dinner—it’s always some sort of meat centerpiece, roast of some cut of beef (I’m vegetarian), same baked potato bar with broccoli, cheese, sour cream, and so forth, same almost everything save for not having Dylan right there with me.

Christmas Cheer? My Forever Son

Mom changed some things this year. I think she is full of the ache of grief, too. She couldn’t bear to put up her artificial tree, and instead bought new a small, totally different Christmas tree. She didn’t set the tree up in her living room, the way it was for 19 years—she put it in her office. I welcome the change, bring on the change, for it is just too unbearable to do the same old, same old as it just breaks wide open the chasm of my heart knowing everything’s the same except Dylan being here.

I was “okay” for awhile. Helped Mom finish making Snickerdoodles. I had made the dough on Monday, but that was it, I just couldn’t bear to bake the cookies. So she and I stood in her kitchen, rolling the sweet dough into cinnamon and sugar. That’s about all I could do. I sat down at the table, but Mom wanted me to move into the living room so she could set the table. I burst into tears, stumbled into the living room, hit my knee and foot on the coffee table, and wailed. Mom thought I had hurt myself. I told her I wasn’t crying over banging my knee and foot, I was crying over Dylan.

Holiday Grief Series-Handling the Holidays After Losing a Child to Suicide, My Forever Son

And it just didn’t stop. Yesterday was 18 months for me, 18 months since Dylan took his life, and suddenly, at Mom’s, I was aware of his gaping absence and the incredible pain. I haven’t sobbed like that in awhile, so I guess you could say I’m “healing,” but I did yesterday. Dinner was delayed. We were supposed to eat at 3:00 EST, and lo and behold, my sister’s family was late. I retreated to an upstairs bedroom, slumped into the arms of a rocking chair, tossed a lap throw around me and desperately dialed into the Parents of Suicides conference call.

Holiday Grief Series-Handling the Holidays After the Suicide of a Child, My Forever Son

I have unending gratitude for the multitude of ways I’ve been loved and supported these past 18 months, and yesterday I was flooded with love and support. I talked to a couple of other bereaved parents and over the course of our talk, I felt lighter and less sorrowful, and more hopeful and knowing I will see my son again. Yesterday’s call turned my grief around, and I was able to go back downstairs and be a part of my family as is, just me with all of them, eating an amazing meal Mom so lovingly prepared, opening gifts, feeling happy and even smiling. I was relaxed and content, wrapped in my family’s tradition laced with the new, different traditions we must now hold.

And I’ve already shared this, but I’ll say it again. I have the greatest, most compassionate parents. They gave me a black leather bracelet with Dylan’s name spelled out in silver block letters. The AFSP life preserver dangles from the clasp. 

I wish we had talked about Dylan more. Mom mentioned him when we prayed—she asked that God be close to Dylan today, but we didn’t share stories or memories. I almost think they think it will make me more sad to talk about him, and I know I’ve shared how important it is that I hear his name and remember him out loud at family gatherings, but maybe I need to do that again.

Christmas with Dylan and our Gordon Setter

I stayed longer than I intended at my parents, and I ate more than I should have, but I can honestly say that it was a “good” day. If I can only just get past the Christmas part. It got me last year, and it crippled me for part of the day this year. This is such a long, arduous journey, and sometimes I just feel full of seeming contradictions. I am both happy and sad all at the same time, feeling grateful and blessed and full of pain and longing. And it is the longing that gets me still, still after 18 months. I sometimes think I haven’t yet decided whether to live or die. I am trying, ever so slowly, to rejoin the living world, but my world is still so fraught with raw, piercing pain.

My Forever Son, Holiday Grief Series-Handling the Holidays After Loss

I’ve heard it said “this too shall pass.” Oh that this might be so, that the dropping off into deep grief will slowly recede, leaving me there in its wake, and coming violently and unpredictably still, but not all the time, not as despairingly as I fell yesterday. But then again, maybe this is just my journey now.

The toughest thing is learning to live with the pain, of deciding each day to keep on keeping on, of trying oh so hard to live in hope.

Hold on to Hope

Beth, Dylan’s Mom
March 19, 1992-June 25, 2012
forever my heart, my wings, my love

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