Suicide Changes Everything-Struggling to Survive Grief After the Loss of My Son

Suicide Shatters Hearts

Suicide changes everything. Immediately. Suddenly. Completely. Shattering everything. All is outside the natural order of the circle of life. And when a young person dies by suicide? When a young man or woman takes their life, all who knew them gasp in shock. The means of their death defies explanation or justification.

Suicide is not a blot on anyone’s name; it is a tragedy.

Kay Redfield Jamison

Suicide Shocks

And it sends shock-waves out far and wide to all who knew the person who took his life. A young man or woman who dies by their own hand changes the lives of all who knew them. Loved them. Went to high school with them. Played sports with them. Marched in band and laughed with them. Stayed up late nights in college with them. Their childhood friend. Their best friend. Their families. A young person who takes his life leaves everybody behind. Even his mother.

Close up photo of crimson and green leaves on burning bush in fall ph otographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss of My Son, for poem "I Send All the Love My Heart Can Hold"

Every {eleven} minutes in America, someone [dies by] suicide. Mostly, I have been impressed by how little value our society puts on saving the lives of those who are in such despair as to want to end them. It is a societal illusion that suicide is rare. It is not.

Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

Learning to Want to Live Again

Suicide Changes Everything. 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, hold onto, 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 have had to learn to live again. To learn to want to live again. 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 weeping.

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. My son died by suicide. Sadly, I am not alone. Suicide shatters hearts.

A Decade of Grief

A deep, deep soul ache settles in that never goes away. Not in the first year of grief, not in the 2nd and 3rd years of my grieving, not even now after nearly a decade of grief. Wanting to live past my son’s death seemed impossible. Especially in the beginning. Especially in that first year. I had to be reminded to breathe-just breathe.

concrete statue of a lion sitting and facing the camera. Lion is gazing downward with a sad expression on his face. scattered red leaves around the lion

Time does not heal,
It makes a half-stitched scar
That can be broken and again you feel
Grief as total as in its first hour.

Elizabeth Jennings

First Year Grief

In the First Year of Grief, 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.

Grief Breaks After Shock

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.

chrysanthemums with red and orange centers and yellow petals. close up so detail of chrysanthemums is shown

I’d like to believe that what’s broken in teenagers…

can be fixed by growing up

3 Years Out

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. Dylan’s death changed my life. On my best days, I know, sense, feel, and understand that he lives yet still and is right there with me in everything I think, say, speak, and do.

dogwood tree changing colors to red, yellow, and orange in fall

I remember when you told me you hadn’t felt happy in at least 7 years-

You were only 18

Impossible Days

A 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, doctors, prescriptions for psychotrophic medicine, 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

I believe Dylan does live on, just not here in this physical 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.”

beautiful red, yellow, and yellow/red leaves close up in fall. dogwood leaves
That All of Love Could Sweep Time Back  

Should've, Would've, Could've, 
If I'd only come to see, 
That might I future forward live
To see all eternity.

That I might know when and where somehow, 
And here and now then see,
To erase the dark and stay the day
To bring back you to me.

If only and What If now child
and why couldn't I just see
To hold you close forever
On that night just you and me.

That darkness might not permeate
my heart now and yours then,
that all of love could sweep time back
and bring back you again. 

©Beth Brown 

Taco Bell and a Volcano Burrito

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 and stood up on my tip-toes to reach the left side of his neck to kiss him. “I love you too mom” My son’s last words to me.

I have struggled, and 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.

burning bush red leaves in fall
Burning Bush in Fall (Euonymus Alatus)

Losing a Child to Suicide Defies Description

Losing a child to suicide defies description. And losing an only child to suicide is beyond measure. I live that my son might live too. To live past the enormous pain, however, has meant seeking out resources and support on a continuing basis.

Dylan always was my heart’s song, my love’s greatest expression and joy, my peace and my happiness. He still is.

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, 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.

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.

I trust I will see him again.

I Will See You Again

black and white photograph of 18 year old young man named Dylan. Dylan is the son of the author of My Forever Son

In reaching for stars, my son fell from sky

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photo of author's son, Dylan, standing with his arms crossed and smiling. Graffiti in the background and Ibanez written on Dylan's t-shirt.
Dylan, My Forever Son
red rose in full bloom close up

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