Red Leaves of a Japanese Maple in Fall, My Forever Son

Surviving Suicide Grief: “Does the Pain Ever End?”

The Pain Does Change

“To those of you that still feel you aren’t even sure you want to be here and you can’t imagine ever being happy again. The pain does change, it softens. You will want to live again and be able to enjoy
life again. It will never be like before but the crushing, all consuming pain you feel right now will soften. You will be able to live with it. It just becomes part of you.”

Parent of a Child Who Died by Suicide
Red and Yellow leaves in fall, My Forever Son
Red and Yellow Leaves in Fall, My Forever Son, Suicide is Not a Choice: Surviving Infinite Grief After the Suicide of My Child

You will be able to live with [the pain]. It just becomes a part of you.

Parent of a Child Who Died by Suicide

Does the Pain Ever End?

Yes. To an extent. And no. To an extent, because my grief is the depth of my love for my son.

And in the beginning of my grief journey in June of 2012, something I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have believed. And no-because Dylan is my son. My grief now is a bittersweet pain, worse on his birthday, his memorial date, the holidays; more manageable when tucked away and carried in my heart. I grieve the loss of Dylan because I love my son. I always feel his absence.

But yes, Dylan is part of my life still, as is both the love I carry for
him, and the pain I carry missing him. “You will be able to live with it.
It just becomes part of you.”

And Dylan is, was, and forever will be my heart and my love. In 2012, tidal waves crashed constantly over me, plunging me deep into the despair of darkness without light, darkness without possibility of life. Even to breathe seemed impossible and when I did breathe, I simply couldn’t bear the pain. My heart wept. My voice wept. My eyes wept even when I slept.

My son, my love, my pain, my heart-all beating on inside me, an ache I’ve learned to carry which at some point these past 9 years, has become a part of me.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son
Daddy Cat in Fall, My Forever Son

In the agony of acute grief, I lost my ability to work. Teaching college was impossible because Dylan died in what should have been his sophomore year at college. I lost my ability to remember to eat, breathe, sleep–lost my connection to nearly all of my outside world as I was repeatedly driven down, down, down into darkness. “A Sad Welcome if You’ve Found Me Here” My Forever Son

My pain was impossible, my grief enormous and engulfing, my landscape filled with a darkness so bleak my world went away. In the middle of a violent ocean, my heart heaved. I didn’t want to live. And I was exhausted by being driven down repeatedly into pain that wouldn’t end.

Beth, Dylan’s Mom, My Forever Son

Desperate and hopeless, I joined a support group and began one-on-one counseling. I didn’t want to live without my son. Dylan had still lived at home, and his dog was my dog, a Gordon Setter with unbridled energy who in my grieving, grieved too. She and I held on—or perhaps it was I who held onto her. She was 11 years old when Dylan died. That she lived 2 more years still seems a Godsend.

I found an online support group for Parents of Suicides two months after Dylan died. I read when I could (my mind was mush but I read compulsively all the books I could find on suicide, losing a child, losing an only child, and so on). And somehow, time passed.

Where Can I Go for Online Support After Suicide Loss?

Parents of Suicides 

Friends and Families of Suicides 

These two online groups offer support, hope, and healing for parents, friends, and families of those bereaved by the suicide of a child. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Both online support groups for parents of suicides and families and friends of suicide are free. These support groups for survivors consist of other bereaved parents (parents of suicides), and family and friends (Families and Friends of Suicide).

A single bloom on a single stalk with a single droplet of water, this rose is a tea hybrid called "Hot Cocoa" My Forever Son
Tea Rose, My Forever Son

When Will the Tidal Waves of Grief Recede?

So when did my pain begin to soften enough that it became a part of me? As integral a part of me as sleeping, waking, breathing, eating, living again? I don’t know. But I do know I clung to online support and at some point, felt the tidal waves becoming fewer and farther in-between.

Beth, My Forever Son

Suicide Changes Everything

Suicide Changes Everything. My son’s suicide forever changed my lifetime, my timeline, the way I mark and delineate years of my life, the way time marks me at every juncture in my life’s events. Time moves on, but I have not moved on from my son. Rather, I have moved forward in time, and Dylan has moved forward with me.

And in the beginning, especially in the first year? I collapsed in the wake of losing my only child. The pain of grieving was far greater than what I could sustain alone. I didn’t want to be here without my son. And yet knowing the pain a child’s death brings, I clung to my life, fragile as that connection was, to be here for others in my life.

Finding Support

Finding support was paramount. I read everything I could find about suicide and losing a child to suicide, including online support resources. I found in support groups those who were also wrestling with the overwhelming grief of losing a child to suicide.

I began to see that that there were other bereaved parents, those whose lives were (and will forever be) changed by losing their child to suicide. I learned I wasn’t alone. It didn’t lessen my grief over losing Dylan, but it gave me a place to share about my son and survive the throes of pain enough that I could survive.

Re-entering life has taken time. Grief always takes as long as it takes. In losing my only child, I felt consumed by acute grief. After a decade of grief, I am in a vastly different place, one where grief still resides, but also a place where I do more than survive. I have learned to want to live again.

Learning to Want to Live Again

Learning to want to live again has evolved for me over the past 10 years. The shape of my grief has changed, as has my life, as is, as now.

My pain will always be part of my love for my son. And my love for my son will always be part of my pain. Some days, impossible days—his birthday, his memorial date, holidays—still overwhelm me.

The difference between early grief and where I am now is that I’ve learned how to honor this sacred part of my love for Dylan by honoring where my overwhelming sadness and ache lead. Sometimes it’s to sifting through photographs, always too few and always marking the stillness of time. Sometimes it’s to playing guitar or piano and writing a song for Dylan. Sometimes it’s to shedding tears flooding my heart needing release.

“As I Tuck You In,” A Song about Losing a Child, My Forever Son

“As I Tuck You In”

As I Tuck You In

As I Tuck You In

As I tuck you in, I lay me down
As I hold you now, I lift my arms
As I fall asleep, I pray for you
My child, my love, my heart, I’m with you too
My child, my love, my heart, may God keep and love you

And you will be forevermore
Safe from this world and so adored
And God will be your comforter
And I will always thank God for rescuing you
And I will always praise God for loving you too

And so I live my life in memory
Surrendering to God, what now must be
But here on earth I know the angels sing
When I hear your voice I know God’s listening

And I will always be your mother here
And I will speak your name for all to hear
And God will be with you ’til I get there
My child on earth above in heaven’s care.

And I will always be your mother here
And I will speak your name for all to hear
And God will be with you ’til I get there
My child on earth above in heaven’s care

Music and Lyrics, Beth Brown, My Forever Son

How Do I Keep On Going Without My Child?

My life has gone on and I have not moved on without Dylan, but forward with Dylan always in me. 

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

E.E. Cummings, Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J., Poetry Foundation

I carry my son’s love with me. Always.

On the Wings of Hope

Yellow leaves on a tree in fall. My Forever Son
Yellow Leaves in Fall, My Forever Son

Hope in the Changing of the Seasons

Today, leaves yellowed by fall are dropping from trees. The wind is blowing, not a lot, but enough to know that fall is here and summer has waned. It is still warm, 75 degrees, though this week, will start the descent into lower temperatures (60 degrees, 54 degrees by day, mid-40’s by night). My cat sleeps in her basket beside me. The aloe plant in front of my desk spills over the planter’s edges. Still a bit of sun remains. Lower in the sky and visibly not as brilliant as during the summer months.

I say all of this to ground myself, to remind myself of how far I’ve come. I didn’t even know what the weather was like for the first 15 months after Dylan died. He died June 25, 2012. I first realized the weather in late September 2013. I do not know if I wore a coat—or gloves, or a hat—during the winter of 2013. I do not know if I wore shorts and t-shirts the summer of 2013. I do not know when the sun shone, what the temperature was, what the skies were doing.

5 White Daffodils with Yellow Centers and Green Leaves in Spring, My Forever Son
White Daffodils in Spring, My Forever Son
Snow in the Magnolia Tree, Winter, My Forever Son
Snow in the Magnolia Tree, My Forever Son

Seasons Pass

Somehow, just as fall has arrived, just as winter will come, and just as spring will come on the wings of hope next year, I, too, have passed through the seasons of my grieving. And they continue to flow, sift, move through my life. The difference between then and now? I’ve learned that seasons pass, even the ones I love most, even the days I want never to end.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son

I remember picking apples with Dylan in the fall, remember taking him to the corn maze, remember the year he got lost in the corn maze (still makes me smile and my heart glad to remember the love and laughter). I remember apple cider and back-to-school clothes shopping, remember the ways the leaves crunched, remember Dylan’s favorite color was orange. I remember pumpkins on the front porch—I remember Dylan.

2 Yellow apples on a branch of an apple tree. My Forever Son
Yellow Apples in Fall, My Forever Son

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