Heart-shaped display of red roses against a stone wall, My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss of My Son, "A Glimpse of Hope"
Heart-shaped Red Roses Against Stone Wall, My Forever Son

A Glimpse of Hope in Grief

All death unsettles us, but suicide… brings with it an ache, a chaos, a darkness, and a stigma that has to be experienced to be believed.

Ronald Rolheiser, “Understanding Suicide”

On the Wings of Hope

Some days, I lift my hands, my arms high, offering my child up to the hope that I will again join him–someday. I dance my prayers, draw with pastels my feelings, watch my “healing,” as best can be, ebb more than it, as in the beginning, really the first 18 months, overwhelm and overtake me. I live more from a place of peace with some acceptance that I will never know the “why” of his suicide. Yet grief is exhausting. I find the truth of my son’s suicide always with me.

Pink phlox gracefully spilling over a stone rock, serene water in the background, photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Losing My Son to Suicide, "A Glimpse of Hope"
A Glimpse of Hope, My Forever Son

Few things can so devastate us
as the suicide of a loved one,
especially of one’s own child.

Ron Rolheiser, “On Suicide and Despair”

Hope Rests in the Distance

Even when the tidal waves of grief cease, the ebb and flow, the surge and deep darkness that is the ocean, that, alas, is grief, persists.

Hope rests in the distance, skyward, arcing, streaming glimpses of what’s yet to come. Then, there, at that moment, the final lifting up and breaking free of the weight of carrying the guilt in grief after losing a child to suicide.

It’s been nearly three and one-half years. Still deep within me, the soul ache of grieving my son.

Loving a child hopelessly doesn’t guarantee freedom from tragedy and death. Clinging to sorrow to fill the hole in my heart only makes more pronounced the painful absence of my son. A glimpse of hope, perhaps, though for me, hope rests in the distance.

“Grieving a Suicide Loss: Eight Things I Know For Sure”

The article below, “Grieving a Suicide Loss: Eight Things I Know For Sure” appears in the Real Stories section of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I find this article helpful. Perhaps you will, too.

2 Nov 2021 — 4 min read

By Doreen Marshall, Ph.D., AFSP Vice President of Mission Engagement

Here are some other things I know for sure about suicide grief:

  1. There are ways to practice self-care while grieving a suicide loss (and it’s important!)
    Even though grief from a suicide loss can sometimes feel overwhelming, it is important to make sure that we do as much as we can to take care of our body’s basic needs as we grieve. Make sure to drink enough water, get some gentle daily exercise and sleep when you can.  Ask others to help you so you can take a nap, get out for a walk in nature, or prepare some nutritious food, for example.
  2. Grieving a suicide loss takes time. You don’t have to be “over” it.
    Getting to a place in which your grief doesn’t feel as raw and painful as it does at first will take time. There’s no way (or no need) to rush it. We don’t get over the loss of a loved one to suicide, we get through it, and there is no set timetable for the emotions that occur.
  3. Others will grieve differently than you, even when experiencing the same loss.
    Human relationships are both unique and complex. Our experiences of suicide loss are a reflection of our individual relationships with our loved one. No one on the planet had the exact relationship that you had with the person you lost. Let yourself grieve the way you need to.
  4. You don’t have to have all of the answers to begin healing.
    You may not know everything that contributed to your loved one’s death by suicide or how you will go on without them. You can still heal. Leave yourself open to what you may discover about yourself and your relationship with your loved one as time goes on. It’s okay to think differently about the loss as time passes. Healing can happen whether the path is clear or not.
  5. Grieving can be exhausting. Take time to rest and recharge.
    Days where our grief is particularly difficult can physically feel like we have run a marathon. This can be especially true on days in which you have been more present with your grief (such as those in which you share your feelings in a suicide loss support group or a therapy appointment). Build in some time for rest and recovery during these days by asking those around you to help lessen your daily load, such as help with errands or other tasks. People often want to help after a suicide loss, but may not know exactly what would be helpful to you.
  6. Your grief is not a burden. It is an expected reaction to loss.
    We grieve because we experience love and connection. No need to apologize for your grief or your changing emotions in response to  losing your loved one to suicide.
  7. It’s okay to say their name, even if others can’t right now.
    Say their name, even if you are the only one that can in the moment.  Doing so also helps others to know that it’s okay to talk about the person who has died by suicide, and that you want to do that. Sharing stories and memories can be healing.
  8. There are resources out there to support you in your grief.There is a community of suicide loss survivors who want to support you as you grieve. For more loss resources visit afsp.org/loss.

Letting Go in Grief?

I do not know if I have “let go.” I hold love, and protect love, fiercely, as fiercely now as the mama tiger who raised her infant son to young adulthood. I hold fast good, powerful, albeit bittersweet, memories. 

I miss everything about my son–his 6’1″ frame, his lanky, strong build,  the smell of his skin (and his “Axe” body spray), his deep brown eyes, the way the corners of his mouth always turned up, nearly always in a smile, and I only now realize, post suicide, that his smile masked his sadness, his sorrow and depression. 

Nationally, suicide has emerged as the second leading cause of death for children ages 10-19 years old.

*Nearly 1 in 6 teens has seriously contemplated suicide in the past year.

*Suicide affects people of all backgrounds. 

*Early identification of risk factors can aid behavioral health specialists in prevention strategies for youth at risk of suicide.

*Suicide is complex and tragic yet often preventable if communities are provided with the right tools.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Center for Suicide and Research

tall, white lily with multiple concentric blooms at top of stalk and lots of green leaves against bright blue sky, Photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Losing My Son to Suicide, "A Glimpse of Hope"
A Glimpse of Hope, My Forever Son

In My Dreams, A Glimmer of Hope

Still, I dream of Dylan. Still, I dream I am trying, but can’t, save him. Still, I wake up abruptly and horrifically, drenched in heartbreak and sorrow in realizing that my beautiful son is dead. Still, I dream, though not as often, flashbacks to his death, though now, dream more about who we were, who we are, as mother and son. Still I fight saying “goodbye” to what is and always will be most precious. Always the missing. Always the loving. Always remembering Dylan.

Pink azalea in full bloom in spring, photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Losing My Son to Suicide, A Glimpse of Hope
Pink Azalea in Spring, My Forever Son

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Mr. Lincoln tea hybrid red rose in full bloom in June photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss of My Son, "A Glimpse of Hope"

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