Living Backwards Going Forward
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 and stay the light 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, 2021 "That All of Time Could Sweep Love Back"
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In the strangest of ways, it is always June 25th, 2012. Or some time before that. All the way back to March 1992 and up to June 2012. I suppose to some effect, my life is lived backwards. And I am in this 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 where I’m moving, breathing, responding, doing things according to a chapter, genre, and story I didn’t choose. One I 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 persona, off with another, on with this activity, off with that activity, and oftentimes, trying something else entirely.
I am creating a new me, a process of creating an identity that while quite exciting and extraordinary when you’re young, is overwhelming as the mother of a 20-year-old son. 18-24 year-olds search for their identity. My son should be searching for his identity. I should be advancing forward in my life.
Time Stopped 3 Years Ago
Here I am, a mother who lost her 20-year-old son to suicide, trying to figure out how and who to be without my child. Dylan will never age forward past the just-barely-turned- 20 year old son who was such a constant part of my life. I feel his absence, and I feel the stripping away of all of my life as I knew it.
The challenge and constant renewing of fortitude, strength, and courage for this reinventing of myself is sometimes way more than I can bear. 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 movie (’til the end). Read more than a few pages of a book. Focus on steeping a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Find healing in nature.
Focusing on Health (Just Breathe)
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 working on holistic things when I can. I am proactive, and I am eating anti-inflammatory foods–well, most days. There are always times when I stray, but with straying comes the brute ache of chronic pain and lost sleep.
Tai Chi practice, yoga stretches and walking when I can go far to bring a sense of peace. 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, embracing healing, determined to live the best I can here while I’m here.
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Reliving that Day
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 my son.
Thank God it isn’t always like this every day. When Dylan died by suicide 3 years ago, it was like this every day. My days were drowned in sorrow. Constant sorrow. 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 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 awaken horrified, sleepless, 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. Dylan dies because I couldn’t save him.
Memorial Date, Year 3
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 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.
Keeping On Keeping On
Tonight I am headed to a support group for bereaved parents. 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.
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.
A New Normal?
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.