The First Year of Grief After Losing My Son to Suicide
ABOUT THIS POST: “The First Year of Grief After Losing My Son to Suicide” is a personal blog post about the author’s experience with grief after losing her son to suicide. It includes personal stories, reflections, and images. The author explores the idea that the pain of grief never completely goes away but rather becomes a part of one’s life. She also discuss the progression of her grief over time and finding ways to remember her son.
A Note About This Blog
I write that I might heal my grief over losing my only child, my 20-year-old son, to suicide June 25, 2012.
The beautiful photographs of flowers, shrubs, and trees in bloom throughout the seasons are from my gardens.
Gardening, taking photos, and writing poems, blog posts, books, and songs bring serenity to my now upside-down world after losing my son to suicide. That we all might find peace.
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Finding Ways to Express Grief Through Music
Why I Write (Music, Journaling, Sketching)
I find hope and expression for my grief through art. Writing music, sketching, and journaling helps focus my inner self outward. Releasing grief through songwriting, sketching, and writing (including this blog) brings healing and hope.
Instrumental Guitar Music for Grief
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The First Year of Grief After Losing My Son to Suicide
Does the Pain Ever End?
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.a mother who lost her son
Seasons of Grief
Yes, the pain has become a part of me, but I’ve been at this grief for eleven years. Learning to live with the pain of losing my son has happened gradually and incrementally.
Eleven years ago, I buckled under the enormous weight of grief after losing my son. Even breath seemed impossible in the immediacy of his loss. I lived inside the pain. Without hope. Without light. Without anything save searing pain in my heart and endless sleepless nights. That’s how it felt in the beginning.
I cried more than slept. I wept more than ate. I collapsed more than moved forward with anything in my life. All I could think about was my son.
Carrying Ache and Love
So how have I come to carry ache and love together? How have I found a rhythm to my life again? You can read more about carrying ache and love here: Carrying Ache and Love in Suicide Loss
In the beginning, I joined support groups, found other parents who had lost children, and read books about losing a child. You can find help, healing, and support here: Help, Hope, Healing After Suicide Loss
My son–my love, pain, and heart–all beating on inside me, an ache I’ve learned to carry which at some point these past 10 years, has become a part of me.
The First Season of Grief
Tidal Waves of Grief
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.
I lost my ability to work (teaching college was impossible. 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.
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.
The Healing Power of Pets and Support Groups
Dylan was my only child. He 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.
When I sank into a chair, weeping and keening, my dog was right there, her cold, wet nose touching my hand and her brown eyes staring up at me. I know she grieved too.
I found an online support group for parents who have lost a child two months after Dylan died. (Read more about support groups and the online support group, Parents of Suicides, here: Surviving the Suicide of Your Child: Support, Resources, Hope.)
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.
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 a place to work through the agony of my acute grief.
Does Pain Soften?
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 my online support group and at some point, felt the tidal waves becoming fewer and farther in-between. Enough so to catch my breath. And enough so to rejoin life. Time had stopped for me when Dylan died, but the world kept on moving. Eventually, I moved to the beat of the world again too.
Coping With Memorial Dates
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. But I’ve learned 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 and needing release.
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.
Finding Ways to Remember
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.
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. 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.
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