Pink Phlox in Sun-Dappled Shadows with Resurrection Lily Leaves in the Background, photographed for My Forever Son
Pink Phlox in Sun-Dappled Shadows, My Forever Son

Living Backwards Going Forward-Year 3

A Sense of the Surreal

Living Backwards Going Forward means that in the strangest of ways, it is always, for me, 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 indeed lived backwards. Remembering vivid memories (both good memories and bad), evaluating my parenting, assessing things I said (and didn’t say), searching for “Why?” and struggling with ongoing grief.

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.

And yet why not say what happened? 

Robert Lowell, Epilogue
Peach Iris in Full Bloom Close Up, photographed for My Forever Son, Living Backwards Going Forward
Peach Iris in Bloom, A Sense of the Surreal, My Forever Son

A Character in a Book

Sometimes, I feel like a character in a book I didn’t write: I’m moving, breathing, responding, doing things according to the chapter, plot, and genre, but ultimately, against my will. Mine is a book I would never even read, let alone live in. A protagonist who is freely changing and exchanging her character traits at the author’s whim. Except that I am not the author.

I haven’t penned this narrative, for if I had, I would be drafting an entirely different ending. Instead I live in the upside-down world of grief, its messiness careening out of control without notice. At the whim of dwelling inside this book (and hence grief, I find myself shape-shifting, shifting facades and expressions. On with one persona, off with another, on with this activity, off with that activity, and oftentimes, doing something else entirely.

A New Version of Myself

I am creating a new version of myself, or perhaps trying to find an authentic sense of self, one able to live out this life in which I now find myself. I am alive in a world where my son is noticeably absent. I’ve learned to wear a masque, but behind that masque is still the enormity of my grief after losing Dylan to suicide. I don’t know who I am without him.

Creating an identity feels overwhelming. I lost who I was when I lost my son, but here I am, still the mother of a 20-year-old son. My son is forever 20 years old, yet I live on. I feel caught in a metaphorical stance: Somehow, I am always the mother of a 20-year-old son. My son should be searching for his identity. I should be advancing forward in my life. Instead I am searching for my identity, realizing I am living backwards going forward.

Pink Phlox in Bloom Close Up, Photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Losing My Son to Suicide, Living Backwards Going Forward
Pink Phlox in Spring, My Forever Son

Living Forward After Time Stopped

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 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 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 in the moment. Watch a movie until its end. Read more than a few pages of a book. Focus on steeping a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Find healing in nature.

White star magnolia tree flower in spring close up, photographed for My Forever Son, Living Backwards Going Forward
Star Magnolia in Spring Bloom, My Forever Son

Just Breathe

I am pursuing the renewing of my health. I am tired of feeling exhausted by grief.

Tai Chi practice, yoga stretches and walking when I can go far to bring a sense of peace. And distraction? When I write, play music, doing things with friends, the pain is less acute. I have learned to pull back and simply be in the moment. Mindfulness helps. Walking meditation helps.

And resting. No multi-tasking. 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.

Beautiful, frilly Peach Iris in Full Bloom, photographed from the top down for My Forever Son, Living Backwards
Peach Iris in Full Bloom, My Forever Son

Going Backwards to Live Forward

Writing, for me, is healing. When I write poems and journals, I experience the coming together of ache and love. In my writing, I find hope and healing in going backwards to live forward.

A Poem: That Love Could Sweep Time Back

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
Rewind time, just you and me.

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

©Beth Brown, 2021

Available Now on Amazon Kindle

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