My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : Summer, Forever Summer: Dylan Daisies, Summer’s Sunshine Dylan, 18 years old, Spring 2010 I lost Dylan on June 25th 2012. Monday. 1:52 a.m. Only jus…
My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : Summer, Forever Summer: Dylan Daisies, Summer’s Sunshine Dylan, 18 years old, Spring 2010 I lost Dylan on June 25th 2012. Monday. 1:52 a.m. Only jus…
Dylan Andrew Brown, 18 years young, gifted student, musician, friend, son
My son, Dylan, was just barely 20 years old when he took his life, and I have all of those same unanswered questions rattling around inside me, all of me, even though it’s now been 3 years, 3 months since his death. I like to think that as time goes on, as I add on these concentric circles around the ring of the tree that used to house his life—and now serve as reminders only of his death, I have become somehow more accustomed to the enormity of this heavy heavy pain. I have heard other parents of suicides say the pain “softens.” I do not know what this means, the “softening” of the pain of losing a child, my only child, to suicide, but I do see, that in writing the following post, I have become more accustomed to this life I am living as is, as now.
Brute reality? I miss my son. All of him. All the time. Every single minute of every single hour of every single day. 24X7X365.
I wrote the post below in response to a question for “Parents of Suicides,” an online Yahoo closed support group for parents who have lost a child to suicide. The support group is enormously helpful and because it is online, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The question was about Christmas, the holidays, sending greeting cards. Here is my response:
A mother that buries a son buries her heart
I am the mother of a young suicide. Changed, forever changed, by the death of my 20-year-old son, Dylan Andrew Brown, 3 years and nearly 4 months ago. I hate that word–ago. Long ago. Oh, you know, awhile ago. Ago–to go, has been, past tense, once was, not to be again.
I lost Dylan to suicide on June 25, 2012 at 1:52 a.m. He had texted his close friend, his growing up forever best friend, just an hour earlier. “Hey bro, what’s up?” “Not much, how ’bout you?” “Bout the same.” Dylan’s last words to someone he had known for more than a decade, someone who was frequently at our house because we were neighbors, a running buddy, a fellow gamer, a bandmate–Dylan on guitar, Jeramiah on drums. The two of them were closer than brothers, called each other brother, knew and spoke more into each other’s lives much of most days, 5 days a week at school, playing after school–football, basketball, skateboarding. Pizza, big breakfasts I’d cook from scratch–bacon, fried eggs, toast, oj, milk, fried potatoes, a close, intimate suburban suburb. Good kids, good homes, “A” students, top-notch students, athletes, and musicians, in band, doing all things together, hanging out on weekends, staying up too late talking and texting, sharing hopes and dreams and visions of their futures.
Some days are easier than other. Today is not such a day. Today’s a day I awakened in tears, my head buried in shame in my pillow, my heart wide open and longing and grieving for a child and son and cusp-of-young-adult man I love and adore with all that I am, all the time, in everything I do.
I only know to do what I know how to do, routine, ritual, move–even when all of me is grinding down, step feet out of bed, push through, make tea, make something–eat, read, come to. . .come to.
This too shall pass, but when? When? It is mid-afternoon and still this hangover of depression, of suicide, of wide-open grief. I look to my cat. She opens her eyes for the picture, then right back to dozing.
A cat’s life, slumbering through the day, 18-plus hours of napping, drifting off, a hazy, filtered kind of life.
I know this kind of life now. 18-plus hours a day of living in the surreal fog, this veiled shroud of living each breath as the mother of a suicide. There are simply no words to describe this kind of numbing out, this haze through which I must glimpse the world. I’m here, but not here. Not really when all of me either surfaces and spills over wide open in sorrow and pain or else numbs out and assumes the facade I must wear and be to even marginally fit in. I am always with Dylan, even when seemingly not so. These are two disparate states of being–either faking it and wearing the masque of living in the moment, or else cracking open in despair and hopelessness. I wish I could choose–like clothes to wear or whether or not to clip my hair back–to numb out and feel detached and separate from, or to just be real and let my insides outside.
In the end, I know Dylan struggled with this too, because my confusion and torment between living between who I am inside and who I must be outside is not just about grieving his death by suicide. Dylan was saddled–and I am saddled, with depression, that ugly sick monster who feeds off sucking you dry from everything you knew you loved. The one with daggers for horns and an unquenchable fire to consume all that you once knew of life–a childlike joy, a fascination for a new day, gratitude to be here now, fun in the moment, the ability to laugh, love, play, let go, take it easy, follow through, achieve, desire, plan, hope, dream, do, be.
Dylan made it 15 years in the jowls of depression, all the while being chewed up and spit out repeatedly in an effort to chew the living life out of my son. And then, and then. . .sigh, . . .
June 25th, 2012, Monday, Dylan took his life.
Depression hurts. Left untreated, depression kills. Even treated, depression rallies and rails against any sort of containment. Depression lies in wait. Dylan was seeking help. Starting meds. But depression is an illness. And illness never waits for meds to work–And death waits for no one.
Yes. Just yes. I struggle with depression. I battle with depression. Sometimes daily, consuming every waking and sleeping moment. Sometimes randomly. No apparent reason that anyone else can see. Depression is a black dog. Great video depiction.
Dylan, my 20-year-old son, died of depression, deep, deep dark depression. He fought for a long time and fooled us all with his easy laugh and funny faces. Depression will do that. I grew up with black labrador retrievers. To me, the black dog in the video looks like a cross between Clifford, the big red dog (Dylan loved reading Clifford dog stories), and the black labs I grew up with.
I still have my black dog. Do you?
I do not even know where time goes. Suffice it to say that sometimes, sometimes, grieving the loss of my son requires a certain pulling away from all things grief-related. Sometimes, it’s just too painful to face. Sometimes, I just want to pretend I belong to the rest of the world, the one that seems to be
whirring and spinning around me. Sometimes. . . .
So much has changed. It is a new year, February 6th, 2016, Saturday, and it has been forever and a day since I last blogged. Where did I go? Only into the recesses of myself in an effort and a fledgling attempt to rectify and redeem the dire straits I found myself in last year.
Losing a child to suicide necessarily carries with it the burden of loss, one heavy and weighted enough so as to encumber you for the rest of your life here. But there are many secondary losses as well. Over the past 3 and 1/2 years, I have lost those I counted as “friends,” three jobs, my health to such extraordinary proportions that I had to have open heart surgery last fall, my financial status, my ability to function and move about as freely as I always have.
And the guilt. God the guilt, the mother lode of guilt, oozing and drenching all that I am and do in “what if’s” and second doubts. Feelings I thought I’d left behind surface all over again and I find myself drowning in despair. And the really sad part of all this is that I’m not even entirely sure this is a guilt that can be avoided. If you’ve lost a child to suicide, then you are probably all too aware of this hellish familiar ache.
Some things never change:
1. my ache for my son
2. the many ways I think about him during my day
3. the way I just about always dream about Dylan at night
4. the way just about everybody in my community just doesn’t “get” me–not unless, of course, they’ve lost a child too–and if they’ve lost a child to suicide too? then they “get” me
5. the way i slip further and further from my family network
6. my reclusiveness during “holidays”
7. my reluctance to commit to anything–and always holding back the option of bailing at the last minute
8. my not looking forward, save one day at a time–and realize, it’s taken me 3 and 1/2 years to even get to this point
I have learned how to:
1. be a master of disguise
2. fake smiling
3. fake laughing
4. fake being “normal”
5. keep the focus on others to the effect that no one asks me about myself
1. nobody really knows me anymore
2. I will always carry this deep ache and sorrow
3. my life is forever bittersweet
4. “it is what it is”
5. this is my “as is, as now”
6. I completely hate the term “new normal.” There is no such thing.
7. I will always have to hide the completeness of who I am to fit in
8. just about everybody can’t even imagine, let alone fathom, losing a child to suicide
9. I will never be “healed” until I see Dylan again.
10. It’s been 3 and 1/2 years. I’ve learned to live here, or at least to breathe here, but my heart aches for my son. Mine is a hollow existence. I miss belonging to life, to being in the flow of activity, of sharing of lives, of being like others. I will never fit in again. I live “childless” here, having lost my only son to suicide, but I am forever a mom, forever Dylan’s mom. 20 years here. and now? and now? God has held my son for 3 and 1/2 years.
11. My cat needs me
12. I still just want to be with Dylan.
My world is small. I am lonely. I miss my son.
I love this cat–Mog, and I love this animation of Mog’s Christmas story. I am posting this video because there is only so much sorrow a heart can take. Sometimes, I just need to smile. Sometimes, I just need to be distracted.
And I know that, down deep where my little girl still looks up at her Mommy wide-eyed for comfort, Mog satisfies a longing I’ve always had–and still, and now so desperately need, a longing to hear those magical words: “It’s all going to be alright. It’ll all be okay in the end.”
God, how I need this kind of ending. Here, in Mog, I find this distillation of hope. And if hope and all good things can find Mog in the midst of random chaos, then how much hope and all good things, though unbeknownst to me now, are meant for my ending. Oh if only my happy ending, on down the line, when all the chaos sorts and sifts and filters through so many many cumbersome levels and layers of grief. Love means everything. To know we are loved. To love and be loved. To be loved so fiercely that even when everything goes wrong, love carries us and hugs us into its arms.
Yep, I think I need a hug. And love. Tons and tons of love. And someone to tell me “it’s going to be okay,” “it will all be alright.”
My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : Letting Go: A Sketch of Love Against a Life’s Etch…: 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…
Rest easy, little one, rest easy
My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : A Sad Welcome if You’ve Found Me Here: If you have cause to read this now– Suicide of a child shatters a parent’s heart Please know my heart aches for you. I am so s…
My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : An Abrupt Awakening: Foray into the Holidays 2015: The Holidays Descend (Aka: Suicide never ends) Dylan home for Christmas And so it is I checked out last night, hoisted the white f…
The Holidays Descend (Aka: Suicide never ends)
|Dylan home for Christmas|
And so it is I checked out last night, hoisted the white flag, decided the last thing I could really do is hole up and write, knowing I needed to walk but not having the wherewithal to walk here at home on my treadmill. So off I went—to JoAnn’s to pick up a frame for my Winnie the Pooh print, then over to Target to grab just one item. Ugh and well—the best laid plans of Mice and Men.
I entertained random thoughts of “what if I learned to sew?” “What if I got a sewing machine and pursued this?” “Wish I may, wish I might know how to sew a quilt, and drapes, and you name it.” But then reality would set in and I’d come to and realize sewing is just not my thing in life. If I do anything, it’s get back to an art that I’ve called my heart and my home for most of my life, just fall deeply and completely into my music.
|My Winnie the Pooh print for which I needed a frame.|
I tried to tuck it away, this pain that I’ve been learning to carry these past three years and four months, tried to just breathe and hurry my cart past these simple displays of framed art that for me, triggered memories of a life that was brutally and violently upended when Dylan died June 25, 2012.
I no longer belonged to this cheery, albeit illusion, of hearth and family. My family died. My son, our big dog, Maya Bear, a 13-year-old Gordon Setter mix, our cat, Lucianno, a beautiful gray, green-eyed friend for 16 years. And then in June of this year, Dylan’s father and my ex-husband. They all haunt. Everything haunts. So much of me lies there, with them, that I sometimes have trouble recognizing myself here. My life echoes, resonates, with all those years, family years, growing up years, years of deep, deep love expressed in so many ways. Sometimes, I just miss everything.
|Maya Bear, 2000-March 5, 2013|
Still, I am so hard on myself. Still, I am expecting a point in time, an accumulation of days, months, years where I’m, I’m not sure—“okay?” “numb?” “healed?” Counselors, “professionals,” books all address a “new normal.” Maybe I am expecting my “new normal” to not include the utter heartsick despair I felt yesterday at, of all things, a simple fabric and crafts’ store.
Target? Nothing more than a lost cause. I remembered out of the blue what it is I’ve been struggling to remember forever—that I needed two birthday cards and gift cards for family members. There was no avoiding anything now that I had lost my masque, my skin, now that my façade had been stripped away, my composure and assumed air of “normalcy” for the rest of the world abruptly ripped opened. Exposed, I could only see pain: greeting cards for sons, greeting cards for sons of different ages, meaningful messages intended to show love and support for sons, funny messages intended to elicit laughter and a knowing smile, the familiarity of the mother-son connection through life.
|Pure joy, happiness, love–Dylan at 3 years old|
|Sometimes. . .Sometimes, it’s just impossible to smile. 2015. November. The holidays. Sigh. . . .|
My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : Suicide: It Never Lets Go: Love Never Lets Go Merry Christmas, Dylan. Oh that smile– The pain of suicide never lets go. Dying Inside. Holding my breath. P…
My Forever Son, My Beloved Dylan : The Unwanted Effect of Living Backwards After Suic…: Where Has Time Gone? I am aware, the further I come along this grief journey, the less I live forward. In the strangest of ways, it i…
Where Has Time Gone?
I am aware, the further I come along this grief journey, the less I live forward. In the strangest of ways, it is always June 25th, 2012 or earlier. I suppose to some effect, my life is lived backwards. And I am in this weird, 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 and that I’m moving, breathing, responding, doing things according to a chapter and genre and story I didn’t choose, 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 personna, off with another, on with this activity, off with that activity and trying something else entirely. I am creating a new me, a process of becoming quite exciting and extraordinary when you’re coming of age between the ages of 18 and 24. But here I am, in my 50’s, the stripping away of all of my life as I knew it. And the challenge and constant renewing of fortitude, strength, and courage for this reinventing is sometimes way more than I can tolerate. 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 Netflix’ movie. Read compulsively. Just focus on a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea.
So much lies in a cup of tea
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 seeing an incredibly good medical team, and am working on holistic things when I can. I am proactive. I am eating anti-inflammatory foods–well, most days. There are always there times when I stray, but with straying comes the brute ache of chronic pain and lost sleep due to lying awake in physical pain. I find it ironic I should be struck with Rheumatoid Arthritis several years into my grief journey. When first diagnosed late last fall, I said outloud “really God, really? Like it’s not enough I lost my heart, my son, and that I have to live the rest of my life in some state of grieving, the bittersweet now lacing virtually all that I do? What is it that you want God? Me? I am here! Take me!” But God never does–take me, and for some reason way beyond what I can fathom, I am still here, on this planet, in this space and time, and Dylan is not.
But good meds, biologics, pain meds, heat, ice, rest, working to manage stress, Tai Chi practice, yoga stretches and walking when I can go far to bring a manageable level of pain. 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, a fighter, proactive, embracing healing, determined to live the best I can here while I’m here.
With hope, we find our wings
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 him.
Here’s a link to a YouTube video well worth watching: Andrew Solomon’s “Depression, The Secret We Share”
Dylan Andrew Brown
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 beloved 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.
Tonight I am headed to a support group for bereaved parents, The Compassionate Friends. 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. I’ve read through their whole site and participated in some of their open chats for parents of suicide. Meetings in my community are held once a month on the second Tuesday. All parents, grandparents, and siblings are welcome for those who have lost a child of any age, for any reason. I have found especially helpful their “To the Newly Bereaved” page: http://www.compassionatefriends.org/Find_Support/Personal-Note/To_the_Newly_Bereaved.aspx
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. 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. Forever my heart, my wings, my love.
Love Never Lets Go
|Merry Christmas, Dylan. Oh that smile–
|August 2015. My smile has been hard earned. I am a weary traveler, but I am learning to keep on keeping on.|
“I only hurt when I’m breathing,” a random post on Facebook, anonymous, yet so completely relevant to this grieving of losing a child.
I found a Mother’s Day card a few weeks ago. Dylan’s last Mother’s Day card to me in May of 2012. (I wasn’t looking for the card, I simply saw its bright orange color peering out from beneath a stack of papers I hadn’t been through in awhile and was drawn to its happy color). On the front, “mom,” then beautiful glittery bright pink and yellow flowers, then in the bottom right corner, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t need your love and support. . .” Inside, “. . .and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t.” Beneath the message, “Happy Mother’s Day With Love.”
Dylan signed the card–and this part gets me every time I read and reread what he wrote–
“I’ll love you forever mom.
Dylan Andrew Brown, March 19, 1992-June 25, 2012
Just turned 20 years old
A beautiful soul, my beloved son
And so I see Dylan’s words on this orange card (orange was always Dylan’s favorite color as a child) and for the first time, see so clearly in this message that, for whatever reason, he couldn’t stay.
Tomorrow is Dylan’s Memorial date. Year three. 1095 days since his suicide on June 25th 2012. I have invited those who knew and loved Dylan to come over, as well as those who know and love me as I walk out this now life’s journey without Dylan alongside me. There will be pizza, Dylan’s favorite–Domino’s, salad–because I always insisted on something healthy, chocolate–oh, how Dylan loved chocolate–Reese’s peanut butter cups, really good chocolate, Godiva, Anthony Thomas, and good old Hershey’s. Every year for his birthday I’d ask him what kind of cake he wanted me to make. I have always cooked from scratch, and while Dylan loved my traditional annual fall Apple Dapple cake, he treasured my Wowie (chocolate of course!) cake. For 19 years, I made a Wowie cake for his birthday at his request. I hope they have Wowie cake in heaven.
|Completely in love with my son–the famous Wowie cake Dylan always asked for.|
The tears come randomly, triggers come easily right now, I am emotionally exhausted and enervated, not unlike early acute grieving, my heart hurts, and I lie wide open, fragile, vulnerable, worn out, sad, exposed, listless, not wanting to do anything. It all seems to much–showering, dressing, doing what needs to be done, putting one foot in front of the other, trying to carry this pretense of being “okay” to the outside world. As in the beginning as is now, it truly does only hurt when I’m breathing which is, of course, 24/7/365. Ugh.
I wish I could skip tomorrow. Opt out. Take the day out of the calendar. Wake up from this hellish nightmare that is now the shape, breath, and linear direction of my life as is, as now. I slept forever last night. 10, 11 hours. Not enough. Nothing can be enough at this point in time, the day before my son died. I died too, but sadly, find myself still in this living, breathing, doing, being earthly body. Some days, I’m not even sure why I’m here. Most days I don’t know why I’m still here without my child. A mother belongs with her son. Parents belong with their children. Life isn’t supposed to happen this way.
I am drawn to watching young men in restaurants or out and about, young adults who are in their early 20’s (Dylan would have just turned 23 years old). I see their easy demeanor, hear their laughter, see their easy going smiles, hear them banter and call each other “bro.” God, the ache. I miss my son.
|Dylan, Senior Year, 2010, Senior Picture|
It is hard to learn to live without–without possibility, potential, likelihood, “normal,” for whatever that means. It means I don’t fit in most of the time when I’m with my friends and in my community because the crux of their lives is their focus on children–theirs, their grandchildren, their daughter-in-laws, their children’s rites of passage–graduation, the first job, the launch into the career, graduate school, academic accolades and honors and scholarships and grants, concern over their child’s choice of a girlfriend/boyfriend, concern and worry about an upcoming marriage, empty-nest syndrome, hope for grandchildren, pregnancy–sigh. . .grandchildren.
I will never know any of these again. My life is strange. It hasn’t been invented yet. There is no manual or standard or how-to. I don’t often run into those who have lost children and so much of the time, feel lost in a community I’ve grown up in. I can’t quite make things fit. I try–God knows I try, but inside, even when I’m doing my best to hide my deep, deep ache and sadness and pangs of longing as they talk about their children and grandchildren, I feel so separate and alone.
I could live in hugs right now. I took warm laundry out of the dryer this morning and wrapped my arms around it. The warmth, the softness, the give. The missing, my connection to Dylan, the way he smelled, the way his clothes smelled, teenaged boy smell, his beautiful chestnut silky hair, the arc of his nose, the profile of his face, those gorgeous dark brown eyes, chocolate brown, that I could have just stared into forever.
I fell in love March 19, 1992 when Dylan was born, though truly have loved him since I knew he was inside me. Today, three years after his death, my child still is inside me. He always was my lifeblood coursing through me, my heart’s joy, the beat and rhythm and passion of all that I did. Dylan was part of me and even now, I am still part of him. Thank God for hope, for faith that someday I will see him again. It is just this interim that bears so much pain.
Turbulent dreams, all my dreams are of loss, of losing, of being stolen from, of being desperate and chaotic and running wildly. I awaken each day exhausted, alive and breathing in the fully alert state of realizing Dylan’s death is final. It has been 3 years, but still I struggle.
Last night I practiced Tai Chi–hard, focused, mentally and physically challenging, way longer than I should have, about three hours. I forgot to eat, was run ragged by the time I got home, find myself doing too much all the time right now, but this is how I keep on keeping on right now. I simply have to be aware when keeping busy becomes avoidance and delaying the necessary grieving and mourning I must do of my son right now.
Tonight, Tai Chi practice for one hour. Tomorrow, plans throughout the day. Meeting bereaved mothers for lunch. I will be with my family, my mom, my sister. I will light a candle in the morning, write a letter to Dylan, go where the day leads. I’ve found all along that the lead-in is always worse than the actual day. I pray this is true of tomorrow as well. May the day bring me peace and love and beautiful powerful remembrance of my precious and beloved Dylan. Always the love, always the remembering.
|Dylan–oh that beautiful smile! and Nikki, Summer of 2010.|
I am the mother of a suicide. And in 4 days, Dylan will have died by suicide 3 years ago. 1,095 days ago. A lifetime, and at the same time, no time at all.
I live suspended between what was and what will never be. Some days, like today, I get exhausted just being me. Emotionally exhausted, beyond any description voice could put to words. It is an ache, an edge, a cusp, a constant chronic weeping of my soul, even when I think I’m hiding my pain, even when I’m so busy running in circles to distract myself from the obvious, even when. . .
Grief still manifests itself in my face. Over the course of these 3 years, a little over 1,000 days, grieving the loss of my 20-year-old only child, my beautiful son, Dylan, has permanently changed the way I look. As I’ve moved beyond the insular circle and holing up of acute grieving and mourning, I can see that I’m not alone. We have a look, we who have lost children, and for those of us who have lost a child to suicide, it is a haunting not easily forgotten.
How to keep on keeping on? Grieving a child lost to suicide completely tweaks and distorts time. In the course of one day, I can easily run the gamut of my life with Dylan over 20 years. Memories, feelings, longing all seem to play in slow motion, and as if that weren’t difficult enough, the visuals come with a full commentary intent on finding the one single answer to the ever-elusive “why” of a child’s suicide. In truth, there is no “why,” because in suicide, in the act of suicide, there is no reason, no logic, no grounding to life as we know it here, this rhythm of 24 hours, days and nights, months and years, coming of age, rites of passage.
I have only been on this journey of a lifetime for 3 years. Some, including professionals, might say I’ve had more than enough time to acclimate to this new way of life, the strange hollowness of being without Dylan beside me. Some, especially professionals, might call my grief “complicated grief,” for whatever that means. Of course it is easy to assign a condition to the status of another’s heart, a mother’s heart missing, longing, loving, trying to process, trying to learn to love again, trying to learn how to just keep on keeping on, even in the wake of great pain and some days, all-out effort just to pull through. No one can imagine living a life without their child.
My pain makes some people uncomfortable. That’s okay, it makes me uncomfortable too. Just for tonight, I’d like the whole world to just stop whirring, twirling, revolving, growing. Tonight, I crave silence and solitude. Tonight I am reclusive. And in the end, that’s okay. that’s enough. There is no scrip for losing a child to suicide, no written agenda or how-to manual. It’s not like I’m on page 241 in Chapter 8 and I’m supposed to be writing a term paper on closing the chapter to yet another impossible year of supposed living without Dylan.
Grieving a child lost to suicide is as individual as a snowflake. Dylan loved me deeply, I raised him much of his life as a single mom, we were close by necessity and circumstance, I adored and loved my son, I’d had a difficult pregnancy and so put my all into this one incredibly precious baby boy. I played mom/dad for many years, which of course, in the end, never quite works because who can be everything to everyone? Not me, certainly, though I tried for a number of years to do it all for Dylan.
3 years. I’ve gone in hard, full-on, braced and whipped and tumbled everywhere by the greatest storm of tragedy I’ll ever know in this life. And in the darkness, have found small ways to live yet one more hour, one more passage, dredge through yet more exhausting emotions, up, down, yanked every which way, uprooted, upended, opened up, raw, bleeding, cut and recut without ceasing, no peace, no rest, no perch for a landing amidst the storm. Exhaustion, just sheer exhaustion, and an invincible spirit within me that for years–years–has learned to fight against the ravages of depression. My own bipolar disorder. My own suicidal tendencies and suicidal ideation. My own falling apart in my own nightmares. My own mental illness.
I do not know if what I’ve learned and acquired along the way, these tools, quips, trials and tribulations will help you, but if they do, then know this is how it works–one of us reaching in to shine a beam of light in the middle of another bereaved parent’s darkest night, one of us sharing that while the passage is hard, the hardest, most difficult, most perilous, risky, dangerous, exhausting in every way possible, be it spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and/or psychological, there is rest along the way. We pull one another along. We come alongside, walk with–at least for awhile and at intervals and stops along the way, one another. We learn to trust through one another because in the end, we know that we are the only ones who “get,” really get, our pain.
There is no name for us. Survivor of suicide is inept and without the precision and accurate description of all that a parent is to a child. For other deaths, we have names, but not for those of us who have lost children to suicide. It is beyond imagining, beyond reconciling to anyone not having to be forced to travel this journey. Ours is an impossible journey, nameless save for the deep, deep, chasm and echo of our child’s name–Dylan, Dylan, Dyl. . .an–
How I Keep on Keeping On:
*Stop everything and just breathe
*Stop everything and just say “no” to things I’ve previously said “yes” to
*Call someone who gets my pain
*Call someone who is oblivious to my pain but so absorbed in their own chattering that they
distract me for awhile from my own heartbreak.
*Talk to Dylan, all the time, everywhere
*Scream in my car, then usually sob because to release pain in screaming releases the storehouses
of infinite ache in my soul
*Get angry and write letters I’ll never send
*Write everything–all my feelings, scatterings, things I’ll never publish, my inner world
*Practice Mindfulness. Focus on my cup of tea, how my feet feel on the ground, the soft fur of my cat, the sounds of the seasons–nature, music,
*Wear the opposite color of how I feel. I think I lived in black my first year of grieving, gray my second year, and in this third year, have intentionally sought out color in my wardrobe. Orange is my happy color, and it was always Dylan’s favorite color growing up, long before the black t-shirts of his teenaged years. And green. Green is my healing color. I love blue, but blue makes me forlorn and wistful, pensive and sad.
*Change what I’m doing and where I’m sitting. I have a grief chair, an old chair battered by years of having a big dog sleep in it and a cat with claws who used the wide arms as a scratching post. The chair used to be a gray/green color. Now it is covered with a blue chair cover. I love this chair, but when I am grieving, this chair does not love me. It absorbs me and sucks me up whole, line and sinker. I drown in this chair, despair in this chair, can’t rise from this chair, get completely without hope in this chair. When I’m down or grieving, I sit somewhere else, even in a different room. Silly as it seems, it helps.
*Distraction–reading, movies, window shopping, walking, nature, friends (it’s taken me 3 years to get here. In the beginning, I had no voice, couldn’t focus to read, then could only read about grieving a child lost to suicide. Now I read all the time, mostly non-fiction, and am able to get absorbed in other activities).
*Listen to music (Again, in the beginning and for at least 6-12 months, I couldn’t listen to music at all, then only 2 songs, both by David Crowder. Now I listen to tons of different music.)
To be continued: My 2-year-old cat, Lily May, wants to play. I find joy, as much as is possible now, in the little things, like playing with her. And so it is, I’m off to seize joy.