Tag Archives: suicide

Surreal

My last post was seven months ago. I thought I had crossed the finished line, accomplished what I had set out to do. To put Aaron and his untimely suicide behind me. I understand that sometimes we think we have said everything that needs to be said on a subject. Sometimes we feel we just need to step back and take a deep breath. And there are times when we had enough of a subject and want to file it away Or maybe all three.

One of my boys, Gabriel (23) is living with his girlfriend (Rachel)  and her parents while she is preparing to have her first child. It is a very exciting time in their lives. A few weeks ago tragedy hit Rachel’s family. Her dad ( 51) died in a motor bike accident.

On Facebook Rachel wrote a touching ode to her dad letting him know that his unborn baby grand-daughter would learn about her grandfather that she would never get to meet. Rachel also mentioned in a text to Rhonda and myself how surreal this experience has been thus far.

When I heard the news I knew the process, I was instantly transported back in time. I could feel their pain, their shock and that surreal feeling of “what the fuck just happened”. For a time you live in this bubble as you can feel your body move and think but in slow motion. You go through the motions of life wondering when you are going to wake up from this nightmare you are experiencing.

You wonder when your loved one is going to walk through the door  then realizing  that it was all a dream or a bad joke being played on you. You see your loved one in such obscure places like a shopping center, riding by on a bicycle or just waiting for a bus at the local bus stop.

Some people call this being in denial. I think it is being on the cusp of another world. Perhaps it is a way of God allowing you to slowly accept your loved one is pulling away and never coming back, as though you are still holding his hand while he is trying to leave this world. A time to adjust, not a time to mourn. Shock sets in as you do not want to believe what has happened and your mind does not accept the outcome. It’s not a miracle you anticipate but a mistake that you are hoping will right its way back to the way it was.

During this time friends and family are gathered, many coming out of hiding not having seen or heard from in years.  For a short time you are insulated and protected from what  inevitably will come, the grieving process. But this surreal feeling is a blessing in disguise, a place between two worlds. A time to be able to hold on and feel your loved one as though he is sitting right next to you. A feeling that you could learn to live with but reality will invade your space.

For me this surreal state lasted until just after Aaron’s funeral.  We had a wake or gathering at our house of friends and family. When all our guests left including my dear wife who had to work that evening, the older children moving the party to another venue, I was left alone with our family dog who took his place at the end of our bed oblivious to our loss.

Alone for the first time grief hit me like a ton of bricks. Reality came in like a flood. My world would change at that moment never to be the same. That surreal feeling that enveloped me like cotton wool protecting me from heartache was gone. My life was going to change its ways forever.

I don’t know what type of grief Rachel and her family will face or how long it will last. It is up to the individual. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, no time limit.  I do know that there is a light at the end of a very dark tunnel and when we come out the other end our life will never be the same. Some better, some worse.

I pray for Rachel, Gabriel and their unborn daughter that their end result will be for the better.

 

 

Advertisements

Someday I Will Ask, But Not Today

As a family we have over the past 7 years refrained from talking about Aaron’s death. Rarely have I had  conversations with any of my children about his passing and how it happened. If they talk about it among themselves I wouldn’t know.

As time passed each of us learned to deal with this tragedy in our own ways. I never broached the subject with my kids nor did they come for advice or a shoulder to cry on. In retrospect I wish I could have coped better, at least for the sake of my children.

At our yearly Family Day when we gathered each year near the date of his death. One year my ex-wife brought a picture of Aaron and placed it in the center of the picnic table as a reminder of why we were there. One of her older daughters  lovingly rebuffed her and told her it wasn’t necessary because we all knew why we were there. His picture remained in place that day but never showed up again.

Our conversation at these outings was never about Aaron. It didn’t have to be, he was there with us, in each of our hearts and thoughts and we all knew it.

Someday I would like to be able to talk to each one of his siblings and get their story to get a better understanding of how Aaron’s death affected them, the things that they went through, the anguish, heartbreak and their own personal grief. Did they carry any guilt blaming themselves in any way, did they harbour any hidden memories that were too difficult for them to face. What fears did they encounter the days, months and years that followed. Did his death bring them closer to their siblings and our family in general or did they drift away inwardly if not outwardly.

As I reflect on their part in this family tragedy I was encouraged when I started to think about the physical ways that each one of them wants to remember and honour their brother.

Each year many of them meet at his headstone at the local cemetery on his birthday.  I didn’t know this until my wife showed me a picture posted on Facebook of them gathered together one year. One of my boys who apparently couldn’t make it the year the photo was taken, had his own face  superimposed  in the photo and posted it himself to show that although not able to make it in person he was there in spirit.

At Aaron’s memorial we had a small photo of him printed and laminated and passed out to all who came to remember him. Each one of my kids has this photo either in their wallet or purse and even on their refrigerator in the their kitchen.

Quite a few have gone to the extreme of getting tattooed with his name or other messages on their bodies, keeping him forever remembered.

I am not a big fan of tattoos. I have none myself but I have come to terms with the fact that this day and age it seems to be ingrained in our western culture not much different to social media.

So when one of my daughters turns up at a family gathering one year with a huge tattoo on her outer thigh I was really taken by surprise and to be honest my reaction was not a great one. Then when she told me to take a closer look I saw it was a picture of Aaron permanently inked on her leg. It was her way of honoring his life.So how could I argue with that.

When my youngest child who is now eighteen told me she wanted to get a tattoo I froze. She is what is known as a “clean skin” and the last I thought would go down this road. She consoled me with the fact it would be a little one. When I asked what she was thinking of getting she proudly stated, “Aaron’s name”.  Another one of my girls has a little message on the back of her neck with Aaron’s name so anyone standing in line behind her will know that whoever this Aaron is, is very special to her.

The boys went about it in bigger ways having their memories of him emblazoned on their chest or arms.

There is a story behind each tattoo, each visit to the cemetery and their personal bigger story locked away in each of their hearts.

Their outward manifestation of their love for Aaron needs no explanation or discussion.

Someday I hope to be able to have the courage to ask what lies inside their hearts and how that fateful day affected them.

Someday I will ask, but not today.

Or,Rather Let It Be Healed

I started this blog to document and tell my story. I had no idea where it would lead me. I learned many things about myself and what the last six years of my life cost me. The emotional upheaval, the mental anguish and the spiritual doubts. I just knew I had to not only write it down as a journal for my benefit but I had to make it public which forced me to be more honest than my nature allowed for.

During the writing of these posts I have learned that I am no longer playing the Survivor. I no longer blame myself or let guilt grind me into the ground.  Most of all grief who had become my best friend and constant companion was no longer welcome in my life.

In my last post Moving On (Leaving Grief Behind) I declared myself grief free. From there I was able to move on and start living my life in a way that I had not experienced for many years. I came out the other end of a very dark tunnel a different and hopefully a better person. I had to accept that there was no going back to the way things were before Aaron’s suicide nor do I want to.

After my last post I felt I had nothing more to say so I closed up shop without saying goodbye to my new friends out there in cyberspace. I know it was rude of me not to at least put a postscript to my blog thanking all that came into my life and helped make my transition from a grieving parent to a man who at the age of sixty-six is starting life all over again.

What I hadn’t understood until a few days ago was that the reason I could now move on is because I am healed.

The loss of my son caused me to develop some nasty mental, emotional and spiritual diseases. I once thought that It was my cross I had to carry around with me including all the baggage associated with losing a loved one to suicide.

In the beginning I understood there is a natural grieving process that I am sure varies from person to person and the time given for this process also varies. Although and I say this from my personal experience only, that the natural grieving process had an end to it. I allowed myself to continue to grieve longer than I should have therefore causing me either to be addicted to grief and guilt or self inflicting myself with the same.

In retrospect I can see the thin veil between the two. I could have shaved off quite a few years of all the anguish that grief and guilt caused me if I would have been able to see where one ended and the other began.

I felt an obligation to my son to continue to keep his memory alive, to continue to grieve because that was expected of me. I fed my guilt and anger longer than they needed to be kept alive and unfortunately by allowing myself to continue with the grieving process I tricked myself into believing it was my cross to bear for the rest of my life.

I still have Aaron’s three by five photo sitting on my desk that has been here for the past six plus years staring at me as I write this post.

I look at him now with no feeling of grief, no guilt, not even feeling guilty that I don’t feel guilt, no anger, no emotional turmoil. I don’t miss him any more than I miss my son who lives in Switzerland that I have only seen once in the past ten years and that was at  Aaron’s memorial.

I have accepted that Aaron is in a better place, at least I hope he is and if he isn’t all the grieving and guilt will not make one iota of difference. Most of all I believe if Aaron had a say he would have told me long ago; “dad, I love you but for God’s sake and the sake of my brothers, sisters and mum, could you please tone down all the crying and carrying on. I’m ok, I made a mistake but I am learning over on the other side. And between me and you, everything is going to work out for you and our family. And most of all dad, you need to get on with your life too.”

When I stopped writing for five weeks I also stopped reading blogs. I stopped being concerned about others who were suffering the same turmoil as myself. That was a mistake I want to rectify. I want to continue to read those who are brave enough to put their feelings on paper and share it with the world. You are brave and my hope is that each of you who have suffered the loss of a loved one through suicide will also be fully healed and able to move on with your life.

I can see you shaking your head. You don’t know how it is possible, you can barely make it through the next hour. You hurt too much and you vow you will never let your loved one’s memory be erased. You are in the process of building a shrine in your heart if not in a physical or practical way. You have started a blog so you will never forget. You want to keep him or her alive forever.

Or, ‘rather let it be healed’. (The Bible)

Moving On (Leaving Grief Behind)

Deciding to move on has changed the whole perspective of my journey (Surviving Is Not Enough). I am excited again about life and what the future holds. The changes are mostly internal right now and these changes are  synonymous with giving up my grief. I don’t believe I would be able to move on and allow grief to be part of my life at the same time.

After the initial shock of Aaron’s suicide wore off, grief hit me with its full force. My dictionary defines grief as; “deep or intense sorrow or distress, esp at the death of someone.”  Intense being the operative word. 

As time went on, my grief attacks became less constant but the intensity remained the same. In the beginning I didn’t know how I would be able to take the constant barrages of emotional instability that grief brought into my life.

In retrospect I see how I put up the white flag of surrender by allowing grief to become a part of me. I accepted that it was always going to be by my side so I invited the unwanted guest to stay and live with me.

‘Give it time’ was a phrase I heard and read many times. It became a cliché, something people say for the sake of saying something positive. I believed it in theory but I couldn’t relate to it in practice. I felt there was nothing within my power to stop the grieving and I couldn’t see that far in the future for it to make any sense to me.

I had hoped that some day grief would just fade away and I would sneak out from under the hold it had on me. It had never crossed my mind that giving up grief could be a personal choice. I had accepted that it came and went at will, that I had no say in the matter. Its was true in the beginning. I was at the mercy of its raging storm.

But, I must admit, as time went on the attacks lessened and their intensity was manageable.

When I declared myself fit and ready to move on, for the first time I realized that leaving grief behind was something I had control over. I didn’t have to wait until it was out of my system, nor did I have to accept it would be with me forever.

I have moved on to continue my journey, leaving my grief behind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Is Not Enough

Writing this blog has set me free in so many ways. Telling my story  has taken me from being a victim of circumstances that were beyond my control, to being a survivor of the loss of a loved one.

When I first started putting my words on paper, ideas were plentiful and it was evident I could write what I wanted at will. I couldn’t hit the keys on my computer fast enough. For once in my life my brain was working faster than my body parts.

My story is a  journey I was reluctant to go on. Taking me away from my normal life, my family, my friends and just about everything associated with the life I once lived.

Within I became a hermit, a recluse living in my own world that was causing me to drift further away from family and friends,while going through the motions of living a life that appeared, at least to me, normal.

Brooding in an inner world where the lights had been turned off,  I would venture out from time to time only to have my eyes blinded by the intensity of the sun’s rays. I would then retreat back into my lonely world as fast as the speed of thought.

Six years later someone decided to turn the light on in my darkened world. I took that as a sign, it was time to come out of hiding and face the world.  I then had this insatiable desire to tell my story. For the first time I wanted to talk about a life lost and its effect on me. It is only then that I realized that there are millions just like me who are going through a similar process and are on a journey in search of healing.

These past months of writing has liberated me and  I have discovered a peace that I hadn’t experienced for as long as I can remember.

I was not only on my way to recovery but I hoped it would take me back to a place I call normal or at least the way it was.

It was working beautifully with my muse working overtime keeping me creatively inspired, each word keyed at the speed of thought, each paragraph edited simply enough to be readable, and spell-check at my beck and call. The wall I had systematically built around my heart was being torn down piece by piece, word by word.

I knew within that I had to finish the ‘book’, as I would refer to telling my story. It had a beginning and therefore it had to have an ending. To me it seemed simple, the ending was becoming a survivor, someone who passed the test and came out the other end beaten and battered but alive.

I had this feeling inside that my job would be complete and I could get back to ‘normal’ when I finished the ‘book’. I just needed to keep writing until there was nothing more to say.

Then the unthinkable happened. I couldn’t finish another paragraph if my life depended on it. It was taking me longer to come up with ideas for my story and unfinished posts were starting to gather dust. I had hit ‘writers block’ at full force.  My muse decides to go on holidays. My fingers were developing cob webs and my mind was drifting back into the old ‘normal’.

I needed to take a deep breath and figure this thing out. It was not time to raise the white flag of surrender. There was a reason that I was becoming stagnant and I refused to believe it was just ‘writers block’.

I wasn’t going to try to write another word until I understood what it was that was blocking me.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s been several days now since writing the above. I had to take a ‘time out’ to sort out my thoughts. I had to come to terms with something that was holding me back but I wasn’t sure what it was.  There was no use in waiting for my muse to come back off of holidays, she wasn’t coming back until I addressed the elephant that was in the room.

Up until this post I had been operating under the impression that surviving the death of a loved one was the main goal, it wasn’t. Then I proclaimed that I was no longer a victim of suicide and not longer trying to survive. Let the world know that I am as survivor. I have reached the summit. I can get back to living my life as a normal human being. I am healed.

So why the ‘all of a sudden’, I can’t put two words together to make a sentence. I wasn’t going to budge until I got an answer and I believe I have. The mental block was only there to slow me down, actually stop me in my tracks. I had come to a crossroads, not in my writing but my life. If I thought that being a survivor of the loss of a loved one was the ultimate goal, I was way off base. It was never meant to be the goal, only a marker in the next step of  my life.

I had a decision to make. Accept my new label of survivor as the be all and end all, try to reconstruct my life and get back to normal or take the next step. I had to come to grips with the fact that this journey will never end no matter how many mountains I climb. What I discovered about myself was a little scary but exciting and exhilarating at the same time.

I realized that I would never be content, happy or even at peace with myself unless I continued to move forward, which meant leaving my old life behind and anything that would hold me back including any excess baggage that I needed to leave behind to move forward.

I had worked very hard over the past years to eliminate the intense grief, guilt, confusion, anger, blame and all the other emotions and labels associated with suicide. Now it was time to give my Aaron a hug and let him go, not for his sake but for mine and those around me.

By continuing to hold onto the past I am effectively making the future non-existent. I know deep down inside Aaron would want that too. He would want the best for me. He doesn’t expect me to sit around and mourn his life as though by allowing myself to move on completely would be nothing short of being a traitor to him, my son.

He would want me to take all the valuable experiences and lessons of life I have accumulated over the last years and turn them into something useful, for others.

But in order to do that there is a price to pay, there is a very important decision that has to be made. I have to let go of the past, I have to forsake what I have been holding onto these past years. I need to let Aaron go so I can move forward. As simple as that.

He is already where he is meant to be. But my desire to keep him alive in my mind and heart, his memories fresh and at my fingertips will not hold him back but keep me from moving forward.

Surviving is not enough, leaving my old life behind is the next step in this wonderful journey that has been given me.

Today, I have made my choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Goes On…With Or Without Me

One of my first lessons on life after Aaron’s death was a simple one. That life goes on…with or without us. We can choose to get off the merry-go-round called life or we can continue to live our lives even though at times we feel like robots just going through the motions without emotion, desire or the will to live.

Eventually I had to go back to work. I was diving my work van down the highway when I noticed smoke coming up from under the hood, the temperature gauge went from normal to high in a matter of seconds. My water pump broke and I was stranded on the side of the road with the traffic passing by at high speeds not giving me the time of day. I was just a passing blip on their radar.

I had this feeling when I went back to work that somehow, God in his infinite wisdom and understanding of my delicate emotional turmoil that  He was going to make things somewhat easier on me. You know, slowly let me find my way back into the everyday life of normal.

At first I was a little discouraged. I mean, come on God, I just went through a traumatic situation and my heart is very tender and sensitive and now this happens as soon as I try to get back to being normal? I would have thought a little understanding would be apropos under the circumstances.

He did understand, a jolt back to normal was what I needed. I had a decision to make, get back on that merry-go-round we call life or purposely digress from the life I was meant to live.

Oh, how tempted I was to leave my van sitting on the side of the road, walk toward the sunset shedding my clothes along the way and never return. But that was not meant to be. Wake up man, bills had to be paid, kids had to be cared for, a wife needed love more than ever.

It wasn’t the answer  I was hoping for but that’ll do me, a wake up call that life was going on with or without me. As much as I didn’t really care either way at the time, I knew I had to make an effort to be alive inside.

Not long after, some well-meaning friends took us out to dinner. During the meal one of our friends looks over to the other and says, “they seem to be handling things quite well considering the what they have been through”. Hello? We’re sitting right across from you, we can hear you.  I didn’t give the comment much thought at the time although I was happy to know that we passed a test.

But I realize now, the way my wife and I passed that test in that restaurant  was part of getting back to normal. Act happy even if you don’t feel like it, enjoy your food even if you can’t taste it, interact like you are genuinely pleased to be with someone even if you feel like going home and crawling into bed, think about the feelings of other knowing you have no feeling yourself.

To me that was the key to my sanity. Like the old saying goes, act like your happy and you will eventually feel like your happy. Act like you have no pain and eventually you will feel no pain.

Those lessons were invaluable to me. I was never going to get a furlough on life’s daily challenges. In retrospect those challenges came fast and furious and the grieving and all other emotions associated with the loss of my dear son would have to be dealt with in private or on my own time.

After all I had my own life to live and life will go on with or without me.

High Expectations and Lowering The Bar

I am not unlike any other parent who desires the best for their children. I try to do what ever I feel necessary to help them achieve that goal. It was important to me that my children succeed in this world.

When an old friend who I hadn’t seen for some time would ask, “how are your kids doing?”,  I actually thought they really wanted to know, so I would start with the most successful or those doing the best at the time then work my way down the ladder until I could see boredom mask their face. That was my cue to  stop before getting to some of my not as successful or those having a rough patch.

My bar was high but not unreachable. I wasn’t looking for any brain surgeons, Senators, elite athletes, or Albert Einsteins. No, I believed I had my expectations at a reasonable level although any of the above would be acceptable also.

A few months after Aaron’s suicide, Rhonda and I went to the States for a long over due visit. Prior to our leaving on our trip a dear friend organized for us to stop at her place, on our return. Staying with her in a  distant city for some relaxation and catching up with old friends. During our stay she put together a dinner party for us, inviting some close friends and some of our family who were living in the area.

It was nice seeing everyone and we really felt loved and cared for. It was special and we are eternally grateful. Just what we needed at the time.

During dinner I was having a conversation with a friend sitting opposite us. I said with a grin, “you know our expectations for our kids have changed over the years. At one time we expected great things from them, our bar was pretty high, maybe too high for some so we lowered it. Having a job or career that they enjoyed and being happy was where we placed the bar. But in the last few months since losing Aaron we set the bar even lower. Staying alive was our new expectation.” Rhonda and I laughed, an inside joke. We actually believed this, life became the greatest commodity for our kids as far as we were concerned.

Now I don’t know if I was speaking loud enough for anyone else at the table to hear what I said but I felt like everyone froze in place and stared. I thought my friend who I was directing the comment at was going to need a blood transfusion as I could literally see his face changing color.

I have thought of that scene many times over the years. It never fails to put a smile on my face.

Of course our kids don’t need our high or low expectations nor do we need to lower or raise the bar for them. They will do that on their own, its their life and they will succeed or fail without our help.

But my expectations on life and its outcome  for my children remains the same to this day.

Do what I have to do to keep them alive and trust God that He will help them with the rest.

I Am Not The Victim Here…

In the beginning stages of my journey I had developed some bad habits. Fear was at the top of the list. Fear that I would lose another son or daughter to suicide. I starting monitoring some of their movements with the precision of a tracking device. Watching their every move, their every word, the tone in which they spoke, their attitude. I questioned everything, where are you going, who are you going with, when will you be back, how long will you be out, what is so and so like, where does she live.

They were teenagers for God’s sake. Their alter egos were all over the place, it was impossible to track them all. With all good intention I tried to nip the problem in the bud, confront what could only be described as normal teenage behavior that sent alarm bells ringing in my head.

I was on a mission to stop the next suicide attempt in my family at any cost. I was out of control. I started using strong-arm tactics and I am embarrassed by my actions, and downright horrified because it could have caused some serious damage in their young minds.

When I believed that those I was closely monitoring were moving out of the sphere of my comfort zone I would say to them, “I lost one child already, I am not going to lose you too”.  I was so fearful of losing another I was willing to say anything and the sad part about all this was that I believed it. Fear turned to hysteria. Now I may be over emphasizing my actual actions but that is how I felt inside. I was terrified to lose another and willing to do what I thought was within the framework of my parenting responsibilities.

My kids were as affected if not more by Aaron’s death and here I was putting unfair pressure on their lives because I was fearful for their well-being.

One day I had a wake up call. When one of my teenage daughters was acting out and I gave her my, “I don’t want to lose another child” bit. She retaliated by giving me  a well deserved  verbal slap on the face. She said, “dad, not everything is about you”. I froze. She was right. I had made losing Aaron about me. I took it personal

That dressing down was the best thing that could have happened to me. I thank God for my kids, they are so forgiving.

Fear was the reason I acted the way I did but guilt was the driving force that lead me to the fear.

Unfortunately guilt comes with the territory of having a loved one take his or her life. We can feed it with fear or we can learn to keep it in its place. It’s there ready to pop it head up and devour us if we let it or we can allow the process to run its course and let guilt naturally fade from our lives.

I am a different person these days. Time and the desire to continue my journey no matter the obstacles brought me to higher ground.

The day the guilt vanished was the day I became a survivor. The day I saw my self as a survivor was the day I stopped being a victim.

If we continue to carry the guilt with us  we will never be able to understand what we are fighting for. We are fighting for the survival of our lives, to be able to continue to function in a world that has turned upside down on us.

Guilt carried long enough, will make us believe that we are responsible for the death of our loved one. That is when we play the victim.

I played the victim for too long, I carried the guilt around all these years privately blaming myself for my son’s death.

My guilt and victim tag vanished in one day when I proclaimed to the world;

I am not the victim here, I am a survivor.

 

I’m A Big Boy Now

In the beginning I would visit Aaron’s grave site at least once a week, sometimes more. I would always go alone, I would always cry, I would always cry uncontrollably. Words were at a premium but my tears told the story. If he was listening he got the point.

I only stayed long enough to let him know I was there, that I was hurting and I was mad at him for leaving us so suddenly without warning. It wasn’t fair to me, his mother, his brothers and sisters and his nieces and nephews.

I don’t know if he was still hanging around but I had read that sometimes the spirit of the deceased would stay for a while, sometimes watching the aftermath of their actions or perhaps they even desired to do so before entering the after world.

I had a photo of Aaron put on his headstone so we could always have a face to face on our visits.

He never talked back ,not that I expected it although an explanation would have been good. So many questions left unanswered. But I did make sure  at least one question was asked on every visit.

Why????

Only he knew the answer to that one and he wasn’t talking. Not to me anyway.

My visits would sometimes last no more than three or four minutes, rarely longer and usually shorter. Long enough to let my emotions get away with me.  Where better than a well maintained cemetery where a father can cry publicly and get away with it.

As time wore on and my grief was somewhat under control, I would test my resolve by seeing how long I could be by his grave side looking at his picture before I fell apart. Two seconds were my shortest, unless you count falling apart from the car to the headstone. I don’t count that, its like points being taken away before you get into the boxing ring.

Ten seconds were about the longest I could last.

Months go by and I am still visiting at least once a week without fail. My visits become more of a personal test. I would talk myself up and say, “today, I don’t cry, today I am a big boy”. The harder I tried the more I cried. I have always been an emotional person but this was getting ridiculous although I had no intention of stopping my visits or trying to hold back my emotions.

On one visit, maybe 3 or 4 months after his death, no sooner had I stepped out of the car, that I knew something was different.  As I walked toward his grave a peace came over me I hadn’t felt in years. I knew immediately what it was. Aaron was gone, he was no longer with us or he was no longer tormenting me at his grave.

To this day I don’t know if Aaron let go and made his peace or I let him go.

I was so happy and relieved. I smiled, I laughed, I waved goodbye and of course I cried. But these tears were now tears of joy.

The desire to visit Aaron’s grave after that day vanished. I gave it no more thought. Just like that.

It was months before I visited again. Yes, I cried. It would not have been the same if I hadn’t but the visits became increasingly farther apart each time.

About six months ago I stopped by for a short visit. I wanted to let him know that I am no longer trying to survive his death, that I had become a survivor.

Sitting in the car preparing to go home I smiled. I hadn’t shed a tear.  I laughed out loud.

I whispered…”I’m a big boy now”…well, most of the time.

 

 

 

Don’t Fight The Raging Torrent

I have been spending time reading accounts of those who  have lost a loved one through suicide on  “Alliance of Hope: for suicide survivors“. Reading accounts of those who lost a loved one to suicide when they are in the beginnings stages of grief and guilt ridden brought me back to my early days of trying to survive Aaron’s death. The emotions, grief, guilt, confusion, anger etc is so intense you think your going to die yourself. There are times you think it would be easier to give up than have to endure for another day. You can’t see the future and you can’t know that it happens to all of us who lost a loved one.

To me it was like being thrown into a raging torrent of water that was headed for a waterfall and there was nothing I could do about it. To try to swim against the current was impossible and the reality of  going over the edge of that waterfall was a reality that I didn’t want to accept.

That is what it is like in the beginning. You find yourself in this raging torrent of water, sweeping you down stream, knowing that you will be unceremoniously dumped over the edge and down into the river below. Your survival instincts set in trying everything to find a way to stop your forward progress. A tree branch, a log, brushes peeking up over the water’s surface. Anything to stop your forward motion so you can figure a way to get back to the safety of the shore.

That is the problem in the beginning. We weren’t  prepared for this terrifying ride, we didn’t plan it, it wasn’t in our life’s itinerary so we didn’t know how to react.

If we were prepared or had the advantage of hindsight then we would learn quickly that there is no branches to grab onto, no brushes to stop our forward progress. We were headed for the water fall and its drop and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. What we didn’t know is that we would survive the drop, we would survive the undertow and the waters would eventually stop its tumultuous washing machine like churning on course to our new destination.

We try in the beginning to fight something that is greater than us not realizing we have been set on a path that we never asked for, taking us to a destination most of us never knew existed nor a place we really didn’t want to go.

I say this with over six years of travelling that river, making it safely over the water’s edge, surviving the drop ino the raging torrent of water that would sweep me down stream away from the comforts of my old life. A journey I didn’t ask for. I am still travelling down that river knowing that I will never be able to go back to where I started.

It wasn’t an overnight acceptance, even when the waters eased I still looked for a way back to the way it was.  It actually took me six and a half years to understand this and accept my fate, a fate that has brought me to realizing that my life not only will never be the same but that I was put in this position so that some day I may in some small way help those who are struggling to survive suicide navigate their way down stream.

We who have travelled through this raging torrent know that once you have been thrown into the deep end there is no going back. Life will never be the same but as a consolation to those who are at the beginning stages of this river’s journey there is a place where the waters calm and flow at a more leisurely pace.

You can never go back and  once you get far enough down stream away from the danger of the river’s raging torrent, you will understand more fully the new path you have been put on.