Today’s post is dedicated to any of you who have experienced the suicide of a loved one in your lifetime.
It was nine years ago today that my life was forever changed. Nothing in my life has been the same since the day I lost Victor.
I will never forget the feeling when my mom called and told me to get home FAST, that something terrible had happened. She was babysitting my children while I was at work.
My heart sank!
Somehow I KNEW, before I even hung up that Victor was dead.
I remember feeling him next to me at work just before my mom called. I could feel that he was very confused and disoriented.
It was the strangest feeling I have ever experienced.
Nine years later I can still remember all the smells, sounds and even the temperature in the air at that exact moment.
It is as if that moment in time is frozen in my cellular memory, and it is something that no amount of time can ever heal.
But today, nine years later, I have learned how to live with that pain in my heart that will never go away.
I have learned how to laugh, love, and trust life again.
Getting to this point was NOT an easy journey. It was the most difficult and challenging mountain I have ever had to climb.
But I did it out of love for Victor.
I vowed at his funeral to live my life forever grateful for the blessing he had been in my life.
I vowed to keep his memory alive no matter what.
So in our home we talk about him often.
We remember him at each and every holiday.
We celebrate his life each year on his birthday.
His last school picture is at the center of my family picture wall with a plaque above it that says,
“We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”
In a million small ways we keep him alive in our family.
He was a treasure far to precious to ever bury completely.
So today in honor of Victor and the beautiful child he was, I am going to share some of the ways that I found the courage and strength to carry on following my child’s suicide.
AS I write this post today, I am holding a prayer in my heart that these words will reach anyone who is in need of comfort today.
One of the first things I did was to make a list of all the things that I thought would be helpful tools for my healing process.
(I am a list person. I write lists for everything. They give me a sense of order and calm, so that was how I started.)
Here is an exact copy of that original list I made nine years ago:
Praying to God.
Hugs from loved ones.
Screaming in the shower.
Wearing my son’s magic cloak and wrapping it around me like a hug from him.
Being with my family.
Having a regular schedule, eating, sleeping, exercising, etc.
Making a list of various issues I felt were necessary to work through.
Going to a therapist.
Thinking positive thoughts.
Sharing my deepest thoughts with family and a friend who was non-judgmental.
Reading books about grief so I better knew what to expect.
Going to support groups.
Realizing there was no time frame for my working on my grief.
Learning about suicide so I could understand why my son chose to end his life in this way.
Learning about suffering and how the Holocaust survivors survived which helped me with survival techniques.
Working on my self-esteem.
Listening to relaxation CD’s and music that soothed me and helped me to relax and sleep better.
Reading then re-thinking my religious beliefs with God.
Reading about humor and mourning.
Learning how not to become a bitter but a better person.
Discovering how not to let my son’s death ruin my life and how to make his loss matter.
Giving myself permission to smile, laugh, and find joy in life again.
It took me nearly seven years to complete that list.
Once I had checked off each and every item on that list, I then did one of the hardest things ever.
I folded a piece of paper in half and on one side I wrote all the things that I did right as a mother, and on the other side I wrote all the things I did wrong.
This was a very difficult exercise for me because I had spend countless hours, days, and years blaming myself for not knowing just how sad my child was.
I was positive that when I made this comparison list, I would find my “wrongs” out weighted my “rights”
I had to have help from my mom with this exercise because I wanted an honest and helpful opinion of my role as a mother.
When we were done with the list, I was very surprised to find that I did many more RIGHT things with Victor than wrong ones.
I am so thankful that I took the time right after the tragedy to make that list.
I was completely dedicated to working through each concern until I was finished with it so I could move on to the next issue on my list.
As I look back, I can see that as soon as I was again able to acknowledge that I WAS a good mother and person, Most of the control I felt I had lost and when Victor died started to return in my life.
And then I could finally move better through the process of my grief.
But of all the healthy choices I made during that time,
the most valuable one was, hands down,
my decision to remember that Victor had led a relatively happy and productive life for fourteen years.
That he had been a loving and gentle person that had touched more lives than he could ever understand.
His dying by suicide was only the means by which he died.
I think of his happy life much more than I do how he ended it now.
So as you can clearly see my grief journey has changed.
I have found joy and happiness again.
Now I have a different kind of relationship with my son since physically he is no longer with me and I found it important to stay connected with him.
I do this by talking out loud to him.
Each and every time I pick up a paintbrush, I dedicate the work to him and his memory. (So for any of you with my artwork in your home, you are blessed with a small piece of my sons memory)
I write letters to him.
I look at his photos.
Personally, I do not believe in closure since missing my son will be a life-long situation.
As long as I live, my son lives on in a meaningful way through me and always in my heart.
I love you and miss you Victor.