Coping With The Loss Of My Son After Suicide

Aaron Burden

The call came that my son was gone. All I kept asking was what do you mean he is “gone”?

The death an unborn child or infant is certainly heartbreaking to the parents and the extended family. A sweet young life lost to all the possibilities.

Howbeit, when my son of twenty-seven years was taken from me by the horrible disease of depression leading to suicide, the pain came from a whole different paradigm. This was not what I signed up for when I became a mother! I expected to grow old watching my child live a happy productive life. Suddenly, a lifetime of watching him grow, become a man, start a family, and become an adult gone. Suicide is an ending to the pain of the person who succumbs. Yet, it is only the beginning to those of us left behind to pick up the pieces of our existence.

I was in shock in the beginning and really didn’t feel anything. I don’t believe I cried during that first couple of days after Christopher’s death. I later busied myself with doctor appointments and self-care became a priority even though I was resistant to the idea. The psychiatrist, psychologist, and even my primary care doctors all worked together to keep me capable of basic functioning. Slowly the coping skills began to find their way into my perplexed and anxiety-ridden mind.

It seemed incomprehensible that everything in our lives we had taken for granted as the truth was forever altered. Hopes, dreams, the future as we knew it all sent to oblivion in a single moment. However, even though I did not believe it possible in that first couple of years, things have begun to change into more of a “normal” pattern and flow. My husband and I tentatively moved on into our “new normal”. We acknowledge there will always be the rough days and they must run their course. We have learned we cannot rush our healing nor ignore our grief.

The most arduous battle was the immediate absence of someone I had spent a lifetime caring for. I wondered if he would be remembered as others moved on with their lives after the immediacy of the crisis. I pulled out every picture I had and went through his life over again remembering every detail of what made him who he was. I made albums, filled containers of all his childhood belongings. Carefully placing cherished awards and projects from school for safe keeping to give to his daughters when they are grown.

I found on-line support groups to be very useful as they allowed me to be in the throes of a meltdown and still communicating through the keyboard. This allowed real-time conversations with others who shared the same pain I felt. These groups allowed me to avoid the human contact I was not ready for in my delicate state. These groups provide families and individuals, in varying stages of recovery, the chance to help each other and provide hope to those who are not as far along in their own recovery.

My husband and I are and will continue to be our child’s parents. The fact that he is not here physically does not mean he is no longer our son. We still are the parents of three sons.

My personal mission has become to make sure my son is never forgotten. I require his memory be in totality and not summed up the one heartbreaking moment in which he left this life. This purpose gave me the fortitude to begin looking for possible ways to become a stronger person.

I recently signed up for classes and am working on becoming a Grief Recovery Specialist. Helping others is also becoming a wonderful tool in my own recovery. Using the new competencies, I have and will be learning, to aid another is a healing process in and of itself. It may not seem possible, but at some point, you will be the person who is further down the recovery path than the next:

• You will know what works for you and what may work for another grieving parent
• You will have informative insight of a child loss survivor because you are one

There will be pain which may seem insurmountable. Allow yourself to accept help and live life. Remember there is someone somewhere who has answers when you are ready. You may need a friend or family member to take the first step for you to begin healing. Sometimes you simply may not be capable of seeking help on your own. It’s perfectly respectable to receive and utilize the help you need.

Alternately, so is being capable and strong. It doesn’t mean you cared less or aren’t grieving enough because you are capable of strength in adversity. The reality of grieving is that your grief won’t be like anyone else. Grief is as individual as the person grieving.

Every one of us as a survivor can truly aspire to live their life while preserving their precious child’s memories. Eventually, time and perseverance will allow you to forge ahead finding your way to hope and your “new normal”!
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