Thursday, October 25, 2012

Aftermath - Truthful Thursdays - TRIGGER Warning

TRIGGER WARNING:  This post is about suicide, so if you feel this may be a trigger for you - for ANY reason - please know in advance this is a first hand account of someone who lost a loved one to suicide and don't read it if it will be too hard.

***Submitted by Kathryn, who blogs at This Could Get Ugly

In a meeting, my phone rings.  

I see it's my oldest son and I push "silent", I'll call him back shortly.  He calls again as we're wrapping up, I joke, let me go call my son back, he probably needs money.  I text him "Text me, in a meeting".  

He answers "Call me please". 

Back at my desk, I call my boy.  "Mom, I don't know how to say this any other way.  Dad shot himself."  So calm, he's so calm, not true, that's not true, who told you that, WHO TOLD YOU THAT?  He's on his way to his father's house, no don't come, I'll call you, don't come, I'm fine, I'll call you mom.  

The phone drops from my hand.  

Coworkers rush to my side, lay their hands on me as I sob helplessly, I can't speak, can't tell them, what's wrong, what's wrong, oh my God please let him be alive but I know he's not alive, I know it in my heart that is broken, broken for my son and for his father who lost the battle with the demons in his brain.  

For how alone I know he felt at the moment he pulled the trigger and left us awash in grief and regret, why didn't I know this?  Why didn't you call me, you always called me when you needed to talk oh god why didn't you call me this time?  

I spoke to him on Monday, now it’s Wednesday and he’s dead. 

Watch my son go from a boy to a man in the space of hours.  It falls to him to plan his father's funeral because his stepmother can't, she wants him cremated immediately with no goodbyes.  This cannot happen, his father needs to see him, his mother, his sister...we need to see him.  We need to send him off.  We need to gather and weep and mourn and so he will stand up and say "My father will have a funeral", and she will agree.  She's devastated, I understand the impulse to put this behind her but it's my son and his grandfather I'm thinking of now.  

Have I been a good enough mother to my son, have I helped him grow into a young man who can deal with his father’s suicide and the aftermath, the death arrangements?  I don’t see him cry, ever…did I teach my son not to cry?  Please God let him not feel he has to hold all of this inside, don’t let my son be like his father who never projected any emotion but anger into the world until it literally killed him.  Please don’t let him be a man who can’t stand to deal with the emotions of others, he doesn’t let his friends come to the funeral because he doesn’t want them fussing over him, doesn’t want to deal with emotion.  Cannot go up and comfort his grandfather as he weeps over his dead son’s body in the coffin.  

“No, Mom, I can’t do it, I can’t handle the crying.”  Maybe my job as a mother isn’t done, or maybe I didn’t do it right.  My heart clenches…my boy is not whole.  His father is dead.  I want him to have the gift of grief, of breaking down in uncontrolled, cleansing  tears when it’s called for.  I can’t give him this…I can rarely give it to myself.   It’s so hard to accept that maybe it’s just who he is, that he still has growing to do as a man, and that my shame is perhaps misplaced.  He is not just me, he’s his father, too, and himself.  I could not bear to go to funerals at his age, as we get older we realize what a necessity it is despite the pain and awkwardness and crying people everywhere.  

The days pass in a twilight of unreality, a cloak of sadness.  Wake up every day, thank God I can sleep but the problem with that is waking up every day to knowing that my friend, my son's father, is dead...yes, it's still true.  Every day a new problem for my son to navigate, it falls to me to help him with his father's funeral and I gladly do it, I wish I could take this burden off of him but I have no standing, no authority...I was not his wife.  I will not do anything to cause her further pain and so I tread carefully between his father's family with whom I am still close, and his wife.  Sit with his 10 year old daughter, my son's half-sister, while they go into the funeral home to make plans...hold her while she cries, "I don't have a daddy anymore!"  

No baby girl, but your daddy loved you so much, he had  a smile in his voice every time he said your name, he was so proud of you, so proud, your daddy loved you and you will always have him, he's just gone away now but you have him.  

Smile at her questions, children are so honest.  "Were you married to my daddy?"  No, baby, your daddy was only ever married to your mommy. "Why does J (my five year old) live with you and not us?"  

He has a different daddy than you and your brother, he lives with his daddy and me.  Heart....broken.  I know if he could see this, the devastation of his children, he would not have done what he did, he loved these kids so much.  I know he couldn't see anything but the pain he thought was all that was left of his life.  This hurts my heart as much as his being gone from us now, why didn’t I know this?  Things run through my mind that I could have done, why didn’t I go to his job and make him go to the doctor, why didn’t I take him to the hospital, why didn’t I call his wife and ask her what was wrong with him, he seems depressed.  Why why why? There are no answers to any of our questions, and there never will be.  

We get through the days, we say our goodbyes.  His sister and I read poetry at his funeral.  My son gives his father a beautiful eulogy.  I am so very proud of my son, and almost unbearably sad that he has to do this. 
We are driving in the car on Tuesday, the first day we have alone since all the family has departed, he wants to show me the apartment he’s going to move into soon.  I can’t think right now about how it will feel when he doesn’t live here anymore, I’m too raw with grief over his father to contemplate how that will feel and anyway I know that it’s all part of the same thing.  I can’t cling to him now because of this, he needs to make his own way in the world. 

The first thing we do when we get in the car is turn on Third Eye Blind, the self-titled album.  He says “I’ve been playing this every day, it’s got me through ”.  Feel my heart lift that my son has found comfort and release the same way that I have these last few days, listening to our favorite music.  I tell him that I wanted to play this at his dad’s funeral but we both know the family wouldn’t have understood.  

My poor, lost friend. 

I am left wondering what I missed, what happened, what I could have done.  I feel so guilty that I didn’t know you would do this, that the conversations we were having were your way of saying goodbye, not asking me how to change things you had so much regret about.  My guilt at not being able to keep you from leaving this world...I don’t know what to do with that.  None of us put the gun in your hand, but I feel like I should have KNOWN.  And I feel shame that whenever I think about how you died, I feel not only the loss of you, and the loss our son is experiencing, but also a deep gratitude that you didn’t take anyone else with you; that you were just a suicide, horrible enough, but thank God not a murder-suicide.  I can’t help those feelings but they make me feel so small. 

The ache I feel for how you left us, for how you couldn’t see any other way, will stay with me as long as I live.  I will watch over our son, and your daughter.  

I will say your name every day, hoping that one day you’ll answer.  


  1. There ... are ... no ... words. Thank you for sharing your heart. It means SO much!

  2. This is so heartwrenching, and brave. I'm speechless, really - as Judy says, there are no words. Please know I'm holding you and and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Your ability to put feelings into words is stunning.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this, for sewing meaning into what could have gone the lonely, bitter direction of meaninglessness. May you all find some peace.

  4. Someone from my university who I respected and liked a great deal shot himself. I said I would call him after his holiday and didn't. Then I never got the chance to. It wouldn't have made a difference, but the fact I didn't call when I said I would - and didn't get a second chance - makes me sad.

    At his funeral a colleague of his, who is a psychologist and business coach, said to me that he always taught everyone that they have choices, and to live their life with choice. He had to accept that our friend made his ultimate choice.

    We cannot make anyone do anything. Or not do anything. We can wish that we could, we can try and influence, we can look back and think "If only..." but the truth is that people make their own choices. And sometimes we have to accept their choices even - ESPECIALLY - when they are desperately not what we want them to be. We can do nothing else, because we truly do not have the control or ability to change others.

    You did what you could for your friend, for your son's father - even if you didn't know what was in his mind. I didn't phone my friend. I thought I had time when I didn't; but it would not have made a difference. There are many things that could have been different, but there is nothing to guarantee that the outcome would have been any different.

    And to be grateful that he didn't take anyone with him? That is human. To be grateful that his pain was not so great as that, to see the grace in the small mercies of life, to know that it could have been worse but wasn't.

    I wish you peace. {Hugs}