April 29th marked two years since John's tragic death by suicide. As we often say here on the forum, the anticipation of the date was worse than the actual day itself. I’ve read posts from many who said the second year was harder than the first. I had steeled myself for that possibility, while at the same time resolving to myself that it would not be so for me. And it wasn’t. I’m not saying that I didn’t have really harsh bad days, because I did. But the second year was not harder than the first - for me.
I think that’s so for many reasons. I wish I could give you a guidebook and tell you exactly what to do to ease this grief journey, but it’s so different for each of us. I have decided to share some rather practical things I did this past year because they really helped me.
I stayed with this forum. I didn’t post as much but I did read and respond. I found and still find that welcoming new members, while heartbreaking and sad, helped me to reinforce the message of hope in my own heart. Giving hope and love to others gives you so much more in return.
I made my own rituals to honor my son. These are private, quirky and my own. I will share just this one; I love the idea of a candle burning for my son 24x7. I found a beautiful flameless candle and it does just that for me.
I made a conscious effort to spend more time with my memories than my sadness. In the first year, at some point, I found myself answering back the guilt and what if thoughts with positive memories and loving statements about my relationship with my son. Over time it became a reflex for me and now that muscle is very strong.
I worked hard at getting back to doing day-to-day things. There’s a stage after every loss where we feel like the world has no right to go on as it does. We feel that we know what really matters and it isn’t all the trivial things we do every day. We feel that nothing has meaning without our loved one. I felt this after the loss of each of my family members who have died. And it passes – we reset to normal. This is much harder to do after John’s death. The death of a child is like no other loss. But if I didn’t start caring about the day-to-day things, I discovered that the only thing I would care about was my grief and sadness. I know that John would want me to cultivate a life that focused on more than grief and sadness; so I started to care about regular things a bit more to show John that I was still living. And I think I’ve started to live again.
I planned outings and trips to give us something to look forward to. Sometimes easier said than done, but I’m glad I pushed us to do things again.
I became more open with people about mental illness, depression and suicide. I talk about it. I started to share John’s story because I can. I work with some of his friends on suicide awareness and prevention in his memory.
I accepted that people have a hard time relating to me since I lost a child and I don’t need to fix them. I don’t know their demons or their battles and they don’t know mine. I keep those close who have kept me close. I have always preferred to have a few close friends than many acquaintances.
I put my grief in its place. I started doing this without actually realizing what I was doing. Every day, at the beginning of my day, I spend a few moments talking to my son out loud. Over time I could “hear” his answers in my head. It became both a ritual and also a time for me to review what had happened, where I was and how I got there. It was in a way like the movie 50 First Dates, when Drew Barrymore’s character watches a videotape every morning to remember why she doesn’t remember. I didn’t need this to remember that my son was gone, but I needed it to remember how far I had come. I needed it to tell John what I was doing and get his approval – which I could hear and feel.
This past year was not all sunshine and roses; there was heartbreak and a lot of hard work. I'm sharing this to provide hope. Never lose sight of the hope. I’ll close this post by thanking each of you for your friendship, kindness, love and understanding. I send you my sincerest wishes for peace in your hearts.
This post first appeared on the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors forum. Reprinted with the permission of the author. Visit our moderated community of support to those who have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one to suicide.