Splashes of Grief Relief

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In Memory of my son ~ Gone Too Soon

August 21, 1974 ~ August 11, 2005

 “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

Like many of you who have lost a child, after losing my son to suicide I felt stuck in a place of sadness where there are no pleasant memories. It took years for this story to surface in my mind. I share it to encourage you. If my life is a worthy example, mirth will likely bubble up eventually like it did for me; however, by no means will I ever forget my precious firstborn son. No matter where we are in our grief journeys today, we can expect to go through highs and lows throughout the rest of our lives. Change is inevitable, even in grief.

I walked the yard this evening, picking up broken limbs from the recent wind and rain. The muggy air reminded me of another evening some years before. I choose to share a story with you which, surprisingly, takes me to a time when laughter was out of place. If you think our actions were inappropriate I might be inclined to agree except . . . I was there.

Our house was bulging at the seams with people from both sides of the family. It was the first such gathering since our wedding many years before; however, I hated the reason for this gathering. Every fiber of my being rebelled at its necessity. The reason? A funeral would be taking place. Our firstborn son, Greg, had succumbed to his pain by taking his life.

Vehicles arrived and packed the driveway. As more people came cars spilled onto the lawn. Although grateful for the outpouring of love I was in overload by the sheer volume of humanity. People gathered in little groups here and there, upstairs and down, getting introduced or reacquainted while I wanted to run and hide for the rest of my life.

It was typical late summer weather with hot temperatures matched by high humidity. The AC was working overtime trying to keep everyone comfortable. As the sun dropped in the western sky the temperature dropped just enough to make the outdoors a bit more inviting. The young people were drawn to the backyard, setting up lawn chairs in a circle. No doubt they wanted to put some much-desired space between themselves and the “old people” in the house. As all of us have likely experienced “the young and the restless” aren’t likely to wear sad faces for very long. Soon they are looking around for something to do besides sit and talk, even something fun. Who could blame them? Naturally, I hadn’t planned anything for them. After all, this trip was out of necessity, not pleasure. The family members who took over the kitchen saw that the kids got fed, but beyond that, they were on their own.

Taking a shortcut to the backyard through the garage, my step-son spied a super soaker water gun on top of my firstborn’s things. Retracing his steps he retrieved it. Grinning, he showed it to me. With my smile of approval, he promptly took it to the faucet for filling. No exchange of words, but, I knew his target would be the gang relaxing in the backyard. In the semi-darkness, it would be easy to creep up on the unsuspecting. My sisters, niece, and I hid behind bushes at the corner of the house where we were close enough to watch but well out of the way should the “circle” suddenly explode.

My stepson stealthily approached, keeping to the shadows until he got within firing range. Then whoosh . . . he shot a stream of water in the direction of the chatter. The kids jumped up and chairs toppled backward. My youngest son and nephews headed for garden hoses and buckets. A water war was on! We ladies filled buckets, supplying “ammo” for either side in an attempt to stay neutral . . . and dry. Water hoses could stretch only so far so the big guys were carrying buckets brimming with water which they enthusiastically dumped over the heads of kids who ventured into their line of fire. For a brief period of time, we were shrieking, laughing, and having a ball.

Our closest neighbors knew why our “parking lot” was full. Maybe the whooping and hollering sounded disrespectful, but for a moment or two, I could set aside the heaviness of grief and take a brief respite from the unbearable pain. This break was special and created a “dripping” memory in the midst of such deep sorrow.

I had not thought of the super-soaker incident in years. I was too sad to plan activities for the kids at the time. Their wants were the farthest thing from my mind. Yet, when the opportunity presented itself it seemed quite natural to embrace it.  Like his maternal relatives before him, Greg had loved a good practical joke. He would’ve been right in the thick of it, laughing his head off. Oh, how I miss his robust laugh! 

I imagine that you have stored memories that will eventually surface to bring a smile to your face. Give it time. When they do surface and it’s appropriate, will you please share them? Laughter lightens the emotional load of us all.

There is little that separates our emotional highs and lows. My memory is an example of spontaneous grief relief, plain and simple. It allowed my heart to briefly escape the agony of overwhelming pain before the seriousness of sorrow quickly overtook me once again. After all, our reality is only a thought away.  

Those who think grief has a time limit are mistaken. If you have lost a piece of your heart you know that there is no itinerary. No timetable. No judgment. Grief is as individual as a snowflake or fingerprint. Just breathe, and do what feels right for your soul.

Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains. Proverbs 14:13 

Scripture from New Living Translation (NLT)

Quote by Erma Bombeck, Brainy Quote

When Others Ask . . .

 

Do you have additional baggage in your grief? There may be grievers who suffer guilt alongside their immense pain. Other grievers may feel shamed by the hush that comes over those who hear them say the word “Suicide” in their presence. Some grievers may feel so ashamed that they resort to lying about the cause of death to avoid the unfriendly stares and harsh responses. There may be clergy who refuse to hold memorial services for families when they find out the cause of death. Some grievers experience the loss of friendships after a suicide takes one of their own. We who grieve a beloved someone who died by suicide have suffered these and more.

Family members have been known to turn their backs on the parents, even going so far as to cast blame which happened to me. There are untold hurts heaped on those who lose a beloved child to suicide. I know each reader can name additional hurts, and I am so sorry for your pain. The actions of others can be so unkind at a time when unconditional love and support are what’s needed at the beginning of our sorrows and for years to come.

Soon after the suicide of my son, Greg, the doorbell rang. I opened the door to see a couple standing before me wearing friendly smiles. We had never met them before. They quickly introduced themselves as nearby neighbors who had heard about our son’s death. It was kind of them to stop by, and I told them that we appreciated their thoughtfulness and then . . . .

After my husband and I introduced ourselves to the couple the lady inquired, “Did he die in the military?” My mind raced. I was caught off guard. I had not yet prepared a response to the delicate question I figured I would face at some point, just not yet. The seconds of silence was deafening in my ears. I had to give them some kind of answer . . . so I told them the truth.

“No,” my voice cracked, “He died by suicide.”

My confusion grew as I watched their smiles melt away. Without another word, they backed away from our door and seemed to evaporate before our eyes.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what did I say wrong? I didn’t say that our home was under quarantine due to the Bubonic Plague or that we had an infestation of fleas. Unfortunately, we had just been exposed to society’s general reaction to a suicide death. Would there be other occasions? Oh, yes. Has it happened in your experience as well? I’m sure it has.

There is always the first time and it’s difficult to know how to respond. Maybe I could have answered from a place of strength if I had been on my grief journey for a while. As time went on and other opportunities arose, it still felt right to be truthful. I am not ashamed of my son’s action, just sorry that he chose to leave. We who grieve are saturated with sadness much of the time. No matter how we choose to respond we have the right to protect our feelings.

Society is always curious, but not always kind. Many voice their negative opinions in a myriad of ways. Maybe you attend the same church or support group. Some folks may say the wrong things just because they have not experienced tragic loss firsthand. They have no idea what we go through each day. In their ignorance they may say things that hurt our feelings, shame us even. This action kicks the guilt we already feel up a notch, leaving us licking our wounds in silence.

Are we forced into feeling shame because this is what society expects? Enough already. No more ridicule. No more shame. No more silence. We choose to speak out about the ones we loved, lost, and will always love. Our children no longer have a voice so we will speak for them. Maybe we have their last words written down. If so, we will treasure them. And we will share their shortened lives with the world because they were precious and deserving of life.

After years on my grief journey, I am able to answer the suicide question with the intent to educate. Mind you, I have been on my journey long enough to be able to do this. I had such an opportunity recently while waiting to see the doctor. A lady sitting nearby was rather chatty and engaged me in conversation. Unexpectedly, she made a casual reference to suicide and her negative perception of those who take their own lives. Instantly I was on it. I countered her statement with thoughts of my own, telling her that I have the grieving heart of a mother who lost her child to suicide. I shared a bit of what I have learned along my grief journey. She took it all in. Hopefully, she walked away with a different mindset and will share it if the opportunity arises. We educate one at a time, do we not?

Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense. Proverbs 15:2 

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)  

 

 

Soul Hunger

 

We who grieve know what it means to be hungry. Not food for the belly, but food for the soul. Soul hunger affects all who lose a precious child. I don’t think I am alone here. I have lost others who were precious to me, but losing my child was different in so many ways. There is the fresh, raw pain like no other, then, after much time has passed there is a deep ache in the soul.

Call it longing, not hunger if you like. The soul longs for the ones missed. In her thoughts, a mom may return to the stage of pregnancy with the one she’s lost, feeling them once again in the pre-birth state. My son was fully grown when he died by suicide, yet, he is forever my baby until we meet again. Does this make sense? You may not feel this way. I wouldn’t dare breathe these thoughts to my family; I would be met with stares and quizzical frowns. I’m thinking that other moms get what I am saying.

I have lived the deep longing, the deep hunger for years now. Soon it will be 16 years and the ache is there always. It’s manageable. No one knows it’s there, but me. It’s hard to describe, but if you know this pain, too, you understand. It’s a hunger that can’t be quenched although I’ve tried. Sorry to reveal, I’ve tried to fill it with “fake” food. Fake food doesn’t satisfy hunger. Instead, it lands on the hips, and from there it’s so hard to get rid of.

There is someone who knows all about my deep ache for my son. He knows me intimately. He also knew my Greg intimately. In fact, He gave him to me to love and nurture, beaming with pride as He looked on. He watched my son take on sadness at an early age. He knew what would be the outcome, but I didn’t. The difficult part of this story is that He didn’t manipulate the future and change the outcome. It was allowed to play out on the stage we call life.

After my son’s death, I turned my back on my friend. I couldn’t handle the fact that I prayed to Him to save my son from death and He didn’t intervene. I became angry and hatred toward my friend pulsated through my being. In mind and heart, I raged at my friend. I had plenty to rage about. Not only had God failed me, so had family who blamed me for my son’s death. I raged at all of them until I tired of the fight.

I don’t remember how or when, but God finally got my attention. I was ready to listen. Although He did not tell me why He did not intervene, He did reveal to my heart that His love for me and for my son was eternal. He did not take my son’s life, but He did allow him to reap the result of his actions. The details are known only to Him. Some day I will know. Some day when Greg and I are together with God, I can ask Him and He will explain. Until then, I am finally ready to let it rest.

Many of you have had fewer years on your grief journey. You are likely still asking the “Why” questions as well you should. A Mama’s grief goes deep. She does not get over her loss. Others may point to the clock and tell her it’s past time for her to do so, but she should listen to her heart and not their voices.

When I began to journal, I wrote page after page of pain. Everything that came to my heart I would jot down. It helped. It also was the way God communicated with me. Thoughts would come to my mind. Words of scripture that I didn’t know how to locate, but as I referenced them the understanding became clear. I began to see God in a different light. I had grown up being told He was loving, but now I was experiencing it for myself. We were bonding. We were beginning a relationship that I had never experienced before. My child had died on His watch and mine. Surprisingly, I was learning to trust the life-giver in spite of my loss.

As I have said, heaven will reveal all things. Our minds will be so much wiser. Our understanding, too. We will get where God was coming from when He “appeared” to not save our children or other loved ones. Actually, God has shared enough with my heart for me to hint that He really did save my son. I don’t have him now because he was in so much pain. The enemy of our souls thirsted for the death of my boy. God, in His mercy, let him go so that he could be free from the torment. I loved my boy too much to have him suffer. I would rather have died in his place, but even if that exchange were possible, I could not take away my son’s pain.

Hope is what I fill my soul hunger with today. Hope will not disappoint. Hope lifts my spirits as I look forward to the Grand Reunion when Greg and I will hug and dance for joy.

Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23b

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

 

 

This entry was posted on July 2, 2021. 6 Comments

His Approval

I am second-guessing again these days. Maybe it’s because time is inching closer to the coming anniversary of my firstborn’s death. I’ve never warmed to these annual reminders. I still hate their persistence. I dread them. I breathe a sigh of relief when they are over and the next one won’t come around for another 365 days.

Since I lost my Greg years ago to suicide I still wonder “Why?” I don’t have a completed puzzle of his life so I find myself still searching for missing pieces. I wonder . . . what if I had done this or that? Would it have made a difference? Did I love my child enough? Did he know deep down in his soul that he was loved? Did I shower enough praise? I can’t help but wonder did I do enough for my children, especially my firstborn? Did he get his needs met? Somehow I think that he did not. Perhaps I couldn’t meet them at the level he needed them and when he needed them. Now I will never know. Do you have similar wonderings?                                

Two memories surface with these self-reflection questions. I’ll share them with you. Perhaps some of your own memories will surface in your mind as a part of your story. Please share your memories if you think they could help someone else.

The first memory is of me as a young child. I remember my mother and grandmother saying in my hearing, “We don’t want to give her too much praise or she will get a swelled head.” As a grownup, I ask, “Is there such a thing as too much praise?” I don’t remember getting praise as a child. Surely I did, but I don’t remember being told, “good job” like parents tell their children nowadays. Did I follow my mother’s thinking by not giving my children enough praise?

The second memory is of my precious 2-year-old granddaughter. She is a twin and the more rambunctious of the two. At this tender age, these little girls want their parents to notice them and shower praise. Somehow they instinctively want and need their parents’ approval. I was sitting on the piano bench with the “rambunctious” child on my lap. Grandpa’s lap held the other twin. The girls were “playing” the piano, making beautiful noise. The twin on my lap was playing the bass notes. She leaned on the keys, pounding the best sound out of them. She paused and clapped her hands, grinning from ear to ear, but that wasn’t enough. Something was missing. Ah, yes, Daddy needed to hear her play and applaud. She leaned to one side so her voice could carry around the corner to the next room and yelled, “Da-ye, Da-ye.” As little as she was, she knew that praise must come from somebody who loves her the most.

“Da-ye” came to listen to his daughters’ play the piano. He smiled, clapped, and told both girls what a good job they were doing. Daddy may not realize it now and his girls may not remember this story being so young, but he has already made a positive impression on the minds and hearts of his precious daughters.

After losing a child it is impossible not to second guess decisions made, words said, actions taken in the lives of those we loved and lost. The heart longs to make sense of the ache. The mind searches for understanding. We second guess as long as we need to until we can somehow make sense out of the deaths of our beloved children. Second-guessing aside, I do my best to love the children who are still in my life as I am sure you do, too. We did our best to raise our children. If we had known better we would have done better.

The praise our children crave is what we crave, too. People have come and gone in my life who let me down in one way or another. We are human. We make mistakes. We hurt each other. We lash out in our grief. When others fail to live up to my expectations there is one who always does. I have His love. His praise. His approval. He holds me close in spirit when the “why” questions surface in my mind and my heart aches for answers. Somehow I know that when the time is right I will have every question answered. However, I may no longer care about answers once I see my son again, all brand new. I can already imagine hugging each other and jumping for joy. Together at last we will be excited and ready to explore heaven. Can you picture how it will be for you and your loved ones?

We look forward to what God has promised—a new heaven and a new earth—a place where everything that has God’s approval lives. 2 Peter 3:13 

Verse shared from God’s Word Translation (GW)

 

 

 

This entry was posted on June 7, 2021. 2 Comments

Womb to Tomb

Today I drove by the cemetery that Hubby and I “own” a piece of. Our son is buried there. As I penned this piece, it’s winter. Greg’s vase is empty and has been turned upside down until spring. It’s cold so I don’t stop, but as I drive by I talk to my son, telling him how much I miss him. How much I love him. There’s an ache in my heart where his memory resides. There will always be an ache until I clasp him in my arms again.

As I continued driving to my destination I thought about the shortness of life. So many people die young; many are children. Over the last year, our nation has lost children during the coronavirus. Corona didn’t kill them. Isolation did. Being socially isolated and lonely can lead to depression, and we know where depression can lead. During the absence of school, some kids have taken their own lives. I listened to one Mother’s news story. She talked about losing her once-effervescent child. He became despondent over his school being closed for so long that he took his own life. How sad! If schools remain closed I fear that we could lose more young people to this dreaded killer. Depression and suicide are often linked together. I believe they were for my son.

From womb to tomb is such a short distance for us grievers. I think back to some time ago when I was still angry at my higher power. Again the questions surface: Why didn’t He prevent my son from taking his life? He had the power so why didn’t He use it? Further, if my higher power has foreknowledge and already knew the number of my son’s days on earth, why did He give him to me in the first place? Why did I birth Greg if I was going to lose him to death? Maybe you’ve had similar questions.

As I mulled over these questions without answers, this thought came to my heart: I was supposed to have Greg. He was handpicked just for me. No other child could take his place. He was chosen for me to love for as long as he lived. I don’t know my higher power’s reasoning. I won’t know the whole story until heaven, but I believe that He is love. He makes decisions out of love. Parents have been given their sweet babies to love never thinking that they might outlive them; I know I didn’t. We never think we’ve had them long enough, but I doubt that we wish we had never had them at all. It’s hard to process these thoughts, but I cannot imagine my life without my firstborn. He was my joy, my sunshine, and I loved him as much as you loved your child or other loved one.

You may have lost your beloved to suicide or another cause. You may have just buried him or her. Your heart is shattered into a zillion pieces. You can barely breathe. You feel like you are walking in a fog, unable to get your bearings. You wonder how long will I be broken? Is it possible to live out my life in this pain? You feel alone. All who gathered have returned to their homes and lives. Have they forgotten about your loss? They don’t call. They don’t write. I am sorry if these words mirror your life right now. If you are reading this piece you are among those who get what you are going through. Please keep breathing while putting one foot in front of the other. Please pour out your pain here. We open the circle of support and let you in so we can grieve together.

We understand the womb part. We had our beautiful children and some of them are no longer in our lives. Like my child, yours may be in a patch of land “you own.” You visit. You mourn your loss. You wonder how long it will be until you are reunited. I wonder the same. Here is where I want to inject a little hope. You may believe that the tomb is not the end. I do. I hope in the day that my son will soar upward from his dusty bed, and we will meet in the skies.

An ancient book tells me that the tomb is not the end. I wonder if Greg and I will soar to the skies together. It may be a bit chaotic with so much commotion as cemeteries empty and angels unite parents and children. Here is where my imagination kicks in. My son’s angel, I call him Gabe, will bring Greg to me in a flash. This is a job he has been waiting to do. He smiles broadly as we hug and dance for joy. Don’t doubt the dancing in the air bit. We will no longer be bound by gravity as we fly through space. Perhaps you can imagine your own reunion story. Think about it. Dwell on it. Be encouraged by it. We hope it will happen sooner than we think.

Soon our time on earth from womb to tomb will be a thing of the past. We will forever be living beyond the tomb! We will forget about the troubles we had on earth as we busy ourselves doing wonderful things in heaven with our children and other loved ones. Death can’t claim those we love anymore and that’s good news! I suspect we all can’t wait for our new lives to begin.

“On that day—though men and women have spent lifetimes scanning the skies hoping that “perhaps today” is the day of salvation—on that day, the confessed lovers of God and Jesus will glow with all the wonder of children at Christmas.”

Quoted preface, 2 Thessalonians, The Voice (VOICE)

This entry was posted on May 5, 2021. 4 Comments

The Last Temptation

Retelling an old story for the Easter season . . .

Tiptoeing past snoring disciples ~ the ones Jesus had asked to pray with Him ~ Satan paused before the King of Kings. With hair matted and clothes soaked in blood-tinged sweat, He looked more like a vagrant than a king. He clung to the rock, His hands grasping outcrops as if this boulder were His lifeline. It was obvious He was praying which made Satan snort in disgust.

Satan nudged His side with a sandaled foot. Jesus shuttered slightly, then raised His head to look into the face of His archenemy. Squinting, Satan eyed his rival warily. Jesus sure didn’t look like a king. His face streaked with a mix of dust and tears. For all the world it appeared that Satan had the upper hand. This was going to be the easiest battle yet, Satan thought to himself. I plan to take full advantage of His weakness and pound Him into submission once and for all! If this was the final showdown in a long string of battles over the ages, Satan was not about to lose this one. The position he had coveted since the beginning would be his at last.

Standing over his hollow-eyed rival, Satan almost felt pity . . . but not quite. “Hey, Man,” he sneered. “You’re a mess! I should’ve at least brought you a change of clothes. You look awful . . . compared to me,” he boasted, thumping his chest. Pointing to the sleeping disciples he added, “You don’t need to worry about them. Some faithful friends they turned out to be.” Getting to the point of this visit, Satan challenged, “You and I both know I’m the one in charge down here so why don’t you skedaddle back home to Daddy. There’s no need for both of us to be here. I have things perfectly under control.” Satan continued the taunts with an evil smirk on his face, “You know, Man, I’ve never really understood why you’d want to risk your life on lowly earthlings anyway. Go home where you belong and leave the “dung of the earth” in my capable hands. After all, they’ve been serving me all along anyway.”

Satan’s taunts meant nothing to Jesus. He was focused solely on completing His mission. Death was imminent and His heart was breaking. Could He endure the blackout? Could He keep His hold on His Father during their separation? For a few moments, He allowed His mind to wander back to His wilderness experience. After 40 days of fasting, the enemy showed up then, too. Knowing that Jesus was weak from hunger, Satan threw suggestions at Him, tempting Him to use His power to save Himself. That was the beginning of His ministry. This was the climax. His 30+ years of doing His Father’s will had prepared Him for this moment in time. He must not fail!

The battle to save humanity was over. Jesus bowed His head in submission to the purpose that brought Him from heaven to earth. Men with torches arrived. His “sheep” fled. Like a lamb, the Shepherd was led to His slaughter.

He willingly suffered and died. And He did that so that through God’s grace, He might taste death on behalf of everyone. 

Were we worth it?

Jesus was thinking of His children that dreadful night. He remembered us as the whip sliced open His back. He remembered us when the mallet sank the crown of thorns into His flesh. During His horrific ordeal, He thought only of us, and He did not fail! The sinless One died for all the sins of the world, slept the sleep of death, and arose triumphantly! No evil power could stop Him! His mission completed, He returned to His Father but left His Spirit behind . . .

The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in My name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you. My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful. 

~ The pain of living pressured my firstborn to do the unthinkable ~

Fast forward to the shortened lives of our children: Satan taunts, cajoles, pushes, belittles, shames, and badgers earthlings into submission. The pain of living pressured my firstborn to take action against the pain in his mind and heart. It must have seemed like there was no way out of the blackness pressing him into hopelessness. I imagine the suffocating darkness descended upon him making it hard to breathe. In a moment of weakness ~ just as Satan showed up during Jesus’ weakest hour ~ I can picture evil showing up to taunt my son. I have no doubt both good and evil were represented as my son struggled. He was weary of the pain; he just wanted it to stop. Voices taunted him to end it. Greg chose to do just that and his suffering ended. Now he is at peace.

For me, here is where both stories, Jesus’ and mine, connect across the sands of time. Although Satan points out that my firstborn is guilty of “self-murder,” Jesus points to His scars. Because Jesus did not fail at the cross, my son has the opportunity to live again and this time it will be forever. This time it will be in heaven. This time there will never be another Satan to tempt him or anyone else. Because Satan did not get his way at Jesus’ tomb, he does not have the last word about death. Only Jesus, who paid for all the sins of mankind, has the last word. He alone has the power to wake up those who will be all brand new and ready to live again. This time forever really is f-o-r-e-v-e-r!

Easter is about sacrifice
Easter is about love
Easter is about hope

Hebrews 2:9b; John 14:26-27 shared from The Voice (VOICE)

 

This entry was posted on March 12, 2021. 4 Comments

Eyes of Blue

There is an old English proverb that says that the eyes are windows to the soul. Do you believe this is true? When one has the opportunity to look deeply into the eyes of another, sometimes you can see their heart, can you not? Yes, I believe that our eyes are open windows.

Eyes are lovely to behold, be they brown, blue, green, gray, or every shade in between, but it’s not really about the color. It’s what’s behind the color ~ the heart that beats within every soul by divine design.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.” Mt. 6:22

I think genetic characteristics are fascinating. Eye color passed down from generation to generation is one of the most recognizable characteristics. In my story, strong family genes of blue eyes met strong family genes of brown eyes, and I married my blue-eyed man. Later, I birthed two sons. One had blue eyes and one has brown eyes like mine. My brown-eyed son married his blue-eyed bride. Only time will tell what color their identical twin girls’ eyes will be.

I loved my firstborn’s blue eyes, so clear and bright in contrast with my dark ones. His eyes fairly danced when he was a bitty munchkin. His curiosity made him an explorer of anything he could dig up or dig into. My hands were full with just this one energetic child!

“He had these eyes. They were blue. They were soulful, in some way; they seemed to say things that I knew he’d probably never said out loud.” Audrey Bell

Somewhere along his growing up years, a time when one naturally spreads one’s wings, Greg’s eyes took on a sad quality. He’d look away rather than make eye contact. I could no longer plumb his depths of blue in an attempt to read his heart. It became clearer as he grew into manhood that under a thin veneer of priceless laughter, my firstborn was sad inside. I assumed he inherited a bent toward melancholy from me, but there was more. Depression set in. Oh, how it makes my heart ache to realize anew that I was powerless to change him back to his once-happy childhood!

My firstborn ended his sadness and pain when he took his own life. It was totally unnatural to look down upon his still form, his blue eyes closed as if he was just taking a nap, but there was no rapid eye movement that naturally occurs during sleep. His form was harshly firm. A kiss planted on his forehead felt strangely cold. I could not deny the indicators that no sign of life remained.

I marveled that he could look so peaceful after what he had been through. I so wanted him to open his lovely blue eyes, yawn, and stretch as if waking from a nap and say, “Hey Mom, I’m starved. What’s for dinner?”

Sorrowfully, my firstborn’s “windows to his soul” were closed forever in this life. He was no longer sad; he was no longer anything. I find comfort in the knowledge that he is sleeping the sleep of death, according to Daniel 12:2 and other verses. King Solomon seems to add a “heads up” with these words: “Whatever you find to do, do it well because where you are going—the grave—there will be no working or thinking or knowing or wisdom” (Eccl. 9:10). You may believe otherwise, and I respect your right to do so.

I can no longer hear the laughter from my blue-eyed boy, except in my memory, but I am grateful to have memories of him. Memories bring him to life in my mind. I love to relive these precious memories which comfort me along my grief journey. Do you have memories that bring you comfort? Care to share?

If your memories are decidedly sad at this time, that’s okay. They won’t always be so. Someday you will find yourself chuckling at a memory that popped up so quickly in your mind that you didn’t have time to think whether it came from “before or after.” You just spontaneously laughed out loud. To laugh does not mean that you have forgotten your loved one or that you are being unfaithful to their memory. You are beginning to embrace his or her entire life with all their memories together.

Let’s never lose hope that we will one day look into those beautiful eyes of our children again. I will be able to look deeply into my firstborn’s blue eyes, and he won’t turn away in pain. Instead, we will smile and laugh at the thrilling discovery of our new, heavenly surroundings. We will have the time of our lives catching up on the time we lost.

“On that day, with a command that thunders into the world, with a voice of a chief heavenly messenger, and with a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven; and all those who died in the Anointed One, our Liberating King, will rise from the dead first.” 1 Thes. 4:16 

Quote by Audrey Bell, “The Fall of January Cooper,” Goodreads

Verses from The Message Bible (MSG); The Voice (VOICE)

 

This entry was posted on February 5, 2021. 4 Comments

Better Together

We have embarked on a new beginning. The calendar reads 2021. What lies ahead? Can the New Year be worse than the one we’ve just lived through? Before 2020 we were unfamiliar with Covid-19. Now we are too familiar. Many of us have lost loved ones which adds to the grief we already bear. Bravely, we survivors put one foot in front of the other as we face 2021.

One death is too many, but our climbing numbers may surprise you. They reveal that we have gone far beyond the imagination of just how many survivors there are. Numbers are cold and unfeeling, but each one represents parents, families, and friends left behind to grieve. At the beginning of this New Year let’s review just how much we’ve grown.

Numbers lack emotion, but they don’t lie, especially numbers that represent people. We are grieving people and particularly grieving mothers. Let’s face it. Most grievers on social media are Mothers. (But Dads are just as important.) Perhaps some of you are members of more than one grief group. Each group has a unique character about it that draws you into its embrace. Some groups post lots of pictures or images you like to view. Others may draw you into a conversation about your grief experience, making you feel less alone. A common thread connects us with other grievers who suffer a similar loss. We make cyber friendships that help sustain us as we journey through our grief.

I am a mom who survives the death of her firstborn child, Gregory Scott, by suicide. I am also a member of a grief group. Actually, I am a member of many groups where I share my heart and soul via my grief blog. Many readers have followed my stories for as long as I’ve been posting them. Over the 8+years we’ve been together, we’ve grown in our ability to touch each other’s lives. We’ve also grown in size. Applying simple math skills I have discovered that our numbers are staggering.

Since I spend much of my time creating what I share I have paid little attention to the number of members except to note that our growth is climbing at an alarming rate. The group administrators are very much aware of our rapid growth. They are the unsung heroes who put their hurting hearts on the line as they greet each new member. Among the other things they do, they ask us to help make the newbies feel welcome. We graciously respond.

For the sake of simplicity, I began counting the grief groups with at least one thousand members. I was astounded to note that we are way over 550,000 members just by counting in thousands! There are many more groups that number in the hundreds which aren’t included in this total. We are huge, don’t you agree?

Pause. Let the numbers sink in. Can you believe how many there are of us? No state or country is exempt. Families all over the world lose someone they love every single day. Each addition, every digit represents the name of someone precious; a name we love to hear. Don’t we wish we could stop the flow that swells our ranks? It’s heartbreaking.

Of the millions of grievers around the world, scores of us are socially connected which is a good thing. Many of you say that you could not manage your grief without social media. I agree. The message of this piece is simple. We are better together. Death is the enemy, an enemy we cannot avoid. Horrific loss may feel like it sets us apart, but not really. We meet other grievers like us and realize we have similarities. We are comforted by words said and cyber hugs shared. Yes, we are cyber grievers, but there are no better friendships for sharing and caring than the ones we make along this journey into grief.

In our cyber circles, we learn that we do not grieve alone. We appreciate how that feels. When we are able to reach out to others who are new, we help them know that they are not alone either. Together we continue our journeys ~ each within reach of another hurting heart.

Help carry one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2a     

Verse shared from Good News Translation (GNT)

Author page, Healing After Suicide, to search blog archive

This entry was posted on January 1, 2021. 2 Comments

Ring Those Bells

I “blew the dust off ” an old Christmas CD by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson and pushed “play.” As the first few notes filled the space around me goosebumps chased one other up and down my spine. Then tears began to trickle down my cheeks. I knew I was taking a risk with my emotions since all holidays going forward are forever bittersweet. Even so, I couldn’t resist listening to this song once again. Could Evie’s rendition of Come On, Ring Those Bells put a little joy into my limp holiday mood?

Everybody likes to take a holiday
Everybody likes to take a rest
Spending time together with the family
Sharing lots of love and happiness.

I closed my eyes. Instantly I was transported back in time. I was behind the wheel of our Ford station wagon with two wiggly youngsters strapped down in the back seat. Their heads bobbed to the beat as they joined Evie and belted out the chorus . . .

Come on, ring those bells,
Light the Christmas tree,
Jesus is the king
Born for you and me.
Come on, ring those bells,
Every-body say,
Jesus, we remember
This your birthday.

This was my boys’ favorite song when we ran errands during the busy shopping days before Christmas. I loved it, too. I still do, but it takes me back. The memories take me back to the days when I had two youngins’ at the supper table yelling, “Mom, he touched me!” I’ll be the first to admit . . . that sentence short-circuited my buttons back then, but I’d go back to those days in a heartbeat if I could. If I could freeze-frame that picture to savor forever, I would. If I could erase the pain of suicide death from one of my boys, I would. Like many of you, I will be missing someone precious at our table (again) this year. I want to acknowledge those who are facing their first Christmas without someone precious. Courage, my friend. You may not get through without tears, but even in tears may you make some sweet memories to carry with you.

Celebrations come because of something good.
Celebrations we love to recall
Mary had a baby boy in Bethlehem
The greatest celebration of all.

Holidays, especially the winter ones, stir up memories, do they not? Those of us missing precious children or other loved ones in our lives find memories to be extra bittersweet this time of year. In spite of the sorrowful memories now, I love to remember my life when I had both of my boys in it. I can’t help but smile through the tears.

No matter how hard I work at it I don’t think a holiday-themed post is going to cheer us up so I won’t try. However, as we listen to timeless favorites may we find the reason for the season in spite of our losses.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11 

“Come On Ring Those Bells”, written by Andrew Culverwell and recorded by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

Writing Our Stories

Does tragic loss occupy one chapter in your story or the whole book? Some of us are likely to respond quickly, “The whole book.” However, should grief encompass one’s entire story? Will each day of tears dampen all the chapters to follow?

I buried my firstborn after his death by suicide. Shocking, horrific, debilitating loss. For days, weeks, months I struggled, barely surviving. My son’s death cut me to the core and shattered my heart. How could I go on?

I don’t know how I continued to live, but I did. Now I’m grateful to be alive. Now my story has a purpose. You might wonder how that’s possible from where you are in your story. I get that. After lots of time passed, my story gained a purpose when my higher power asked me to reach out to hurting hearts like mine. I did and I continue to share my story. Now enough time has passed that I can look back and see how far I’ve come. You will get there, too.

My higher power is in my story. He has always been there. I just couldn’t see Him while in the deep throes of grief.

This may not make sense where you are in your grief story, but maybe it will one day. Months into my grief I thought I had finally gained some perspective. At that time I was inclined to say that my entire story was wrapped up in the loss of my child. I filled up chapter after chapter with sorrow. Grief-stricken for months on end painted my entire story in shades of gray. How could there ever be color in my world again?

The accumulation of years on my grief journey has refined my perspective. I think it is more accurate to view the loss of my child as covering just a few chapters in my story, rather than the whole book. Losing Greg to suicide created a sadness in me that colors every chapter that follows with painful reminders. It is rare for me to not think of my son every day and in every situation. He is a part of me, but should all the chapters in my story be sad? Is that how I best honor his memory? 

My life was average, normal before I lost my child. Losing my son changed me forever. I couldn’t find my footing for a long time. Once I felt solid ground under my feet I had to find ways to live. Even live with joy. It’s not easy as all of us well know, but living is important. Survival is important.

I plan to live my best life until the end of my life. I think I do that best by living with hope on board. Hope in my heart lightens my grief. Hope reminds me that this is not the end of my relationship with my child. Hope suggests that we are experiencing only a break from each other. Breaks are hard. My “break” from my son is in its 15th year so I know the passage of time. It’s lonely. I am filled with longing, but hope tells me to be patient, hopeful. I have learned that living life with purpose helps time pass more quickly.

My life has gained a purpose as I blog to all of you. I am able to drop back in my journey to take the arm of a newbie and we journey together. You take comfort from my story and I learn from yours. Together we live in hope of eternity where we will never again be separated from those we love.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11-12

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)