My eyes pour out tears to God. Job 16:20b
“Back then” I never thought I had a story worth sharing. My life was too ordinary, too boring; it didn’t contain elements that would capture anyone’s attention. I even prayed about this ever so often . . . and then the indescribable happened . . . creating a story awash in tears.
Perhaps it will benefit someone to hear my story from the beginning. I don’t share it often, because it remains so painful to talk about even after all these years. “To go there” is to bring the tragic loss of my son back into sharp focus where the memories of loss still have razor-sharp edges. Truth can be painful, can it not? It would be easier if it were a mere fictional account from an overactive mind. Unfortunately, it is not.
A further word about sharing one’s story before I get into mine: telling our stories is important; there is healing in the telling. I know it hurts to tell. It’s a rather bittersweet quandary, you might say, with benefits not readily seen, but they are there. Beyond personal help, it is my hope that it helps a reader along his or her journey into grief.
I had an uneventful life until that day which turned my world upside down. It began with a phone call that changed everything I had known up to that moment and . . . ended with the burial of one of my precious children. How do you recover completely from a horrific, senseless tragedy that leaves you mercilessly spinning like a top? We both know the answer. You don’t.
At 10:00 AM that Thursday the phone rang. The call was from my firstborn’s boss. I had never spoken to him before, so he instantly had my attention. He called to say that my son had not shown up for work yet. Since it was unlike him to be late, he suggested that I have the police do a well-check at his apartment. With shaking fingers and pounding heart I dialed the number at the precinct.
An eerie, sinking feeling began to form a knot in the pit of my stomach. My heart thumped wildly as I completed the request and hung up the phone. I paced the floor, praying. I prayed and paced for the next three hours. What could possibly take the police so long? Was it an indication of something bad? I dared not allow my mind to go there.
I called my husband at work. His voice remained calm when I told him. As I hung up, I thought perhaps I was being overly dramatic, and this was nothing more than a delay from a flat tire. Eventually I called the police back to get an update. I was told that someone would be calling me. Now worry joined the sinking feeling in my stomach. If the well check had found nothing, why would it take so long to let me know?
Waiting was so hard! I prayed constantly that my boy was safe, but the knot of fear in my belly was growing and moving upward, threatening to choke me. Finally I was talking to a policeman on the phone. He asked if I was alone and I said, “Yes.” He asked me to call someone to be with me. At that point the pressure of waiting needed to escape, and I exploded, “JUST TELL ME!” And he did.
“Sorry, ma’am. Your son is dead.”
Two short sentences ~ six little words struck horror in my heart. I dropped the phone and screamed and screamed and screamed. This was the beginning of my “nightmare of sorrows.” Six little words, and the wall of my life came tumbling down.
These two sentences changed my life forever. I could stop right here, say no more, and readers who have lost a child could fill in details from their own personal story of tragic loss. If your story includes suicide, your mind immediately flashes back to the beginning of your tragedy, does it not? Whether our stories mirror each other’s or not does not matter; the loss of one’s own child is horror enough.
Much of what happened next is fuzzy. It involved phone calls to family members who quickly carried the awful news from person to person. Caring people brought in food along with their hugs and tears. Friends took us places where one goes to make final arrangements when a loved one dies, so why were we going? Loved ones die of old age, not suicide. It was all so wrong, but sadly, it was necessary. As overwhelming and confusing as it was, there was no ditching the tasks set before us. I just wanted to drop into the space my son would occupy and pull a blanket of dirt over the two of us. How could I go on without my firstborn child?
Memories remain sketchy, but I do remember someone trying to engage me in light conversation. She leaned toward me and asked, “Have you been doing any crafts lately?” My mind was toast . . . crafts . . . crafts, what does that word mean? I couldn’t even process this ordinary word. I had no room in my brain for mundane. No longer did I have an interest in anything from my former life. It was all ashes.
Amazingly, I have survived without my firstborn almost twelve years now. It seems impossible that this much time has passed when I didn’t think I could last a week. If you are new to your grief journey, please don’t be discouraged. Suffering loss is just that . . . it’s suffering, and who can put a timetable on suffering? One must allow the painful process of healing to work at its own pace. Fortunately, pain will wax and wane in its intensity over time as we all make our way along our journey of grief.
A shattered heart cannot be put back together, but it can be recreated, and that is where the next chapter of my life began. I finally came to the realization that my God was [and is] never absent. He did not kill my son. He loved my son. His love, which goes beyond my human understanding, is constant and comforting. According to His promise, He will never leave or forsake His children (Deut. 31:6).
My trial is awash in tears, but there is good news! I plan to see all my missing family when we are reunited in the air when Jesus returns! I am sure you plan to spend eternity with your loved ones, too. My hope, spelled out in Scripture, is where my faith is anchored.
This hope is a safe anchor for our souls. It will never move. Hebrews 6:16a
Verses selected from New Life Version (NLV)