The Days of New Normal After a Son’s Suicide

Five years after my son’s suicide, I stood at my picture window and smiled at the snowbirds that hovered around the feeder. They spit fluff from the seeds and it floated down, scattering hulls on the ground. A flit of wings and a brown sparrow darted along the grass. After the snowbirds left, I became surprised the sparrow didn’t fly to the food. It continued to eat what fell from the other birds’ beaks. I pitied the feathered creature. It had failed to see there was now room to eat from the bird feeder.

Spiritually, I was like the sparrow.

I determined on that day to turn the corner of a New Normal. Of course, up to that point, I had a lot of help along the way. Friends, family, and even strangers gave me encouragement, and all of them came from the Lord. I especially remembered a fine woman who made sure the Compassionate Friends newsletter circulated in our area. Joshua, my son, had been gone under a year, as we two women sat on the grass at a park. I told her I had not slept more than three hours a night. I confessed to her, “I feel like I am losing my mind.”

That dear lady told me, “This is normal.” My mouth opened and I gawked at her. She explained that for a time, she felt the same way after her son died by suicide. “Soon,” she assured, “these feelings will pass.” She told me the grieving process is hard work and lack of sleep will worsen matters.

Now, as I watched the sparrow, I grew dissatisfied to eat the leftovers of Fear and Dismay. I took a deep breath. My worst challenge would be to stop the flashbacks of my son’s death. Or at least, not feeling the horror. An idea came to me, then. What if I were to practice the scripture of Ephesians 6:11, that we are to put on the spiritual armor of God? Would it truly help me if I prayed about that every day? Would I overcome the flashbacks?

With arms crossed, I also made a decision. Holding onto some things would only serve to hinder God’s plan for my life.  At that moment, I even let Joshua go.

Oh, I don’t mean the beautiful memories of Joshua’s laughter and our conversations, or the fun we had baking in the kitchen. And I will never let slip away the joy of knowing him for twenty-five years. I had to release his actual death and the years of torment after.

It’s been one year since God used birds to show me that my soul could fly. Daily, I march on with full armor, and with increasing gratitude; I aim to show the great things God has done.

Jean Ann Williams 2011

Jean Williams

More Articles Written by Jean

Jean Williams, a freelance writer, lost her young adult son Joshua to suicide in 2004. She lives in Southern Oregon in a mountain valley community where she works on short stories for adults and novels for young people. She grows a large garden on an acre of land with her husband, who is a retired police detective. Jean is the mother of three grown children and grandmother of 12. Jean has been a practicing Christians for 38 years, and owes her life to God. Many times after Joshua's death, Jean wished she could join her son in the afterlife, but her faith in God kept her on earth. The last few years have been filled with joy, as Jean reaches out to help others through their grief process. Read her blogs at:


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  • Donna Goodrich says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m passing it on to my niece whose 20-year-old son committed suicide. Feb. 28 was his birthday and he died in March, so this time of year is always hard for her.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Good that you are passing this along, Donna. Joshua died in March also. And my brother died in February just three years ago. I understand how this time of month is hard.

  • Sally says:

    Jean Ann, what a beautiful witness to the healing balm of God’s love, There seems to be nothing in all His creation He fails to use to soothe our broken hearts one day at a time. I pray your words and faith will touch someone to show them their soul too can fly above the pain of loss.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Thank you for your gift of encouragement, Sally.

  • Pat says:

    Jean, I have come to believe that birds are some of our best teachers. Your words are beautifully descriptive. Thank you for ministering to those who have lost a child.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Pat, this is my first encounter with birds and how they can teach us.

    I love when God uses his creation this way.

  • Peg says:

    This is a beautiful article, Jean. Thank you for sharing. Jesus used the sparrow to show how much God loves us. Awesome.

  • Jeanne Doyon says:

    Thank you for sharing your struggle and your heart. I know I have been in that place too. He is faithful to bring us through the passages of life and death. And, soon our spirit is strong again with His help.

  • Judy Davis says:

    Jean, may this story touch many lives of those who have lost a loved one. Thank you for sharing.

  • Brian Martinho says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful article with others! It’s Great that your marching on and helping others with your ministering! I’m proud of you!!!

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Thank you, Peg, Jeanne, and Judy. You’re a wonderful inspiration to me.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Hi Cousin Brian, thank you for stopping by. I know Josh’s death hurt you to the core, for he looked up to you. I’ll never forget how much you’ve been there for me and my family. Cyber hugs.

  • Dana McGregor says:

    Love you Jean, thanks for sharing….

  • Daphna Simpson says:

    Thank you. My son took his life almost two years ago while living with us. This is the first reference I have read about the flashbacks and the horror. Five years earlier, a cousin took his life while living on our farm. My husband is still dealing with being the one to find their bodies.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Oh, Daphna, I so hoped my mentioning the flashbacks and horror would help another in some small way. My praying the full armor rid me of the feelings of horror on the very first time. I still remember that morning with sadness, but not with terror.

    God be with you.

  • Marla Martin says:

    Jean you have came so far from the broken Mother laying in the corner that day in your and Jim’s room. The strenght and faith you have both had to pull yoursevles up that day and beyond has always amazed me. I’m very proud to be your sister inlaw, your stories will go on to help many other parents.

  • Carla Kearney says:

    I just read your story and felt led to post. I too found my daughter after she completed suicide in her room 4 years ago on January 22nd. My mother died unexpectedly a week after that also. I was the only one who saw her like that and have struggled so much with PTSD. I have met many bereaved parents but not many who have witnessed this horror. I still struggle with my spiritually since it happened and question why God allowed me to be the one to find her. I am open to any suggestions from others. My email is [email protected]. Thanks so much for sharing your bird story. I have had a few encounters with birds and believe that God does use them in a special way to reach us.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Thank you, Marla.

    It was you who gave me permission to rest in the day time and give myself a break.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:


    I too have struggled with PTSD. I asked God why, also. Only time will show you why. I didn’t like what happened, and that we were there when it happened, but, I knew that God could take the rubble of our lives and rebuild us. Though, I didn’t like it one iota.

    I never stopped praying. I never stopped attending worship. Sometimes, I cried all the way to the church building and even during services. I would NOT have survived if I had quit attending.

    I’ll keep you in prayer, Carla.

    Bless you!

  • Susie Neal says:

    Jean, I can’t even imagine the terror and horror you must have experienced with Josh’s suicide. Praise God you were able to overcome and experience a new normal, as well as reach out to others with your gift of writing. Love you, Susie

  • Carla Kearney says:

    Jean, thank you so much for the encouragement. I guess I can start over with God with a mustard seed of faith. You sound like such a strong lady. Bless you too for we did not choose this for ourselves.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Thank you, Susie,

    I always feel encouraged by your words.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Carla, you are very welcome.

    Of course you start over. Basically, I HAD to revaluate my own spiritual walk and found it wanting. God is so merciful, Carla. And I am strong only because of God’s love for me. Believe me, I am an emotional roller coaster without God. He keeps me even, if I but let him.

    God bless you, Carla.

  • Daphna Simpson says:

    My husband and I had been churchless for 3 years before joining 2 other couples in starting a new church. Just days before Tim’ s death the book of Ephesians told me what I needed to know. I had heard it before, but never understood it fully.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Daphna, God is so good. He was watching over you. I’ll reread Ephesians with you in mind.

    Bless you.

  • Daphna Simpson says:

    It hadn’t occured to me that we were suffering from PTST. Tim had suffered from it for years. Added to his being bipolar, it is why we lost him.

  • Daniella Garcia says:

    Thank you Jean for your inspirational article. God has used birds twice to reach me.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    Daphna, yes, it took me a while to figure out we suffer from PTST, but it has lessened. Joshua was diagnosed with bipolar, also.

  • Jean Ann Williams says:

    So glad for that, Daniella. When it happens the third time, let me know.

    Bless you