Sean died in the month of August. He was 16 years old, and he took his own life. He shot himself with his father’s hunting rifle. I never saw his body, but, in retrospect, I now know that it was for the best. I did not feel that way at the time. I begged to see him. My heart ached with an intense longing to touch him…just one last time.
Those first months were a nightmare. Hell could not be worse! I do not recall our first Thanksgiving. As many memories as there are in my heart and mind, that first Thanksgiving is not one of them. How could it have been? How could I find my way to gratitude in such a short time? Even if I ate turkey and pumpkin pie, I am sure I was not really there…just barely in my body and smiling only because it served the others at the table, if I smiled at all.
But I do remember the first Christmas. I remember trying to decorate the Christmas tree. I think I cried tears on every ornament as I painstakingly hung then, not caring where they fell or how the tree looked! I remember wandering through the stores in a daze trying to buy presents for my other children.
But I did decorate the tree, and I did buy presents because I willed myself to do so.
That first year, I willed myself to get out of bed in the morning and to smile even if I did not feel like smiling, which was most often the case. Every day I made a choice to live, and by live, I mean enter into life as best I could without judging myself, without thinking I “should” do better. I just did my best. Each night, just before going to bed, I reflected on the day and gave thanks to God for whatever I could accomplish, however little. I also gave thanks for whatever help I received that day…however little!
There were many things that helped me to heal, to smile, to will myself to live. My family and friends were a great blessing. I learned quickly who to be with and when to leave. Some folks just can not bear another’s pain mostly because they refuse to bear their own. Bury your pain, and you will do your best to help another to do the same.
I believe that the best thing I did, the thing that helped the most, was to pray. It is what helped me everyday to choose to live. I would take time as often as I could to sit in the quiet of my room and pray. Sometimes it would only be for a few minutes, but it was always healing. It was not what we often call prayer, not formal prayer. I was not capable of that. I would just be with what I call God… with what you might call Divine Mystery or Universal consciousness or Love, and I would allow myself to be and to feel, to feel my anger or my fear, to feel guilty or desparing, or simply to cry my heart out.
I did this in the presence of God’s love. Most often, I could not feel that love but my faith is deep, and, even in the midst of grieving my son’s suicide, I believed it was there.
Today, 28 years later, I live with a smile on my face that comes naturally and often. I am more free than I have ever been, more at peace, more in love and more joyful.
I believe this is so because I have been willing to feel the depths of my suffering…the pain, the anger, the fear, the guilt, and whatever else arose. I have been faithful to myself as I refused to bury that which I am. The love of God has given me that gift…the safety to feel as deeply as possible into the hell that lies within. As I was faithful to my feelings, I healed, and each Holiday became easier to enjoy. It isn’t that time heals all wounds but rather that fully feeling the pain heals all wounds. There is hope, and those of us who have walked the walk are living proof!
That said, I must add…there is not a holiday or birthday or death day that goes by that I don’t feel a need to sit quietly with God and feel the loss. I never know when something will invite tears, but now I welcome those tears. They are my connection to a child who I dearly love. When it is my time, I will die knowing that I will see my son, and I will find great joy in that moment.Tags: grief, hope