Monday, April 29, 2013

Surviving a Child's Suicide - Some Truth at Four Years and Eight Months

I've noticed several visitors recently showing up via "child's suicide" searches, so I thought I'd give a brief report, in case it's of hope/help to anyone.  Of course, Josh's death has been much on my mind since it occurred while I was on retreat in September of 2008.  I am grateful for the days of silence and prayer, but they are not peaceful days for me.
In summary:
Overall, I feel pretty normal most of the time.  This is a fairly new and unexpected dedvelopment.  "Normal" encompasses some things it didn't used to, but I seem to have fairly typical reactions to most events and conversations, at least on the surface. I can work; I can engage in some fairly intense conversation and reading and writing; and I can sort through photographs and videos without trauma.
I still tire easily.  I still have trouble with short-term memory.  Much of the 2008-2010 period  is gone.  Some of that may, of course, be due to impending Birthday 60.  But I tend to think the majority of it is due to my mind being cluttered with things it should not contain. 
Flashbacks?  Oh, yeah.  If you are telling me about a recent trip to Chicago, or Yellowstone, or France, I am not seeing what you are seeing.  But I can live with it.  And I am trying  intentionally to replace the horrific memories with lovely, joyful substitutes.  
Some of the things I do for my work?  Let's just say the word: Dissociation.  I have a good time; I feel joy for the people who are getting married (by me), or whose baby is being baptized (by me), or who are receiving communion (from me).  I block out the rest.
Physical?  I'm pretty much a mess.  But I am back to walking three miles a day, which is a considerable help in many areas of life.  There are some weird bodily things going on that are probably grief-based.  Whatever.
Gratitude?  I'm feeling and expressing it these days.  I am grateful for my husband and surviving children, for their gifts and hard work, and for their incredible strength and resiliency, dramatically tested and well-honed in ways that most people in our world never have to know about.  I'm grateful for my home and my neighborhood and my brother and my friends, of whom I have far more than I could ever deserve.  I'm grateful to have staggered through seminary and spiritual direction training and to be able to serve God in some sort of direct way. 
God?  Well, I never write the full story.   We are doing better.  But we have a way to go.  I don't have the kind of confidence that a lot of my bereaved mom friends do in a reunion in the next life ~ whatever that means.  That's what it will take.  I preach my hope in the assured healing and restoration of all creation, which includes one person in particular, but I don't claim certainty.   Not privately.  (I guess this isn't so private.)  On many occasions, I still preach w-aaaa-y out there ahead of myself. 
I'm not a better person.  I am not wiser, I am not more compassionate, I am neither kinder nor gentler.  I might be more patient, but probably not.  I was enough of all those things Before, and the After has not created some  new Mother Goddess of Empathy.  I am mostly pretty pissed, you know?  But not always.
So.  That's one version.  It's not universal.  It's  mine.


  1. In Sunday's sermon I mentioned you not by name but as a fellow traveler who preaches ahead. Thank you for this. Although you probably are a goddess of some sort... :)

    1. Of the deep dark ocean of sorrow, covered with seaweed!

  2. Thank you for your willingness to express yourself with honesty and integrity. I appreciate that you "preach w-aaaa-y out there ahead of myself." Your people are blessed to have you as their pastor.

  3. It is what it is, n'est-ce pas? I so wish to redeem all this sorrow, to make something beautiful from it, to be the best sort of human being, but it's not that simple. Four years and eight months is just long enough to simply go through your day "pretty normal". Dissociation is the tool to get through most of it. It takes years to face the innumerable losses in the death of a precious and beloved child. I am trusting that Heaven will fix it all and that's my only hope. I guess that's how I "preach ahead" of myself. Hugs and love, dear Robin. My heart is with you.

    1. Hard, isn't it, to realize over and over and over again: this is it.

  4. Amen to your own expression of what it is, in this time and place, for you. You are doing a great deal of good on so many fronts - thanks be to God and the gorgeous, valiant spirit that He created in you. (I often forget that in our weakness His strength is glorified, so that, even on our worst days, there He is, doing His work. That's a comfort.)

    I had a wonderful conversation with Tamara Rabil - thank you for the introduction. She is delightful.

  5. Much of this post sounds as positive and hopeful and at peace as I've heard you in 4 years and 8 months. Onward is best and you are moving onward--at your pace and in your own way.

  6. "I'm not a better person. I am not wiser, I am not more compassionate, I am neither kinder nor gentler. I might be more patient, but probably not. I was enough of all those things Before, and the After has not created some new Mother Goddess of Empathy. I am mostly pretty pissed, you know? But not always."

    Exactly. And I'm definitely NOT more patient. I feel better knowing that I'm not the only one who hasn't become a better person. In fact, I feel diminished without the presence of my son, who was so essential to my being.

    Your comment above about realizing over and over again that "this is it" stops me in my tracks every day. Part of me keeps thinking I will find a way to "fix" things and and get my son back. I keep thinking that if I look hard enough I will find him.

    Thank you for your honesty. This journey would be completely unbearable if there weren't people like you who share themselves so sincerely. Of course, I wish you weren't on this journey either.

  7. "Mother Goddess of Empathy." That made me chuckle. As much as I wished I could morph into her it's enough to become content to be me in all my humanity.

    I stood in a Christian bookstore the other day looking through encouragement cards and muttering under my breath at every one, 'utter bullshit'. The road seems much darker these days than it did previously.

    I told someone that as much as I wished I could put on a happy face and be positive that it took far too much energy to pretend. I told God the other day that I felt like a crappy witness of His. Unless you count the word witness as being a truth teller of what is. It sure isn't pretty at the moment. The two recent suicides have something to do with that on top of the cancer journey. I trust there is an other side (in the here and now) to come to in this but I have no idea what I will be like when I get there.