There is nothing like the suicide of your child to inspire you to look at life differently than before. Life is now defined by “before Charles died” and “after Charles died.” Recently I’ve noticed myself adopting new behaviors. Below are the ones that stand out.
1. I tell my friends I love them
And I tell kids that were friends of Charles’ that I love them. I’ve always said this to my husband, family and children but expressing that to my friends is new. I want them to know.
2. I reach out to others more
It’s like I’ve become psychic. Exposing myself to other’s pain actually ends up making me feel better. It allows me to move past that to laughter. That saying “life is short” simply plays over and over in my mind and I don’t want to miss anything during my stay. This “reaching out” also includes communicating more to friends. I got so wrapped up in the turmoil of Charles’ illnesses, I had little time to connect with friends and family. There simply wasn’t the time given how much time it takes to connect all the dots in the mental health world and with the legal issues these kids get embroiled in.
3. I listen more
People need to talk. I want to hear the stories. I read every comment here and on any article I write because I want to know your stories so that I don’t feel so alone. There were times I felt so isolated and I hate that others feel that way.
4. Share my pain
I had written some about what we were going through but it was minimal. I couldn’t say but so much because it would effect my son. But since Charles’ suicide, I’ve truly become emotionally naked. No need to hold back. And I don’t. It has been painful, joyful, revealing and yet very liberating. I sometimes feel guilty sharing so much because I feel like I’m dragging others along with me. But I figure that it’s easy enough to hop off that train if you so desire.
5. Share other’s moments of joy
A couple of weekends ago, I saw a little boy working side by side with his dad in the yard. This kid is 3 and he already has this amazing work ethic. For two weeks he has worked tirelessly with his dad all day outside in the yard on weekends doing the driveway, picking up sticks–you name it. One Saturday, I saw them doing mulch. I stopped and did a quick video to share on the neighborhood Facebook page. A year ago I would have smiled but not taken the time to go film it and introduce myself. I wanted to savor it. And I did.
6. I pace myself
I can’t handle as much as I used to right now. I now know what is too much and what is not enough and try to keep that balance but also take time for myself because I need it. I try hard not to crowd my schedule so much I’m rushed because I move at the speed of slug. I just can’t seem to move faster so I have to accept that I am just going to be slower.
7. I ask for help
If someone offers, I take them up on it. If I am having a bad day, which is frequent, I call or text a friend or a suicide loss support group member. Back when I was struggling with a mentally ill and drug abusing teen, I relied on a support group and a handful of friends. To be honest few offered because if your child is struggling with mental health challenges, people are uncomfortable due to the stigma. But now, I pour it all out and share with the world. I think we learn more from each other by sharing our pain and our joys. Just my take. And I appreciate the support I have gotten because it helps.
8. I cry a lot
This comes with the grief territory. Perhaps what’s new is that I am OK with others seeing my tears. I’m not embarrassed by them. I’ve suffered a horrible tragedy. Crying is letting it out. And sometimes the flood comes at an inopportune time although that happens less frequently. I do wail alone. That I share only with me. Not that grief is all about crying. I thought it was. It’s just one small sliver of a very complex journey of love and loss.
9. I say ‘no’
I just can’t do everything. I want to. But I cannot. And sometimes that means saying no.
10. I talk about suicide
Freely, openly and without guilt. I think it needs to be discussed. We are so afraid of the topic of mental health and suicide, we bury our heads in the sand. This has only made things worse. It’s time we tried things another way and that’s to talk about it.