Redefining the meaning of ‘the first birthday’

This is not my son’s first birthday. It’s the first birthday since he died. He would have been 21.

grief, loss, suicide, the first birthday after suicide
Charles’ 20th birthday

Years ago, I dreamed we would be in a better place with Charles–with his depression and addiction. His sleep disorder, his anxiety, his ADHD. We worked so hard at it.

Instead we are grappling with his suicide. I still can’t believe it some days.

As I look back, I see things I didn’t see before.

I can’t even tell you how much I miss him. How much this hurts. I know you know that.

His birthday is my connection to him and his memory. He was my baby. I carried him, fed him, taught him how to read when he was 3. All that has to mean something.

Charles taught everyone around him– kids, teens and adults–what it meant to let another human being know they mattered. I believe that was his greatest gift.

Charles was such a light in life. Such a creative genius. I am still reading his rap diary. Such an amazing body of work.

It just blows me away all that talent is lost to us. He touched the lives of so many others–reached out when few others had the the guts to do so.

We must figure out a way to help kids with mental illness and addiction. We can’t just accept that if they are on drugs and suicidal they have no place to go. The places available to send a 20 year old are so few. We are losing so many creative people this way. Those with mental illness and addiction are gifted people.

Imagine trying to manage cancer on your own. We have to do the human thing not brush this under the rug hoping it will go away. We have to treat this as a dual diagnosis illness.

The people we love will go away and we are left to grapple with the agony of losing them. Like I am today.

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked mental health speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational mental health keynotes, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, anxiety, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

9 thoughts on “Redefining the meaning of ‘the first birthday’”

  1. Anne Moss, always remember the love he felt for you and others. It is what gets us through these days. The hole in my gut will never go away. We were blessed with creative loving sons. And we will never forget…

    1. I know. I knew when I went to Reece’s funeral that I would be attending one for Charles. It hit me like a sledgehammer. So tough to live with that knowledge.

  2. I absolutely love the analogy of “dealing with cancer by yourself.” Thinking of you today and always.
    Is Charles rap journal too personal to publish? I would love to read it and it may be a great way to reach other teenagers.
    Some of us live to be 100 without having the impact on the world that Charles had in less than 21.

    1. I have published some of his music on this blog. It takes a while to type them up. I need to make it a category. His words do reach the teenagers. Thank you Jean.

  3. When my son was in middle school, he was often left out and treated poorly by many of the other students. Luckily, Charles was also new to that school and he always treated my son with respect, friendship and inclusion. And he made my son laugh!! My son knew that he mattered to Charles.

  4. Anne Thinking of you today and praying you are met with hope in the woods. Celebrating your son Charles’ life and gifts he shared withyou and others. And joining you in prayer that we will raise up ways to effectively help the mentally ill and the addicted. Surely we can do better. Our son was 24 when we lost him. I wrote a piece about it titled, “Do They Celebrate Birthdays in Heaven?” I don’t know for sure, but I imagine they celebrate birthdays every day in heaven. Hugs to you.

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