The day after

charles-post

I remember waking up. Then dreading that I woke up and reality hitting me like ice water in the face.

My child is dead. I am the mother of child who killed himself. I actually feel as if I am in someone else’s skin because it feels so foreign and prickly. I just want to slide out of myself and into someone else’s life. Anything but the one I’m in right now.

Randy and I hold each other sobbing. The coulda, woulda, shoudas hitting us hard in the light of day.

How do I tell people my child is dead? How do I plan a funeral?

I need to call Martha but it’s too early still.

My mind starts churning and I have to go check Charles’ phone records. Maybe that last phone number he called will have answers.

We had just sold the house 4 days prior and I am thankful right now that I kept the appointment to go look at houses. I am sure others might think this crazy but I need to be in motion.

I am about to call the last number on his phone that I find on the Verizon website. A wave of fear seizes me, my mouth goes dry and I can’t breathe.

I just can’t believe Charles would do this. Didn’t he say he hated suicide? How did he fashion something to hang himself?  Who found him?

I call that last number on the verizon phone records. A young man answers but he’s cautious. I am a stranger.

He’s met Charles once or twice and knows him as “Reezin.” He had met him while he was moving furniture. Charles had called in a last ditch effort to get drugs. He doesn’t sell any more.

I find out that Charles was probably going through withdrawal. So at least I know that much. I thank him for his time.

I get a text from Wendy, my neighbor across the street the past 19 years. Our kids grew up together.

june6-wendy-holt

The Holts come over and they, too, are in disbelief. For a while Tucker, Wendy, Trey and I just sit there crying and trying to talk. It’s so final. So raw.

The Holts make their way back home.

I still can’t wrap my head around the suicide. I did not see that coming. After all the counseling, intense outpatient and support groups, suicide was never mentioned.

I look at that last text and I agonize over it. The coulda woulda is eating me alive.

Meanwhile in Northern Virginia, my friend Martha’s feet hit the floor on June 6 and she has a instant feeling of alarm, “I have to call Anne Moss.”

When she calls, I tell my oldest friend Charles is dead. She says she’ll be here by afternoon. I am so thankful.

I go upstairs, scan a picture of Charles. I can’t call everyone. I wouldn’t know where to start.

It only scans in black and white but can’t figure out how to make it color. I post the picture on Facebook with a message. It becomes real all over again and there is not enough kleenex in the world.

I want to escape this pain and agony but I can’t. It’s coming at me from all sides and I pound the floor with my fists.

Lee Anne, my cousin and our real estate agent, comes over to pick us up. She is naturally distraught. I only have to hold it together for one house tour since we will be meeting with the contractor who is renovating the home we see first.

The other homes are empty.

During that first tour, all was well and then the contractor  asks, “Do you have any children?” Poor guy. I tell him Charles died by suicide yesterday. He’s stunned and speechless. And I assure him it’s a normal question.

I am surprisingly together. Surprisingly frank. Relieved to tell and get rid of this ugly, awful secret that’s torturing my insides. It feels good to say it and I feel a sense of relief but I feel guilty for sharing the pain.

I am sure he is amazed we are here at all.

I am amazed we are here at all.

The rest of the afternoon we tour houses but I know I want the one we were just in. So I cry as I walk through those houses I don’t want.

My child is dead and my world has collapsed. I want to go home. My family is already there.

I need to be surrounded by family and friends. I ache for it. I’m thankful for Southern tradition. People just know to come by, bring barbecue and kleenex, surround me in Southern comfort and tell me that I need to eat something. As if I will expire from missing a single meal.

I need to talk about Charles and I do. I decide then and there I will never be ashamed of who he was or how he died. And I will never suffer in silence again.

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Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx 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 substance use disorder 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, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, 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. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

18 thoughts on “The day after”

  1. My son died by suicide last year, April 22nd 2020. He hung himself too. I found him, in his garage. I died that night. I am not ‘me’ anymore. My son was 33 when he died. On Sunday 10th of October he will be 35. I don’t know how I’ve survived the last 18 months. Like your Charles, my Dean was funny, talented, kind, thoughtful, a beautiful human being. He didn’t drink or do drugs, his heart was broken after the break-up of his relationship. We were in lockdown and he must have felt very isolated. I was the only one ,’breaking the rules’ and going to see him. He seemed optimistic and was doing his car up, gardening and getting the house nice. Then after a phone call with his ex, he just went out to his garage and hung himself. She sent me a text at 20.52 to tell me he’d got in a bit of a state and wasn’t picking his phone up. I got in my car and went round. I arrived at 21.00. I walked passed the garage, the side door was ajar. I thought he’d forgotten to lock up and I would remind him when I got in the house. I walked up the path and the back door was ajar. I had a feeling of foreboding then, but brushed it out of my mind. His dinner was on the desk in front of his computer, the fork just laying on top of the food. His vape was on the desk and I was feeling really worried. I called him, silence. I searched the house, nothing. Then I just had a bad feeling about the garage. I had to ring his ex to ask where the light switch was, and I was scared. I rang her at 21.03, so all that took 3 minutes. I fumbled in the dark along the garage wall and flicked the switch. Then I died. Nothing prepared me for what was in front of my eyes. My precious boy, dangling from a rope just 6ft in front of me. His feet were behind him, on the floor…he could have stood up! One hand was in the rope. The other arm just dangling down. I screamed, I must have been hysterical. His ex said she will never forget the noise that came out of my mouth. I couldn’t get him down. I rang the emergency services straight away. 21.05. They didn’t arrive until 21.18. It felt like a life time. I can’t get that image out of my head. It was two weeks before we could see him. Covid meant no visits to the mortuary. Eventually they released his body and he went to the funeral home. There are no words to describe the pain, the senseless loss, the grief that will be with me until my dying day. He has left two young kids without a dad. Ryan was 11 and Rosie 8. It has completely destroyed so many lives.
    I would definitely say, ask for help, tell someone if you are feeling suicidal. If it doesn’t quite sink in, or they try to cheer you up, keep telling them. Chances are, they don’t think you are serious. They do care, they just can’t comprehend that someone would really do that. Make sure they know it is serious. I told my son things get better, even when you are at rock bottom. He didn’t give time the chance to heal his heart and now he has broken many hearts. Hearts that cannot be mended. If he knew how much we love him, miss him and struggle through life without him, if he could see the pain we are in, especially me, he would be devastated. He he had known all this before, I am sure he would not have killed himself. Whoever you are, you are loved, you matter and you must live if you can 💔

    1. Oh Karen. I’m sorry you can’t “unsee” that final scenery. I didn’t find my son. But the visceral nature of that particular death is so desperate and babaric. I’ve often struggled with that regarding my own son. The first two years, and even the third, are so brutal. I hope you are getting support. You have suffered unbelievable trauma and I had to have help to find my way through it. Thank you for sharing your story and your pain.

  2. Anne you are reaching out to so many people in this blog. Charles will be so proud of you. I believe “everything happens for a reason” and Charles story is reaching out to so many people🙏you are an earth Angel and I’m so proud to be in your group😘

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. I also suffer from depression and addiction myself and am very grateful I came across your blog. Thank you!

      1. Riley, those awful thoughts are so pervasive. I am so sorry you are experiencing such pain. Can you tell me more? Do you suffer from depression? Did a life event trigger these thoughts?

  4. OH my god. We have almost the same story. Love you. And so amazed that you are able to do a blog a year in. I am 3 1/2 years in and have not been able to do it yet. I did not want to live for at least 18 months to 2 years. You are providing a service and a voice, and I hope one day to do the same.
    Christopher Whitten Maher hung himself alone in his room on December 20, 2012. He was 25. God help us all.

    1. Gray I am so sorry. I was at least spared finding Charles myself. And do know that I was already out speaking and writing on the subject of mental health for 5 years before he died and that first article in the Times Dispatch took me 9 months to write after he died. (http://www.richmond.com/life/in-my-shoes/article_42838b8a-9869-54a6-a1c3-84d62f1df94f.html) So I had a head start and this actually helps me process all the hurt. And there is so so much of that. Today, this morning, I could barely move. The grief elephant has lifted some Thankfully. I would love to do a #griefheart to honor your son. Let me know if you are interested. Use the contact form if so.

      1. What is a griefheart? I lost my son to accidental overdose it will be 11 months ago on September 10 2021. I miss him so much

        1. I started it and ran it for years to honor those who died from deaths of despair and to illustrate where my own heart was in the process of grieving the loss of my son to suicide. https://annemoss.com/category/griefheart/

          Keli. I do know how much it hurts. And you are still at the pointy painful part. I still miss charles. But I am able to move forward now. Not that I wanted to for a long time. I am so sorry we are in that same club.

  5. You continue to amaze me with your strength and your mission to get others talking about mental health issues. Thank you.

  6. Anne Moss I ache for what you and all of us who has a child that died by their own hand feels–Yes I want to be reclusive at times and scream from within the walls of my house but all I truly want is to hold my beautiful son one more time–to reiterate how much I love him and would give my life up for his happiness and sobriety–I feel different from everyone else–I can’t explain it but I do–All I want is my Charliejohn back–I know in my heart I will never feel whole again–God Bless you for all you are doing for the families that have experienced this devastating loss.

  7. Anne Moss, your blogs from these days before and after Charles’ death are both devastating and beautiful. I love that you have put into words these gut-wrenching times and that you share them with us. May we not just stare through the window of your life but learn from it and reach out to you, and to others going through this pain. Thank you for sharing your brokenness that we might be more whole in our compassion for others. ❤️

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