I have been asked this question several times since Charles’ death. And I know that others not in this club must wonder how we go on.
I have had many near-death experiences –a broken neck, an attempted rape and murder at knifepoint, a brain tumor, two brain surgeries, and a near lightning strike.
I would have thought this would have groomed me for whatever came my way. The truth is it did not prepare me for watching my son self-destruct and his ultimate suicide. It did build my resilience and I was able to utilize those tools after his death.
At my worst during the chaos of my son’s mental illness and drug abuse, I was falling apart. I remember I would pray that Charles would stop abusing drugs.
But that’s like praying for a pony.
I literally folded up inside myself
I isolated, cut myself off from social life, and often lay in my bed at night curled up in a tight ball in absolute agony. For a while, we kept all of our ugliness within the walls of my home and suffered intensely for it.
I suffered most from a lack of emotional support. Part of that was self-inflicted. Part of it was society’s stigma as it relates to mental illness and addiction. Few wanted to hear about it. But then it’s a lopsided friendship if that was all I could talk about.
I got to the point I couldn’t take it anymore and that’s when I reached out, attended a support group, and started to help myself deal with this emotional chaos.
It was at Families Anonymous that I figured out I shouldn’t be praying for Charles to stop using drugs, but rather praying for strength for whatever came my way. I learned and appreciated that I could not control anyone but myself. And I learned that addiction and depression are illnesses that I didn’t cause and I couldn’t cure although I was not completely powerless. (A good book for those who have a child or other loved one struggling with substance misuse or addiction.)
Much of my strength comes from recognizing I can’t do this alone
I can’t sit in a silo and find strength. And it won’t fall from the sky into my lap. I have to actively dig for it. I had to learn how to find it.
I also had to learn to ask for help and then accept it with grace. Quite frankly, I draw a lot of my strength from all of you.
You have to know that when I started this blog, I truly had no idea if I would be rejected or accepted in this endeavor. What’s more, I didn’t care at that point. I only knew that shame as it related to suicide was just plain wrong.
But the fact that you have embraced the cause and furthermore invested yourselves in it has helped not only me, but the thousands who have also suffered a loss, and endured the stigma of addiction and mental illness. Your comments and your sharing this mission with others gave me strength many days when I am at my bottom.
To date, collectively we have reached millions of people since February 2016. I see that they read your comments as often as they read the post itself. I feel less alone reading them and I know others feel so as well. You are sharing your souls for your own healing as well as the greater good.
Some of my strength comes from within. Some comes from family and friends and a lot comes from my higher power. Once you define your higher power, you create a foundation from which you can draw strength. Once you recognize and find humility, you can start to heal emotionally.
A higher power is not necessarily “religious” although it can be. It is spiritual. Your higher power can be mother nature, it can be God, it can be a group of people you love, it can be the energy that surrounds the galaxy and keeps it together.
It’s all about accepting that there is a power greater than yourself
When Charles died, I already had practice relying on my higher power to help me deal with heartbreaking situations. Sometimes I relapsed to emotional basketcase. Sometimes I got it right and eventually, it became habit.
As a result of developing this skill, I am no less sad or depressed. I simply have the toolbox to process my hurt without it pulling me underwater completely. It has lessened my suffering.
Some days I have to let the ache and sadness of the loss of my son by suicide wash over me–grief that has now become part of me. I have to ride the waves of grief and let it drop me off when it’s done. While I thought I had control over me. I don’t always have that either.
My loss has given me grief. But also great gifts. Redefining what strength happens to be one of those gifts.