The last time I saw you, my son was alive. My son Charles grew up with yours. Yet when we ran into each other, you didn’t mention his name. In fact, you looked like you were afraid of me. I think if you had had enough warning, you would have avoided me all together.
When I lost my son, I did not erase him from my family tree. Nor did I erase him from my memory. But when I run into people who say nothing, it makes me feel like my child never counted for anything.
You worry that you’ll say the wrong thing.
What hurts the most is saying nothing at all.
What I want is for my son to be acknowledged. I want to hear his name, a memory or funny story. I lived with him for 20 years so I still have stories and memories. I am not going to have any new ones. So those that have already happened are all I have.
A hug is fine. Even, “I’m sorry for your loss” is acknowledgement enough.
I know you didn’t know what to say and seeing me took you by surprise.
So I made the first move. I asked, “Have you heard about Charles? He died by suicide in June of 2015.” I know you heard but I wanted to give you the opportunity to recuperate from the shock of running into me. I wanted to tackle the elephant in the room because otherwise it’s awkward.
I am not ashamed of him because he suffered from addiction and depression. Usually when I bring it up, others share related tragedies in their family.
You were still embarrassed and wanted to get away as fast as possible. “Deer caught in headlights syndrome” is what I call it. I am sorry you felt that way. I promise my loss is not contagious. And I promise I would not have made you late for your yoga class by talking about him exhaustively.
I do forgive you. I am not angry. What would that accomplish?
5 thoughts on “Dear friend”
To all u mom’s out there who have lost children and to those of us still struggling with this insidious disease remember until someone has walked in our shoes they know not the pain we are feeling…but it is not their ‘character defect’ it is a reflection of the shame and stigma associated with this disease and why we need to continue to speak up about this disease and work for a change in the perception of this disease….as we continue to put a face to this disease we will move toward final acceptance and recognition that this disease is no different than diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hiv/aids..etc…we are the voices for our children who left us much too soon and for those who are still struggling. ..hugs to us all …
All I can add is that it also happens when your child miraculously survives a suicide attempt. I never expected it to involve people who you thought were dear friends. I’ve literally been left dumbfounded in a neighborhood grocery store and in a line to vote. I try very hard to let it go, and instead to focus on the people who acknowledge his challenges and ask how he’s doing. Who don’t falter if the answer is “it’s been a rough few weeks” but just give a hug and prayers.
Oh Whitney that is so tough not getting the community support you need. I know how that feels, how much it hurts despite trying to ignore it. If your child had cancer, the outpouring of community support is so different. We tie so much shame and are so quick to pass judgment when it’s mental illness, although it’s genetic. Thank you for reminding me of that.
Ann, you took the words right out of my mouth. But on Thursday two of my work family gave me unsolicited hugs which was terrific! December 7, 2016 is the one year anniversary date of Tyler’s suicide. And as we rapidly approach that date &. the holiday season I am finding it more painful & I’m becoming more & more emotional!
Tjwanna – Your comments are so appreciated here. I know how rough that anniversaries are and it’s even harder tied in with all the holiday hoopla. That hug you got was worth a million bucks!