There are days that I realize, I’m “that” mother–the one whose child killed himself. I can’t slip out of my skin and be somewhere else or someone else, I have to face this head on.
The truth is, while I can’t avoid it, others can.
It’s how others react that is often interesting and I’ve decided to be sort of an observer of human nature and not be offended. This “scientific” approach towards witnessing reactions to death has helped tremendously.
People ask, “How many children do you have?” to which I give my standard answer. “One of my children is living his dream as a filmmaker and the other died by suicide at 20, thus-and-such many months ago. He suffered from depression and addiction.” I am typically very gentle in order to brace the impact. Then I let someone know that it’s a natural question and I’m not offended.
Most of the time, people say, “Sorry for your loss” or give me a hug. Many times they’ll tell me their own story which I am honored to hear.
But then sometimes, I’ll get a non-reaction and someone just glazes right over that fact without any acknowledgment whatsoever. Like my telling them that I lost a child to suicide is TMI even if it’s a critical piece of what they asked me about.
I’m often just amazed at this. I don’t feel it’s because that person doesn’t care. It’s simply a product of the social norm of avoidance as it relates to death.
The truth is, I had to bury my son but I refuse to bury his memory. Other people’s discomfort with death is not my problem and reconstructing a story to spare them is not in my wheelhouse.
The good news is that most people have been very kind and thoughtful. I actually expected more of what I had been used to for so many years trying to get help for my son which was ignorance, rejection, and judgment which I learned to push through to advocate for my youngest son.
It was an adjustment to have emotional support where there had been very little and I still relapse into the mindset that no one gives a rat’s ass.
I’m adjusting, though. I am. And thanks for helping me out, for giving me more detail when I see you in person–even when I look like a deer caught in headlights. Thanks for allowing me to carry my son with me in some way and helping me cherish his memory.