We decided to spend time with family for the second grief anniversary since Charles’ death by suicide June 5, 2015. I have found that having plans is crucial to surviving these significant dates: birthdays, death anniversaries, holidays.
My inlaws drove up from Georgia and we drove down from Virginia to meet in Winston Salem to see my oldest son Richard (where he currently lives) before he moves to LA on July 1, 2017.
The last time we were at this Old Salem restaurant, Richard was about to graduate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a degree in filmmaking.
Charles, my youngest son, was not with us for that May 2015 graduation. He was in rehab for a heroin addiction. So it was Richard’s college graduation, our house was about to go on the market and Charles was in rehab.
I thoroughly enjoyed Richard’s graduation that year and I was both relieved and sorry Charles was not with us. He loved family events. But I knew he needed to be where he was and I finally felt he was safe. That graduation weekend was the first time I had had fun in a long time. And it proceeded the most devastating loss of my life by mere weeks.
Less than a month later, on June 5, we got the news Charles died by suicide. Such a contrast of life events in a short span of time.
For me, my deceased child’s birthday is the worst.
This year, the days leading up to the death anniversary have been more of a dull ache punctuated by bursts of being short tempered and not as productive. Occasional breakdowns but overall better than last year. I do feel like I have turned another corner. Time doesn’t heal but it does help.
I have focused my efforts on changing the mental health system as president of Beacon Tree Foundation, because no one should ever have to go through what we did. From submitting a grant for Preventure drug prevention program for adolescents to spearheading implementation of ASQ Suicide Screening and a continuity of care model in physician’s practices, I am standing behind that promise.
In the two years since Charles’ death
- I’ve published 587+ posts (some written by you all)
- Given 52 presentations
- Written 30 articles for other publications
- Made 9 TV appearances
- Approved 1,464+ comments here
This blog has reached nearly 200,000 since Feb 1, 2016 because you guys had the guts to make others uncomfortable by sharing them on your Facebook pages–a platform used more frequently for bragging rights and proud parent moments.
You have given me the honor of sharing and trusting me with your stories of how you’ve coped with a loved one’s addiction or mental illness to grieving the lost of a child.
Together we have given others a voice and permission to talk about taboo subjects. I can tell you it’s been a major part of my emotional healing.
I miss Charles.
I miss his dancing brown eyes, his curly hair, his sense of humor and every last quirk of his that drove me crazy. Even after his death, I am inspired by what he stood for–letting other people know they mattered. That will be woven into my life’s work.