The first year
Shock. Numbness. Tears. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to live through this. But I made a bet with myself to move forward with my life. If I give up, who carries Charles’ legacy? Who fights for change?
It was frustrating how no one mentioned my child’s name for fear of “reminding” me. Like that’s something I could forget. Did any of us ever think that when we were on the other side? The side that was before our child died?
Probably. Maybe. Hard to remember.
It sort of made me feel like no one wanted to talk about it because it would interrupt their own beautiful lives to bring up the ugliness of our loss. Intellectually, I don’t think that was it. But it sometimes felt like it. It really was that people didn’t know what to say.
The first year was all about getting out of bed and functioning. Productivity sucked. Everyone else looked like they were moving in fast motion while I was in slow motion. I felt sluggish and unmotivated. Heavy and sad. I wondered if I’d ever be happy again.
The coulda, woulda shouldas still weighed. Working my way through that was agonizing.
I did learn to move forward. I did laugh that first year. I kept telling myself the pain had to get less intense. It did. I learned to accept the loss but was still in disbelief that it happened.
I mourned the loss of innocence of toddlers and tantrums. I mourned the loss of the light that lit the flame of fun, my son Charles.
I figured out I needed to let people know what I wanted. What we wanted. That we wanted to talk about him. I needed, sometimes, to introduce the topic to clear the elephant out of the room.
This blog helped. It helped me cope. It helped others understand what we wanted. And then others started sharing posts, and their friends and relatives started to understand what they wanted based on what they shared.
I agonized over the hopes and dreams I had for my child that would never be. I had to face his room right away because we had sold our house right before he died.
That first year is like hitting a stone wall at full speed. You look at everything through a different lens–before the death and after the death.
I dreaded the first Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday, holidays, New Year’s, and the death anniversary. Even my own birthday. Everything is first and i didn’t know what to expect. I found that I suffered more before the event than day of. With the exception of my first Mother’s Day.
That first year I ached for someone to just tell me what it would be like. I had expected there to be some magic that happened after year one. It did not.
The second year
My second year was not anything like I imagined.
For me, the new calendar year brought ambivalence. Relief. Emotional healing. I no longer had the numbness and shock to cushion the grief and it was full-on grief. The second year for me, however, was not as hard. But by no means easy.
Grief is healing. And I learned the balance of grieving and living. I overdid both in an epic way. And I didn’t plan enough. Again, in an epic way.
My social life had evaporated so I decided to be proactive and be the one to have events.
I was glad the first year was over. I was sad the first year was over.
Because it seemed like more distance between me and Charles. I found myself struggling with the wish to move forward, knowing that it meant leaving my loved one behind. I worried, and still worry, his memory will fade. Why can’t I remember everything?
By this time, I’ve learned to balance two extreme emotions at once.–a life event that brings both joy and sorrow at the same time. I’ve learned to be OK with that. Find the joy. Allow myself to experience the pain. I also learned that getting outside my own head had helped me more than anything. That’s really what mattered.
I sold a business and followed my heart. Like Charles said, “Mom, did you follow your passion?”
I adopted some of Charles’ traits which means I’m learning to carry him in my heart because it’s what I have even if it was not my choice.
I realized I had adapted to knowing that I would not always know. I became more adventurous, more accepting, bolder, more vulnerable and happy with that.
I lived emotionally naked. And while I am still grieving that loss, I feel comfortable in my skin.
15 thoughts on “Reflecting on the first 2 years after losing Charles to suicide”
Everything you said – ditto.
I am still struggling with feeling sluggish and unmotivated at 4 1/2 years. I still nap a lot. And what’s the deal with things not mattering – even things that had nothing to do with Whitten? I feel like I do most things because I feel like I should, or to try to make others happy.
And so we slog forward…
I spend a half hour every morning reading and trying to center myself to understand God’s will for our family..our son is alive but in jail because he cant stay clean for more than 9 mos..it has been a long journey for the past 12 to 15 years..and,as often as i read the same daily meditation these past many years i am always struck by the awareness of a reading..yesterday’s ‘pain and disappointment are a part of the fullness of life, and so I ask for the grace to endure them without bitterness, in the joy of being alive and aware and free to grow..the pain still hurts but now i have perspective.Life is a mixture of sorrow and joy. I embrace it…overflowing with gratitude’…emotionally naked
Lovely perspective Connie. Sometimes we have to fight to be centered in that regard. I would make that promise and fall off the wagon and climb back on.
I lost my son at the age of 39–he battled depression 25 years until he couldn’t–a true warrior. It will be two years this Fri. Thank you for sharing your journey, Anne Moss–it has helped me a great deal to have your companionship. Blessings.
So our death anniversaries are close. I am so sorry. It is a very complex grief journey. I am so sorry we find ourselves in this club
You are so incredibly inspirational and brave. I’m grateful for the good that has come from your family’s tragedy, because you are helping so many, but I’m so very sorry Charles is not physically there to give you a huge hug.
I will accept that virtual hug!
I remember sitting at Hope Church a few days before the service. We wanted everyone who was speaking to see the space. We were watching the slide show Jordan had put together. The pastor encouraged us to watch it as we would be sitting in there while it was shown during the service. We were all done and everyone just kind of looked at me waiting for me to get up and leave. I didn’t want to leave. I knew leaving meant the service was going to happen and that just seemed so final. Thank you Anne Moss for modeling this journey to me and so many others. 💙
You are welcome. Thanks for sharing that Jenny. I so understand that. I didn’t want to leave the memorial service. Someone had to come up to me and say it was time to leave. I wanted to yell and scream and tell everyone I was not ready to go yet. For once, finally, I was getting the support I so craved. My child was getting recognized and remembered and I knew when I left it would never be like that ever again.
Thank you. I’m only into month 4. Surprised I’m up and actually functioning. Although I’m crying/ screaming inside.
Yes! Everything now is before ‘it’ happened or after ‘it’happened happened. Time stopped . Then started again. And I’ve decided early on I’ll be kind to myself when having to decide to say how many children. Depends on each situation and basically, how fragile I am at that moment also who I am talking to. Sometimes I even say 3 and name their ages( including Josh ) as if he’s still here.
The death of a child changes you. To your core. I owe very few an explanation about anything , especially something so very personal. I have more compassion but far less tolerance for b.s. I’ve also noticed I speak up much more than before ‘it’happened .
Less tolerance for B.S. is definitely a theme among us parents who have lost a child. That I’ve noticed. I think you have figured out what to do at this point in your journey which is a big part of the healing process. I think you are dealing with it in a healthy way Diane. Thank you for sharing
I feel as if Charles is smiling down on you and saying,”Go for it, mom. Make the difference.” Thank you for opening up.
Awww. Thank you Laura.
I do so love your authenticity and transparency. Thank you, Anne Moss. Thinking about you as you move into Year 3…
Amy – Thank you for being my champion.