It’s been a slow process feeling human after my son, Charles’ suicide in June of 2015. You can’t hit the gas pedal to speed yourself through it. You can’t go around it. You can’t drink yourself through it.
I can’t say it’s something you go though either. It goes through you and you just have to accept it.
Those days, weeks, months after the death of my child felt like my soul had been ripped from my chest, tossed into the road and run over by a tractor trailer. For us, it wasn’t easier when he was alive. The last five years of his life was such a series of crises, I couldn’t believe it was my own life.
There is no other way to do it than to let the pain in. The only way to survive is to experience it. And that pain is your only link to the one you love. All those years of hoping ended in a tragedy far more awful than even I imagined. Yet I am finding hope again. I’m laughing again. I’m living again.
And yes, I still cry. I still suffer during the holidays and struggle during his birthday month. I have days where I spend more time with grief and days that grief seldom visits. But it is with me every day which is what I have become accustomed to.
I made a promise I would never, ever be silent on the subject of mental illness, addiction and suicide. So I grieve in public and I don’t apologize. I give presentations on all those subjects. I am pursuing programs on prevention that are groundbreaking. I’m writing a book that will include Charles’ lyrics so you can see inside his soul and understand these diseases. I am living my passion and I will never stop.
I spent too many years feeling the isolation of my son’s mental illness, suffering from lack of support and my son’s lack of compliance and the powerlessness that goes with it.
Funny, how I understand him more now. How it all has come into focus after his death. I wish I had asked more questions. Listened more. I did learn how to do that before he died. When I have those hard days of grief that will hit me at times, I picture “Saturday Charles.” That day he got out of rehab and looked so good. That plaid shirt, those gorgeous curls, that engaging smile, his boyish scent and that amazing hug. I so wish I had taken a photo. But the one in my head is burned in my memory.
The culture as it is now, less-connected to each other than ever before, was too harsh for Charles. As long ago as fifth grade, I wondered, “How will this child make it?” We tried to guide him but Charles was never one to be guided. He had his own ship and no one was going to drive it for him.
He stood up for the underdogs, he did crazy, zany things like stopping in hallways and breaking out in a rap song he invented on the spot for someone who was hurting.
He loved dogs and they always loved him. He orchestrated grand bonfires, parties, games, and productions for his YouTube channel. He wore dinosaur costumes to his friends’ homes in the middle of the summer. He listened to teens who lived with a parent who drank too much and to the kid who had become paralyzed.
Who wouldn’t love that?
He just burned so bright, that candle simply could not stay lit. Now it’s up to me to carry that legacy forward.