I am often out somewhere, going to the grocery or drug store, doing normal people things but feeling I’m not normal any more.
Today, we were driving back from visiting my parents in North Carolina and I watched parents in Chick-fil-A with their kids. I remember when we did those things with our own kids. Stopped to eat on the way to vacation somewhere. We asked if they needed to use the bathroom, if they’d washed their hands, what did they want to eat.
I look at some of the t-shirts the parents are wearing emblazoned with home-made logos in support for a local swim team or baseball club. Normal family stuff. We did that, too. Our kids went to school, played sports, had friends over. We had bonfires, picnics, birthday parties, sleepovers, trips to theme parks, and trips to movies.
We were normal.
Then we weren’t.
We got the news Charles had killed himself while sitting in the back of a police car outside a restaurant where we had been having dinner–doing a normal Friday night couple activity. (Normal for those with older children.)
In a skinny second, my life was no longer normal and it never would be again. From then on, I would not see the world through the same lens as I had before.
And often I have felt a surreal sense of watching other families, not from a nostalgic point of view, but the point of view from a mom who now knows too much. Sometimes I feel strangely guilty about that. So much innocence. I remember when I was blissfully innocent. Before the mental illness, addiction and the ultimate tragedy that turned my life upside down. Before it tore a hole in my heart.
Sometimes some of those parents with kids under 11 will start up a conversation. Sometimes they’ll ask me about my kids and I tell them about Richard and then I tell them what happened to Charles. They tell me they are sorry. And they mean it.
I used to worry I was putting a damper on their happy family life by mentioning what happened to my son. I no longer worry about that. Because I see that they don’t think it’s the remotest possibility this awful thing could happen to them. They think they are insulated and what happened to my family is completely separate to something that could happen to theirs. I’m thankful for that. How cozy it must feel to still live in that naive world. I miss it.
So as I’m looking at people interact with their kids, I realize we were normal. We dreamed of what they’d be one day. Admired how smart they were, how adorable they were as we laughed at ourselves for thinking we had the smartest and the cutest kids.
I was not looking at all this activity feeling jaded. Or surprisingly, even cheated. I just felt different.
10 thoughts on “Are we normal people any more?”
Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability. Your story resinated with me and my heart breaks for you and your family. Even though I was brought up in a household where my father was sick with a mental illness from the time I was three and my fate would have me suffer from the same form of mental illness throughout my life, it has been monumentally different and painful raising a child that has been stricken with this mental illness through no fault of his own and is now suffering greatly because of it.
Before coming to your post I was just reading posts of friends and where their children are going to college in September. I am sad that that is not my child’s path right now. I am praying that the medications and therapy I have struggled to find for my child helps to not only stop the suffering but give him an opportunity to live.
There is a loss of innocence for me, a shift in hope and a prayer for strength and wisdom. My child tried unsuccessfully to take his life three years ago when he was 15. He will soon be turning 18. My wish for him is joy, happiness and peace. I pray that I will be able to help and support him to get there. I am heartbroken he is ill with mental illness. This I believe is very difficult to suffer with because there is very little support, love, and understanding from friends, but more painful is that there has been very little to no support from family.
I am in awe of the work you are doing to help young people and families understand the importance of talking about suicide and the painful reality of your story. Thank you Anne for sharing your pain, your sorrow, your experience, your strength and your hope.
You know, more people are struggling with the mental illness of a child than you know. And still others do not know yet and it might be a suicide attempt that will serve as a jolting wake up call.
I so appreciate your telling us your story. It still helps me to know if others dealing with this. Our culture is still not in a place to prevent or treat this as consistently as it needs to be. But it has changed. I have a lot of hope for your family. And you are doing all you can. Thanks for your words of support and I do what I do in memory of my son, Charles. No one should have to endure all this alone.
Thank you for your insight. My sibling passed away in early adulthood and I so appreciate understanding a perspective that my mother might share. Glad that you’ve settled on feeling “different” rather than the alternatives, because different is okay- albeit sometimes painful. Hope you agree. Thanks again.
I am comfortable with different. Really am. Thank you for asking and for caring about your mother to try and understand her pain. What a great daughter you are.
You took the words out of my mouth. I have had those exact thoughts many times. Only I am not as charitable as you – I want to scream at them that I was oblivious once too. There is never a day it doesn’t hit me in the face. I was putting away dishes after Easter dinner and saw Whitten’s little baby mugs and spoons that he got as gifts. What will happen to those? Who will take them and care about them?
I am definitely no longer normal.
You know Gray, I’ve had those “Sorry to interrupt your beautiful life with my tragedy,” moments. Where I want to say, “You have no idea what can happen. Enjoy it now!” Then I realize their bliss and how pointless it would be to try and convince them. I think I experienced those angrier and more resentful thoughts earlier and not as much now. But I still have them, especially at the end of the year during the holidays.
Good insights, Anne Moss. There isn’t a bereaved parent here that doesn’t clearly understand this thought process, sadly. As cliche as it is, we are all living or on the journey to find our new normal. ❌⭕❌⭕
Thank you Janet
So poignant. We do live in a bubble…until we don’t. And then we see so much more around us that we missed. I have not lost a child to addiction or suicide but have an adult child with a malignant brain tumor. It changes everything. We see that no one is immune from heartache. Yet we press on… ❤️
It does, Amy. Facing adversity simply change your perspective. And when it hits our children and not us, it’s a sobering and we discover a new level of appreciation. Death is one of life’s wake up calls.