When we first sent my youngest son, Charles, away to wilderness and then therapeutic boarding school, the grief from having lost what I considered a normal high school experience left me feeling cheated. No home-town plays with Charles in them, no chaperoning the homecoming dances that he’d attend with a date.
We sent him away to save his life. And it was a last resort.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also find relief after he left.
I wrestled with the agony of sending him away against his will while also welcoming the warm blanket of safety and hope that surrounded me after we did.
While he was at home, my heart would sprint out of my chest every time the phone rang.
But after he left, we were no longer awakened at 2 am by a glassy-eyed son I didn’t recognize. No more surprise vomit in random places around the house or suspicious prescription pill bottles from names I was vaguely familiar with. I no longer hid my handbag or had to set the alarm to keep him inside instead of keeping criminals out.
It was peaceful for the first time in three years and I pushed away the guilt that stalked me for enjoying it.
Later when he he was in jail or in rehab, again, I would feel relieved. Because I knew where he was and that he was alive.
After his death, the crushing news of his suicide left me wondering whether I would survive. But a part of me, at times, was relieved. My adrenalin wasn’t standing at constant attention and I could let go of some of the toxic worry that had kept my nerves hostage for years.
I miss him. I always will. But I don’t miss the worry, chaos, financial strain, and constant fear of losing him.