Charles would be 26 on April 26, 2021. It is easier now, almost six years later, than the birthdays were at first.
At a time when the only thing normal in my life was the setting on my dryer, the landscape disintegrated to ashes and nothing mattered. Everything was trivial compared to my monumental loss. No problem could meet the enormity of the hole this one left me with and humility found the opportunity to move in and permanently take residence. How could I have missed a hurt so big it would drive my son to end his life? What kind of mother was I?
After losing my son, Charles to suicide at age 20 on June 5, 2015, the grief episodes didn’t come in waves but in separate but sequential tsunamis. It would be a while before I could downgrade to calling them mere waves.
They would surge and subside, surge and subside. And the emotion that would move in when the tsunami would subside was replaced by an altered emotional state of numbness and shock as if I was floating in a surreal world and walking through pudding. When the will to go on didn’t present itself, I found something within me somewhere that pushed me forward to go on. I gave myself reasons to move forward and fortunately for me, I was never suicidal. But I can understand how it could have come to that.
My friend Gray who suffers from depression, said for about 2 years after the death of her son Whitten, she really didn’t care to live but she felt obligated to live. So she did. I’ve often thought about the amount of strength it took for her to manage her depression in the midst of such grief.
When I reached the edge of myself, I looked up and asked for the strength to go on, managed to meet it halfway, and push through until I found some sliver of joy. It was intentional and almost robotic at first but then became a habit. I begged myself to find a way when there were no crumbs to follow and the isolation would pin my motivation to the pillow. But the community we brought together here in our shared pain gave back to me. That’s where I found hope. You all held me up when my spirits flattened and pieces of myself fell away.
It would take years to work through all that.
Many of you who haven’t lost a child understand devastating emotional pain. Your experience with it may not be exactly the same. Whose pain is the same anyway?
It is now almost comical to look back at our list of ideas to engage Charles and our overzealous pursuit of driving him to meet goals, most of which were driven by fear. My reaction to his addiction to heroin was blinding terror.
We were so desperate to grab at anything that might turn his life in a direction that looked promising–a direction that didn’t look as dismal as the feelings in my soul.
I still think about him and miss him every day. I wonder what he’d be doing, what he’d look like. Charles loved birthdays, and loved his own birthday and would start talking about it months prior to the day.
To my baby boy, Charles. I love you.