I can say I have healed emotionally.
I can’t say, “I’m over it.”
I have learned to walk beside grief and accept the journey however it presents itself, never having expectations of how it might be. So if I feel low, I sit with that emotion for a bit and then use a coping skill to jump-start myself out of that space. No pushing grief away or denying it. But then no wallowing either. My grief is my opportunity to connect with the memories of Charles.
At this point, it’s less about how he died but more about the fact he’s just no longer here in physical form. Now I speak on the grief from suicide loss but what I’m saying is that I no longer punish myself, hold myself hostage, or otherwise wallow in thoughts that I was a lousy parent. I just plain miss him.
It used to be I would really struggle for a month prior to the death anniversary. I do get more tired, a little more confused, and easily overwhelmed the two weeks prior, but otherwise, I’m doing OK. I have had moments of melancholy but the suffering is nothing like it once was. And that’s not because I’m stronger than anyone else. It’s because I’ve worked really hard to deny unhealthy coping strategies and embrace healthy ones. I’ve sought out support when I need it without shame, I’ve written thousands of pages on this blog, in books, on websites, and in newspapers, and given hundreds of speeches. I don’t apologize for my tears even if they appear uninvited when I’m on stage. That space, those tears, are for Charles.
All of this is in stark contrast to that first year, or the first three really, where I was just trying to survive and hanging on to any shred of hope and the edges of my sanity during birthdays and death anniversaries, holidays and mother’s day.
That which I thought was unsurvivable was, after all, survivable. My mantra in the raw years was, “I will survive. As much as it hurts right now, it will never hurt as much as getting the news. That part is over. And it will never hurt that much again.”
I have learned to focus on the 95% of parenting I did right and not dwell on the 5% that I did imperfectly because I am human. That means I will not ignore the beautiful life he had with us before it got dark and even the sparks of happiness tucked away in those chaotic last five years of his life.
The odd thing is that my relationship with my beloved dead continues to evolve. That doesn’t mean I “can’t let go.” It means I loved someone enough to keep their spirit alive and in my life in a healthy and productive way.
My love and my prayers could not rescue my child from addiction, depression, or suicide. Sometimes tragedy wins and we lose. Despite, that, I have not lost faith in love, or life, but I have learned not to expect either to prevent the worst.
As harsh as this journy has been and still is, there is beauty if you look for it. Charles once wrote, “Through all the terror, I can catch beauty in a glimpse of hope.“ That is a phrase I keep next to my heart.