charles piggy back on another boy

Making peace with regrets

Charles thought we’d given up on him.

There is no putting lipstick on that thought to make it pretty. And denying it won’t make it not true. I drowned in guilt over this for years. And it has resurfaced after a dream in which the phone rang incessantly and I woke up in a cold sweat that something awful had happened.

It had of course. In 2015, my son had taken his life. Why was this coming up now?

Right after he died, I was obsessed about that last phone call.

But it wasn’t the last phone call. There was another one after that. One I didn’t answer because of sheer emotional exhaustion. My head was pounding, and my mind was swimming somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean. (I live on the east coast)

That phone rang and rang and rang that afternoon. First my mobile. Then the home phone. It was torture. Like someone was drilling into my head. Part of me wanted to answer it so badly. Something told me I needed to answer it.

But I didn’t. Because after two hours of being yelled at, I’d not found out anything new, was confused about what was going on, what he was saying, or asking. In short, he made little sense.

Every instinct was pushing me towards it, yet my exhaustion paralyzed my mind and limbs. And there was this one thought that crept in as alarm bells were going off in my head, “Someday you will regret not answering that phone.”

It was an epic error I made at the absolute wrong time.

All the spent emotion on phone calls for two hours had me ground to a nub. I had nothing left. I needed a time out, a break, to think.

I did want it to be done and fixed.

Looking back I know the outcome, that he was going through withdrawal, that he wanted help but was not asking directly, and that he had broken up with his girlfriend. All of this would be a later discovery for me. I knew none of it at the time.

I also know now there was no way I was going to be able to decipher the elaborate messages he was sending in my state of mind.

I would have understood, “Mom, help me.” That wasn’t what I was hearing. And who knows if I would have responded appropriately to that?

Tough love? That was not the tact to take with my child. And yet that was the thought I leaned on right then to get that break. Because we’d tried everything else.

What Charles felt was a withdrawal of love

I didn’t hesitate to torture myself over this for years. And I’m writing about it to take away its power.

Yes, he felt abandoned but I can’t control what someone else feels.

It’s important that I accept that in Charles’s state of mind, he thought, “I am worthless. They’ve given up on me.”

I loved him with every molecule in my body. I needed a time out but I had hardly given up. It’s hard to know where to start when you have little information.

Little nicks of regret filter in every now and again. It’s never “over” but it is easier to manage.

The truth is I can’t look back at all that with the knowledge I have now and judge myself as worthless. It wasn’t even easy to figure it out once I had all the information years later, much less at the time it was happening.

We all have regrets especially if we lost someone we love. Making peace with them is the only way to live with them.

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

8 thoughts on “Making peace with regrets”

  1. Oh Anne. My heart is bursting with compassion as I read your post. I’ve spent so many sleepless nights tormented by similar thoughts. My son Zach died by suicide this past January. Your descriptions of Charles remind me so much of him. I think they would have been great friends. Beautiful souls.
    Thank you for your courage, vulnerability and honesty. I found your blog a month or so after Zach died and your writing has been a lifeline to me more than once. Sending you much love and prayers for continued healing on your journey.

    1. I love getting to know who is behind the names. Thank you for posting. I know it all still feels pretty raw. And you are welcome. It was so uncomfortable putting all of this out there. It still feels that way. But it’s easier to do now and work through the doubt.

  2. Thank you for the this. I lost my daughter almost 11 years ago – she overdosed in her room at 23 just down the hall from me. I thought it would have been different if I’d spent the night in her room knowing she was vulnerable. But the truth and the reality is unless I watched her every minute of every day and night, it would have happened. We can’t be responsible. She calmly told my husband and I she loved us before going to her room that night.

    1. Oh my gosh that is such trauma. You bring up such a good point. We can’t do life for someone else. It can happen away from home or right under our noses. I’m so sorry Lois. I, too, have traveled this grief journey as you know. I appreciate your comment.

  3. Anne, I live with the same “what if’s” as you, every single day of the last 17 years since I lost my teenage son to suicide. What if I had been home with him and not a million miles away on the other side of the world on vacation? What if my ex husband had been more of an involved parent instead of “Mr. Happy Go Lucky” where all was right with the world when in fact his son was suffering in silence right before him? What if my son had told me on my last overseas phone call to him that he needed me? The “What if’s” have never stopped in all these years since my beloved boy has been gone but I have come to terms with them. I think of them and him and try to realize I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.

      1. Oh Anne, thank you for sharing that. I am in tears, because I don’t think there is a single one of us that doesn’t have a self-torturing moment that we hang over our own heads. I have so many that pop up out of nowhere and take my breath away. I did the best I could with what I knew. No matter what lies the suicidal thoughts told him, he knows this. And he knows I love him.

        1. This comment is the key “I did the best I could with what I knew. No matter what lies the suicidal thoughts told him, he knows this. And he knows I love him.” I do remind myself of that. Thank goodness I could let this go once I wrote about it. Again.

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