“Hard to comprehend in the human mind
Impossible to envision leaving yourself behind.”
–Charles Aubrey Rogers
Nobody wants to actually say the word dead.
We say “passed on,” “passed away,” “kicked the bucket,” “passed,” “gone to heaven,” “deceased,” “expired,” “gone,” “departed, “fell asleep in Jesus” and a whole host of other phrases. Despite the fact that it happens to 100% of us, we are not the least bit comfortable with that subject and push it away.
My heart has suffered permanent damage since the death of my son by suicide. That does not mean I cannot ever find joy. It doesn’t mean I can’t ever have fun. It just means I need to adjust to having a heart that will hurt.
I met with a new friend today. And she reminded me that if this had not happened, I would not have met many of the wonderful new people I have met including all the lovely people who have contributed hearts to this project. I love that it’s become a group effort. This one from Texas. … Read more... “Heart damage— #griefheart number 205”
This incredible work of art is by me, a non-illustrator. If I could have stretched the arms to the edges of the universe, I would have. This is how much I still love my child. Until he died by suicide, I had no idea how much you could love someone that was no longer alive.
But that’s what grief is. The price you pay for having loved someone with all your heart.
An infinity heart is an “I love you forever heart.” I love Charles forever and ever even though he’s not here any longer.
This is actually a tattoo on the arm of my friend Beka Lombardo who suffers from bipolar disorder. Part of her recovery is giving back and being outspoken on the subject. This is what she has to say about her new arm artwork.
Many of us love or have loved an addict. Their disease is not who they are and I want you to know that even when they are actively using, their real selves are alive and suffering. I can see from Charles’ rap lyrics before his suicide that he felt deeply when he was using. That he hated himself, felt guilty, ashamed, depressed and ostracized. But I love him and hated the disease.
After 6 years of mental health advocacy, speaking out, being on TV and radio interviews, doing presentations, videos, writing articles, starting this blog, risking rejection by speaking out and all but throwing myself in the middle of the street with a neon flashing sign, we are seeing change. I am referring to understanding that mental health and addiction are illnesses. It’s the collective effort and sharing of millions who are tired of the stigma surrounding substance abuse disorder and mental illness.
My heart is often puzzled. Why did this happen? Why didn’t I know? Why wouldn’t he admit to suffering from depression?
I can only speculate and his lyrics have helped me figure it out as much as I will ever know. It’s just really hard to put the pieces of your life back together again. To figure out your direction and purpose. To be able to pull yourself up from the depths of despair and live again.
This heart is in special remembrance of Logan Neale, a 19-year-old from Midlothian, Virginia who died in a truck crash. Logan was an avid runner who discovered that athletics could help him cope with his anxiety and depression. Logan also struggled with an eating disorder and suicidal ideation.
Like many with depression, Logan was empathetic about others suffering from mental illness and he believed in breaking the stigma that kept people from seeking the care and support they needed. Like Charles, Logan attended Wasatch Academy in Utah. His mother retrieved this heart from the tree where he died.
This oyster heart reminds me of all the family beach trips we took over the years at the Outer Banks. The last trip we took, Charles was suffering a depressive episode and it was hard to get him out of the basement room. He always denied suffering from depression which makes you truly feel helpless and even question if it’s your imagination. I would gently nudge him about coming outside and he’d come out and skim board for a bit and then go back in the basement.
From top right and around: Chaney Corley, died by suicide from overdose; Joshua Hasnas, overdose (possible suicide), Billy Derr, overdose; John Henry Watkins, overdose; Marshall Colglazier, overdose; Dawson Pettit, overdose; Josh Kaski, overdose. Center: My first cousin’s second born, Reece Haigh, overdose.
This is what drug overdose looks like. And it’s often not what people expect. Drug addiction cuts across all racial lines and socioeconomic groups as does mental illness. I know all these parents. There are countless others I don’t know but my heart goes out to all of you.