My 12 year old son came home from school recently and mentioned he wrote a poem for class that had two of his teachers in tears. I asked what it was about and he said, “After your mother’s death.”
My mother, who had committed suicide.
“Really?” I asked, “what about it?”
“Oh nothing,” he squirmed and then no longer wanted to talk about it.
That always drives me nuts. Reel me in to push me out. Frustrating.
But what I’ve learned is that IS him letting me in. He is only willing or able to so in small doses for heavier subjects and the only thing I can do is wait until he is ready to share.
With that said, I keep asking. Also in small doses. But to let him know I’m paying attention. A couple days later, he brought home his poem….and quite frankly, it blew me away.
“Did she have to go?
Could she have stayed?
What would it be like on this day?
Did she think she wouldn’t be missed?
After all that is what she thought?
Some have overcome this death,
When others mourn in thought.
Some have never met her.
And never will.
So maybe just maybe she could have stayed.
Did she have to take her life?
Just throw everything away?
What about the people to come?
Her family that was so big,
Did she not know we would love her anyway?
So why throw it all away?
The one action, the one thought,
That changed so many lives to this day.
Only if one thought changed, one thought shifted,
But it didn’t and it took her life away.”
He expected tears from me and they came. They always come. Even easier now as I see the gift of their arrival rather than the shame of being so sensitive.
“That was amazing. Your perspective is inspiring to me. It reminds me why I do what I do. Thank you for sharing.” I said to him.
Still squirmy, he was unsure if I’d be upset. He was looking for reassurance that his words, his voice, had value. At that moment, I could only give him half of my own thoughts. I had to sit with the feeling that came with them.
Being the child of a parent who committed suicide is not really a category I live in. I wear no badge of ongoing pain, or talk about the experience of how damaged I am because of it.
Although, in truth, I am. Damaged is not a fair statement, but touched…changed…strong because of it.
For me, I made a decision long ago that I would use the experience to enhance my life, not ruin it and use it as an excuse to keep screwing up and saying that life owes me because I’ve been hurt…by the will of someone else.
The victim mentality makes me edgy. And feel powerless. Its not a place I’ll let myself live.
Instead, I’ve used my scars as motivation to prevent someone else, like me or my mother, sensitive and imperfect beings, from feeling stuck in misery and worry. The kind that allows fear and frustration to rule the days.
I used to. I had to try it on first. But even during that time period, I knew it would not last for me. I couldn’t live like that. Being miserable bores me. I become impatient with my woes. I get lost in my symptoms of depression and anxiety and I am dedicated to finding my way out of the maze to make it easier for the next time I enter.
And I will. Its part of my human experience. I’m not immune.
I’m filled with dysfunctional patterns of protection I’ve had to unravel and re-wire in my brain and in my choices. Those come with the experience. My inner optimist wants to ignore them, but the realist in me says, you’ve still got shit to work on. And I do.
But I also won’t be held back.
My little boy’s beautifully expressed thoughts reminded me that life does go on. That we continue to grow and thrive after great loss, but we don’t forget and we don’t move on unchanged.
He never met my mother, his grandmother, but he has seen the way her life and death changed mine and in turn his. Had I not been so motivated to change, he would have a very different mother. Had I not been so vulnerable to face my demons, he would be experiencing them by default.
I knew when I had children I would have to teach myself to mother them. I knew I had to dig into myself and find the courage to learn to love without limits and not protect myself from the fear of loss or pain by holding them too close.
When you lose someone you are attached to suddenly, it has a lasting impact on your ability to trust. And yet…I’ve chosen a life where my purpose is not only to learn to trust more, but to teach and inspire others to do the same.
I have been surrounded by suicide for the majority of life. Mostly the loved ones left in the wake. From friends to close connections to clients, I’m well versed in the feelings and understanding of what it’s like to experience the guilt and sorrow and anger and confusion, after someone ends what we find to be so precious.
I know what its like to be lost while trying to make sense of it all.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor, I’ve also worked with many who let the obsession of not wanting to be here take over their lives. Those who have attempted to die and those who just wish it would happen so they could move out of their internal hell hole.
My question of the why’s have been answered. I can see how and why people get to the brink of wanting to end the pain. Its heavy and its real.
But I’ve also seen and felt what its like when the corner turns. When the one thought changes to a new one of hope. Of opportunity. Of light in a very, very dark tunnel.
Anything is possible. I don’t just believe this, I live it.
I laid down with my son that night before he went to sleep and told him, again, how much his poem had touched me.
I told him how I could hear his own “what if’s” in his words and feel the questioning that life often brings…and that I will always walk with him to help him find the answers he seeks. Its what we do for those we love.
I reminded him that Hope is the driving force behind my life’s work and Trust has changed me. And that Support is available to all of us. We just have to ask.
He hugged me close and said, “I love you, Mom.”
And once again, I knew, its always worth it. Life, the work that comes with Living…always, always worth it.