Why I Need You to Respect My Grieving Process After My Son's Suicide
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741
“Get over it.” Those are the words that rankle the most, the misconception I would address, if I could. Just get over it. Don’t feel depressed, don’t experience anxiety, don’t grieve. I wonder, sometimes, whether the people who utter the “get over it” chant really know what they’re asking? My son struggled with depression and he wasn’t going to get over it through will power and a spoonful of concrete. This is because he was struggling with an illness, not a weakness. Equally, I’m not going to simply “get over” losing him so tragically just because it feels like it’s time for that to happen.
It is often said the grief experienced in the aftermath of death by suicide is of a different quality than grief from any other loss. I can only speak from personal experience, having survived the loss of two of the most important people in my life to sudden death. As a child, one of your worst nightmares is the loss of a parent and as a parent, your worst nightmare is the loss of a child. Both are horrific, particularly when the death is so utterly tragic.
My mother was on a bicycle when she was hit by a car driven by a boy who was my age at the time. I will never forget that feeling of disconnect, going to bed with everything OK in my world and waking up the next morning to be told my mummy was dead. Just wrong on way too many levels. It took a very long time to walk through that grief, to start layering on life without Mum in it. I still cry for her 30 plus years later and long for her hug when life takes a swipe at me. Growing up, leaving home, having my own family; those changes and the passage of time helped mitigate Mum’s loss and helped to form scar tissue over the brokenness. I didn’t “get over it,” I learned how to live life without her in it.
I am struggling to see the same scar tissue knitting together the shattered bits inside of me left after Harry died. Losing a child to death by suicide is agonizing. There are so many questions, so much guilt, so many things I would have done differently, with the benefit of hindsight. The information collated in the investigations over the past two and a half years since Harry died clanks and rumbles inside my head and I desperately want to get it out, to save myself some of this agony. At times I feel completely alone in this grief, as my children’s father died three months after Harry did.
Harry died in my arms in ICU on the 24th of November, 2013. He was 18 years and 9 months old. He will always be 18 years and 9 months old. But I am not stuck in that moment with him. I am functioning in life. I get myself to work and pay my bills and look after my daughter. I go to church and I dance and I socialize with family and friends. I still experience some really wicked flashbacks that have the power to steal my breath away and make me cry in public.
In my grief, I do still have the capacity to love. I can recognize it is the love I have for my son that makes me grieve his loss so keenly. The love I have for my daughter keeps me present and reminds me life is here to be lived. I choose life every day and I thank God for each day I am gifted. Please don’t tell me to “just get over it” though. Please don’t. Loving both of my children is something I have always been able to do, when Harry was here with us and now when we’re left working out what life is without him. Please don’t expect me to shelve my grief when I’m still required to keep Harry’s loss fresh in my mind as the investigations plod on. Please don’t discount the fact my son had an illness just because you’ve never experienced depression or anxiety yourself.
I understand these words often come from a place of love. I understand people who see me suffering from a sometimes debilitating grief want to take it away for me and want me to be “better.” I would say to you I am OK, I will continue to be OK and I will continue to work out what this life I lead feels like with an additional layer of scar tissue holding my heart together. I will work it out. I promise. I will get through it, one day at a time. But I will not leap over it.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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