My Post-Suicide Landscape


I think I’m experiencing a delayed reaction to a speech I gave last week. I’m consumed tonight with a ridiculous desire to cry, to let the emotion leak down my face, and to lose myself in it for a while. In my speech, I read out loud the words that “I should still have a son I can hug.”

That sentence is haunting me tonight, over and over again, the thought that I need to hug Harry just one more time, just once. Just one hug. The last time I hugged him was on a Thursday night, just after 8 p.m., 1,685 days ago. It was a real Harry hug, that one, close and strong and smelling of cigarettes and cold air, his skinny frame bolstered out by his puffa jacket.

I cannot understand the shape of my life when the pain assails me so. I’ve lost my reference points, just as I do when I drive around our post-quake CBD, with missing landmarks and new, shining edifices that are yet to be cemented in my internal map.

My post-suicide landscape is similar; it contains so many vacant lots where the rubble remains as pain, that I seem to stumble through most often in the dark, when the house is quiet and the busyness of the day has receded. The boulders of pain that lie there are covered in a relentless growth of weeds that even the most determined gardener would fail to control. Even the rubble will not remain as it was when my life caved in on me.

And when the sun shines on the glittery newness of experiences and life events that have continued to happen, even though Harry died, I find myself blinded by it, sometimes lost in those moments of joy and happiness, the brightness hurting my eyes. And I stumble too, in the brightness, in the crisp new memories that have layered themselves on top of the pain. I stumble.

And I remember what it felt like, to speak out that pain. I remember why I said “yes.” I remember that hope can become my compass when I’m lost, stumbling into boulders in the dark. I remember the screengrab my sister took last year, with the words running across the bottom: “Maria Dillon, Harry McLean’s Mother.”

And I am. Even though I can no longer hug my son, I am and always will be his mother.  And even when the emotion leaking down my face threatens to drag me under again, even then, hope can still be my compass. The hope that this too shall pass. That my pain and my loss are not the sum total of who I am, of who I have become. I will pick myself up again, and I will avoid tripping through boulders in the dark, and I will forever treasure the moments I did have with my son and that beautiful hug he gifted me with 1,685 days ago.

Harry’s death has taught me to appreciate those moments more, to notice them, in between the boulders and the blinding sunlight. The small, seemingly insignificant moments, that pass so quickly are important. They are my compass; they are my hope.

Getty image by phaustov.


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