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The Expectation of Grieving a Suicide Loss

Recently as I sat in a waiting room, I started crying. Thankfully there weren’t any other patients waiting and I managed to cover up the tears reasonably swiftly. It still caught me off-guard though — that (sometimes) overwhelming weight of suicide grief.

As of today, I have lived through 2,123 days without my son; it has been five years, nine months and 24 days since he died in my arms in the ICU. And the weight of all of those days and hours and minutes is (sometimes) too much for me to carry.

I can often predict when it will happen: if I’m feeling tired and have a headache and am worn down, I will feel it more. If I have to go to another funeral, I will feel my hand resting on the cool, white wood of Harry’s casket again. If I am in the supermarket and I see a shadow of Harry in my periphery, I have to remind myself again, “That is not him,” because Harry died.

In all we are required to carry as parents who grieve the loss of a child to death by suicide, the weight of expectation is often the hardest. The expectation it is time to “get over it” now, the expectation the love we feel for our child ceased when they died. The expectation we not burden others with those difficult conversations that include the “s-word.”

Overwhelmingly, the response I have received from talking publicly about Harry’s death has been positive. I struggle to remember all the individual supportive and empathetic comments. However, the few that weren’t so positive are the ones that won’t leave me.

Being “that woman” who thought she could have prevented her son’s suicide is something I hold with me. This has come at me a number of times: in response to my writing, in a public forum, in face-to-face conversations. The strong belief that once someone has made up their mind to take their own life, nothing can be done to stop them is one I would strenuously debate. Death is by no means the only outcome of suicidal thoughts.

The opinion that wounds the most though is that I am the failure — I failed as a parent, I caused Harry’s death. Those words are not a surprise, I have gone through countless iterations of them myself since Harry died. I failed to “fix” him. I am his mother and I could not stop him from leaving me. My baby died, and I have to carry on living.

My grief sometimes presents herself to me as a person, stuck inside my head, arms and legs stretched out, pushing on the inside of my skull with all of her might to release the pent-up scream. But only sometimes. Sometimes she curls up like a tiny child in the corner of my heart and quietly sobs herself to sleep. But only sometimes.

It is only sometimes that the weight of my grief overwhelms me. I have lived through 2,123 days without my son. I have spoken his name often and I have done the best I can, every day. In all of the minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years to come, I know my grief will continue to overwhelm me at times. That doesn’t mean my life is on hold though or that I am stuck. Every single day I walk forward in the absolute knowledge that love never dies.

I love you, Harry.

Getty image by simonapilolla