Do not judge the bereaved mother.She comes in many forms.
She is breathing, but she is dying.
She may look young, but inside she has become ancient.
She smiles, but her heart sobs.
She walks, she talks, she cooks,
she cleans, she works, she IS
but she IS NOT all at once.
She is here, but part of her is elsewhere for eternity.
A child that loses a parent is an orphan.
A husband that loses his wife is a widower.
A wife who loses her husband is a widow.
However, there is no word for a parent that loses a child.
For there is no word to describe such pain.
25 years ago today, on my birthday, we found out that you were on the way, in about eight months. Well, to be fair, we didn’t know it would be you, but we knew that someone wonderfully amazing was headed our way. Little did we know how wonderfully amazing you were. We announced your pending arrival at the family Christmas celebration here at home. Your sisters were only two and three at the time, but they were so excited by the thought of a baby coming into their lives. Your grandparents, aunts and uncles were also happy. Everyone thought that maybe this time there’d be a baby boy. Eventually we would find out that yes, we were going to have a boy. Very exciting times indeed.
Now, fast forward to you turning 14 and starting your first job. For my birthday that year you gave me flowers. This began a years long tradition for us. Every year you gave me flowers. Always carnations, because they are my favorite flower. The arrangements varied year to year, but still, always flowers. I loved them. I looked forward to them. That you were so thoughtful to do this made me so proud, and happy to be your mom. Sure, there were a million things that did this for me, but this was something just between us.
So today is my birthday. You’re not here. No flowers from you. I stood at your grave today and I cried. I talked to you and told you, for the bazilyionth time, that I miss you and love you more than words could ever tell. I then told you how much I was going to miss your flowers. I so wanted your flowers, but I can’t have them, ever again. This made me sadder than I already was. As the tears ran down my cheeks, as I choked by the sobs, trying so hard not to be loud, I talked to you. Some things I say every day. Some things I say once in a while. Some things were new today.
Dad gave me flowers today, and I love them. There is no but there. It’s not, “but they’re not your flowers.” They are beautiful. Dad is amazing.
Dad truly is amazing. He is also having a hard time too. Christmas is bringing everything so close to the surface. I didn’t think that we could feel worse, but boy, was I wrong. We’ve tried to do things for others, using you as our guide. Three children will have a better Christmas because of you Michael. A few adults were helped along as well. It felt good to do those things, but it was temporary. We’re searching, yearning, for a way to get through this without losing ourselves. Not an easy task.
If you were here, of course it would all be different. Sure, we would still have done the philanthropic stuff, but not on the scale it was done. We instead would have been freaking out over what to do for you. We had that talk today. We should be panicking, because you didn’t give us enough ideas. I thought about how you would sit on the couch on Christmas morning and roll your eyes, without hiding it, over the silly things I put in your stocking. We aren’t doing stockings this year. It’s just too much. We’d just be looking for you. Truth be told, I think Dad and I both would have been ok with just skipping over Christmas. Let it go by, no celebrations. We can’t though. We love your sisters too much to do that. So, we’ll do it. We’ll have our Christmas and try to get through it.
I’m not sure what you were thinking. Did you think we wouldn’t miss you? Did you think we’d be ok and “get over it?” That things like Christmas, birthdays and traditions would just keep going on like nothing happened? Fat chance my handsome boy. We love you. We miss you. Life as we knew if changed that day. Things are different now. At some point I am certain that we will find our footing. We will figure out a way to be “ok”. Not ok with you being gone, just ok in general.
So, my dear, sweet, thoughtful, loving, handsome boy, tonight I hope to dream about you, and your flowers. THAT would be the best possible gift. Please send that to me.
As I sit by your side I ask you, why, oh why, didn’t you come to me?
As I sit by your side I ask you, are you ok? You don’t answer. You can’t.
As I sit by your side I yearn. Oh to see those sweet brown eyes, lit up by your beautiful smile. I yearn to hear your voice, to feel your touch. To wrap my arms around you, to give you love and comfort.
As I sit by your side I feel the loss. I feel the loss of such promise. I feel the loss of such love. I feel the loss of part of me.
As I sit by your side, I cry.
Yes, my heart is most assuredly broken. Who’s heart wouldn’t be in my position? It’s been eight weeks and one day since Michael took his life. In that time I’ve experienced a pluthera of emotions. Again, who wouldn’t?
People talk about the five stages of grief. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. So where am I in that list? I’m honestly not sure.
Denial? None of this feels real. I feel like I’m living in a nightmare, a nightmare I’m waiting to wake up from. So maybe I’m still in denial. I know it’s real though. I know this because I saw him lifeless. I lived through his funeral. I visit his grave. The grass there is now fully covering any first that was once exposed. I know this because he doesn’t walk through the door. He doesn’t text me. He doesn’t call me. I’m driving his car and it isn’t in its once pristine condition. The floor matts have some grass and dirt on them. Michael would never let that happen. So yes, this is real. I don’t think I’m in denial.
Anger? Am I angry? I’ve had little, most definitely unreasonable, flares of anger towards an innocent bystander, or three, but they were brief, and I’m not holding on to any of it. I’m most certainly not angry at Michael. He didn’t do this to hurt me, or anyone. He did it to stop his pain. So no, I’m most certainly not angry with him. So I don’t really think I’m angry.
Bargaining? Well sure. I’ve said it more times than I can count. I would have gladly traded places with him. Still would. But I’m not an idiot. I know that I can’t travel back in time to do that. So while I say that would have done anything, I know that it isn’t an option. So I’m not bargaining with anyone.
Depression? I’m sad. I’m very, very, very sad. Again, who wouldn’t be? I don’t think I’m depressed though, although I’m sure that some would disagree. I’m no professional, I don’t know everything, but I’m not depressed. Sad works for me. Devastated works for me. Overwhelmed by my loss sounds about right.
Acceptance? Yeah, no. I’m by no means ready to accept this mess. That isn’t denial though, that’s just me being a mom. Would you want to accept any of this?
So what is our conclusion? Maybe it’s a mix. An emotional cocktail perhaps. An ounce of denial, a half-ounce of anger, and a dash of bargaining, shaken, and served on the rocks. Sounds about right.
I’m including a link to our fundraising page for the local “Out of the darkness” walk. No pressure. If you can help, I’ll be grateful. If you can’t, I understand. We can’t all donate to every cause.
One month ago today my son Michael went to work, just like any other day. His father told him to please be careful and have a good day. (It’s what we say to each other when leaving for work) I can only presume how the day progressed. Her probably drove to work, perhaps had a customer or two, maybe he sold a car. At the end of his work day, he picked up a pizza and checked into a local (to the town he was in) hotel. He ate at least some of that pizza, I guess, I didn’t look in the box when I saw it the next day. He may have watched some tv, scrolled through his Facebook, maybe looking at his many pictures. I wonder about the thoughts running through his head. What was he thinking? At some point, one month ago tonight, he made a decision that has forever changed our lives. He took his life. Yes, I know, my last post told you that, so this isn’t news. Does that really matter? No, it doesn’t. What does matter is that my delightful, funny, sweet, thoughtful, sarcastic son ended his life. Ended his pain. He chose to release himself from a struggle he felt he could no longer deal with. He also left behind a lot of hurting people.
I’d like to tell you that, with a month under our belts, we aren’t crying every day. I can’t. I’d also like to tell you I’m not afraid that something will happen to my husband or one of our daughters, but I can’t do that either. I now live with a quiet fear that I’ll lose one of them too. Not in the way we’ve lost Michael, but since I can’t trust that there won’t be a reckless driver on the road with them, I worry that that reckless driver will take one of them from me. Sure, that’s every spouse/parents’ concern, but my fear has been multiplied by a million. Losing one of your children can do that to you. I trust them all to be safe. They know how I am now. They get it. I hope they don’t think I never worried before. I did. It’s just bigger now.
So, in this month, the month that both flew by and dragged, the world kept spinning. Everyone went back to work. Well, everyone but me. I am a hopeless lay-about. So while everyone else has something to keep their brain busy, I don’t. Sure, I can be distracted, but not for long. In mid conversation I find myself drifting back to him. I did that a lot this past weekend. Anything and everything reminds me of Michael. Stupid things, like when I needed something too high for me to reach. Michael was tall and just loved (insert sarcastic tone here) it when I asked him to get that thing down for me. He was never really comfortable with his height. I’ll never forget that. He’s there when I notice that his car, which I’ve claimed as mine, needs to be washed. Michael was fastidious in his care for his car(s). He would laugh, and roll those gorgeous eyes, when his father would say “it’s going to rain, that’ll clean my car.” (Michael, this is where I tell you that dad said that a few days ago. The streak of bird poop is still there. Epic fail). I spend at least an hour each day sitting with him. I play music from his phone. His taste in music was very eclectic, much like me. I smile when I hear some of this music, cringe at times, and cry too. Oh do I cry. It’s not just the music. It’s the everything. Knowing he’s so close, but I can’t touch him. Can’t hold him. Can’t hug him. Can’t comfort him. Can’t help him. I keep asking if he’s ok. I plead for a sign. This is where I really lose it. I tell him how sorry I am. How sorry I am that I didn’t know. Didn’t see. I’m sorry I wasn’t enough.
I know this is normal. Well heck, is there really a normal? I doubt it. This is my normal though.
So every day I visit him. Every other day I switch out his flowers. I’ve been cutting blooms from our hydrangea so he’ll have a little bit of home with him. He’s about a half-mile away from home, but it makes me feel better.
Another “normal” thing we’ve done is approve the artwork for his monument. We did that today. We also asked for his stone to be installed backwards. Not too weird, right. It’s so all of our names will always be easy to see.
I’m not particularly fond of my new normal. I’d like to wake up from this nightmare anytime now. Please.
I just handed this work in progress to my husband. He couldn’t read it. It was too much for him. Believe me when I tell you all that it’s too much for me too. How I haven’t cracked, how we haven’t cracked, is a wonder. We are all still beating ourselves up, wondering how we missed his pain. We all harbor some thoughts of guilt. As his mother, who spent so much time with him, I can’t stop thinking I, of all people, should have seen how depressed he was. In all of our talks, our drives, our card games, I missed it. He was so good, too good, at covering. At being ok on the outside.
So here’s my message to you all. Stop covering. Stop trying so damned hard to put on a good show. If you aren’t ok, if you’re depressed, speak up, PLEASE. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is no shame in asking for help. This is my new mantra. If you feel like your life isn’t worth living, SEEK HELP! Your life is most definitely worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT. We all are.
August 14, 1992-August 6, 2016
Today I was the woman who was pointed at and talked about. I noticed it while waiting for my lunch. I saw a small group of woman, one of which I recognized as the mother of a classmate of my son Michael. I saw the look in her eyes, and I saw her look away, perhaps embarrassed that I had noticed her interest in me. I knew they were talking about me. Ok, fine, talk. I don’t care. I would rather she had come up to me to say hello, perhaps express her condolences. I don’t bite. I never have. I’d like to think I’m one of the nicer people. Sure, I have a catty, maybe snarky, side, but nice for the most part. Why would she express her condolences you might ask. Well, that would be because my son, Michael, committed suicide recently. Yes, you read that right, suicide. My son will be forever 23 years and 358 days old.
Never ever did we think we’d be grieving the death of any one of our children. This is, of course, a parents’ worst nightmare. And yet, here we are. Our wonderful, thoughtful, sweet, intelligent, handsome son, is gone. Unbeknownst to us, he had been fighting a heavy battle with depression for a very long time. That we didn’t know, that we didn’t see, that we didn’t suspect, will be something we will forever beat ourselves for. Its easy to say that we have no blame, but to feel, to know that, is a completely different thing.
I left that “not” in parenthesis for a reason. A favorite movie of mine, that became a favorite television program, “MASH”, had a theme song called, “Suicide is Painless”. In the movie, a character wanted to end his life for reasons I won’t go into here. The point is, he wanted to end his life. He wanted to go out painlessly. Hence, the song title. In the movie, he didn’t die. It’s was a dark comedy, he wan’t supposed to die. Real life is so different.
Now we come to why I added the “not” in parenthesis. Suicide, while perhaps painless for the one who commits the act, is most assuredly, not painless for those left behind. We, the left behind, hurt. We hurt in a way that can not be described, even though we try when asked, if we’re willing to share. We take on a self-inflicted blame. We ask, how did we not know? Our son was hurting, and we missed it. Now, we knew he was going through a rough time. He had a recent break-up with his girlfriend, but we didn’t realize that it was more than that. We didn’t know that this sadness, this depression, had roots going back a few years. He covered well. I say now that he should have been an actor. What a success he could have had with that. In the month leading up to his death, we saw a change in him, for the positive we thought. I thought, we thought, he had turned a corner in his sadness over the break-up. He became more animated, more involved, seemed happier, etc, etc, etc. Oh how wrong we were. He was struggling, and trying to be something he wasn’t. He was trying to be happy. We now know the he almost took his life a month before he actually did. It was only when we, his family and friends, reached out to him, looking for him, not knowing what he had planned, that he stopped. It was the next day that we saw the change in him. So on that day, he must have decided to try, and try hard. Sadly, one month and four days later, he ran out of the energy to try. I think that he planned this very carefully, doing this when I was out of town. He went off to work that morning, maybe still struggling, but he went to work with a plan. We know this now because of what we’ve learned, mostly on the following day, the day his sweet, struggling friends, found him, with us five minutes behind. I won’t tell you what he did, but I will tell you that he planned this out so carefully. He went to a place where he thought no one who knew and loved him would find him. That instead, he would be found by a stranger. Then we would be told by someone, perhaps a police officer, but that at least we wouldn’t see him after the fact. Sadly, that part of his plan failed. We were just starting to reach out to friends, trying the find out where he was, as he didn’t come home in the morning as planned. The pieces were put together by two of his friends, who raced to where he would be found. They told us where they were going, but beat us there, by the previously mentioned five minutes. We knew though. We knew the whole drive. I can’t tell you why we knew, because I don’t know, but we did. We both had to be restrained, screaming, wailing, pleading to anyone, everyone, to let us see our son. Logically we knew we had to wait, but emotionally we didn’t want to hear it. We eventually calmed down, and waited. We had to call our two daughters. We had to tell them that their amazing brother was gone, on the phone we had to do this. It was the only way to get them to where we were. Once we were all together, and were allowed time with our dear Michael, it truly came crashing down on us. My poor girls, with a boyfriend and friend, my dear, now broken, husband, those two amazing friends, and me. We sat with him. We talked to him. We told him we loved him. Told him we weren’t angry. We told him how sorry we were. We held his hand. Maybe pleaded with him to wake up. I sang to him, our song, which took down the police officers and medical examiner. (Sorry about that) We eventually had to leave him. The drive home was very long. We were all exhausted, broken, hurting. In the coming days, we had to plan for an event that no parent should have to plan. Our daughters were amazing. Our family, our friends, all wonderful. We never wanted for anything. There was always food, especially fruit. (One of the few giggles of the week were had when figuring our what to do with all of the Edible Arrangements. There were six in three days.) Anyway, we went about our week, the week from Hell. Planned a funeral. Stood in line for four hours at Michael’s wake, seeing family, friends, co-workers, the many people that were touched in some way by Michael. It was heart wrenching when several of his friends came in. My husband and I left that line more than once, trying to comfort those friends. Those boys are like our own. We love them and wanted to take care of them. We heard stories from these boys, young men really, stories about our son that left us shaking our heads and laughing. How I wish he were in front of me, laughing with us, once he figured out he really couldn’t get into trouble at his age. Those same friends, along with my husband, would escort Michael as pallbearers to where he now rests.
Now, I realize I have a tendency to go on, perhaps with more detail than necessary. My apologies. This is in keeping with how my mouth works.
So, suicide is most definitely not painless for those left behind. Please, if you are sad, depressed, hurting, please know that you aren’t alone. Please reach out for help. Talk to someone. Close or not, talk to someone. There is help out there, there is no shame in depression, nor in seeking help. There is also no shame in having a loved one commit suicide. There is such a heavy cloak of darkness attached to those who do this, and those left behind. Suicide is the leading cause of death in the US. Yes, that’s the truth. Its something I wasn’t aware of until August 7, 2016, the day our lives were turned upside down. So please, don’t join this club. Know that you are not alone.
I dedicate this to my son, Michael McDonald, 8/14/1992-8/6/2016.
I love you, and I always will. ❤