My life seemed to be divided into seasons; a season of sadness, a season of anger, a season of tranquility and a shorter season of hope. But, there was no order, rather, my feelings were jumbled together in a puzzling manner. I could smile at ten and cry at eleven. I tried to put into practice what I had learned at the support group for parents of children with a mental illness in order to get through the never-ending days. One day at a time worked best. I started thinking about taking up a hobby and eventually settled on writing as I had scribbled notes throughout David’s illness which I’d stored in a drawer. Eventually I starting writing and have not stopped since. I exercised and worked in the garden. Most important of all, I learned to focus more on the positive side of life but that did not happen overnight. It took a long, long time.
I understood that our son had neither been weak nor cowardly when he’d made the onerous decision to end his life. It was simply the only way out that he could find as the load of his illness had become too heavy for him to bear and he knew that there was not yet one medication on the market that could alieviate his pain and perhaps quiten the voices in his head.
After long winters of grief, a small miracle occurred. Every so slowly, I understood that my future would be what I made of it and that I had to take responsibility for my recovery. I had to rid myself of all anger. Getting angry at the unfair deal we’d been handed sapped my strength far more so than cleaning the house, working in the garden or running a mini marathon. When I lost my temper, I was aware that my body’s level of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones were rising. Exercising was an obvious solution.
We were aware of the fact that we could experience opposing emotions simultaneously and that’s why when David died after an illness of 16 years, I felt extremely sad; heartbroken, in fact, but relieved that his suffering was over. It took time to sort out those conflicting emotions. Releasing my pain did not erase the memory of my son, strange as it may sound. I heard about people who were apprehensive about giving up on their intense grieving because they truly believed that grieving was a sign of caring and by giving it up, it meant that they had stopped caring. My family found that the gradual letting go of pain allowed us time and space for more vivid and pleasant memories of David to surface and thus become a part of our daily lives.