My son David wanted to get well, wanted to love and be loved, but most of all, he needed the peace of mind that the rest of us take for granted and which eluded him. When he threw himself to what I can only hope is a place of calm, peace and endless waves fit for a surfer, our family was left to cope with the grief we felt; each in his/her own way.
I often think back to the first 18 years of David’s life before he was drafted into the military. He was perceived as being normal. During the following 16 years, people referred to him as mentally ill, but our family always addressed him as David. Who decides what ‘normal’ is anyhow?
We had little guidance on how to survive our terrible loss. The members of my immediate family had the usual coping mechanisms needed to deal with regular stress, which were insufficient for coping with a suicide. We had to cycle through various ways of coping and find what helped each of us best. I remember the pain; deep, forceful pain that has never completely gone, but somehow, we got by. It took many years. I was fortunate to have a loving, supportive husband who knew how to give unconditional love. We had good relationships with our other children and were there for one another.
During the years of David’s illness, I had a terrible anger inside of me that was not always logical. I was angry at my son for contracting this terrible illness, angry with the whole medical profession for its inability to cure him or even give us the kind of support we so desperately needed. There were times when I thought of fleeing, never to return, but of course, I remained.
Cope? I kept busy. There were times when I dug viciously in the garden, knowing how useless and tiring this activity was but, it stopped me from thinking about David for a while.
People visited. Someone said “Your son is in a better place.”
What I should have told her was that grief is permanent and all I wanted was my son at home with us and not elsewhere.
I was told; “Time heals.” Yes, it does but it was far too early to say that to a newly bereaved mother.
“Do something to take your mind off it,” was another suggestion by a well-meaning person.
Nothing made sense to me at that time.