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Recently, I attended a seminar through my work place. I work for a Government organisation and they are always wanting us to ‘brush up’ on one procedure or another so imagine my shock when I discovered the seminar was about suicide awareness.
It is a shock to be sitting with a couple of dozen other people, several who you know well, and are confronted with a subject that is close to your heart. As soon as I realised what would be discussed, I welled up. The presenter, used to watching people’s actions and looking for ‘signs’, did not miss my instant reaction to her words. We were presented with video recreations of potential warnings … and all of them slapped me across the face and made my heart pound quicker. I watched as the mother on-screen missed her son’s call for help. Just like I did in real life. Is it any wonder I couldn’t speak, could hardly hold the tears back, was unable to stop the trembling?
The presenter announced a break and everyone left the room, except me. I was not able to speak aloud, so I whispered the fact that I had lost a son to suicide. Of course, she had already guessed that by my reaction. She thanked me for letting her know and told me I was free to leave the seminar, if I wanted to. I didn’t need to think about it.
I wanted to stay!
But I needed her to know why I would not be able to participate in active feedback within the seminar. She understood that I was struggling and asking me to speak would be my undoing. So, the seminar continued and I sat frozen faced and trembling in the middle of lots of people, but I felt as if I were struggling through a major upset … totally alone.
By the time the seminar was finished I was considered to be a qualified Care Assistant for the workplace. In truth, I spent most of the time focused inwards dealing with my own demons. Yes, I would be able to recognise (now) if someone was suicidal. And, yes, I would be able to ask the all important question, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”. And, yes, I would be able to look after that person until help was at hand. I never needed the seminar for any of that. I’ve spent over five years learning the facts about suicide myself. But now I have a certificate to confirm it.
The reason I’m writing this post is because I thought I was doing OK. I thought I had moved passed the tears, but those few hours proved I am not doing as great as I thought and have not moved on from losing my son. I guess there will always be moments in my life that will bring the past slamming back into full focus. I suppose I’m better equipped for those moments now but it doesn’t mean they will be any easier to deal with.
At this moment five years ago, I had two living sons. In two hours from now I will not be able to type the same statement because my youngest son took his own life within that time. This decision by my son brought my family to its knees, left us shattered, confused, consumed with fear, swimming in guilt and filled with unanswered questions. We were hurtled to the brink but managed to drag ourselves back into the light, into life and continue living. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Five years! It seems like a lifetime in many ways. Yet in others it was only yesterday. I clearly remember my meltdown at the news, I will forever hear the screams of my mother when I had to break the news to her, I will never forget my best friend throwing up when she was told, not to forget the sobs of anguish when I told his father. How could I forget the images of the viewing? I wanted to, yet I didn’t. I needed to see him for myself, but I never ever imagined viewing his dead body. Never! And the loss of memories left me feeling defeated. My body’s attempt to help me, only made everything so much worse. It was over a year before the memories started filtering back into my mind. Then there was the fear I carried for my surviving son. Every time I heard a car pull up or the phone ring, I was certain it was the police about to give me bad news. I couldn’t sleep and when I did manage to get a few hours, I was assaulted by nightmares.
The first two years were the worst. After that things started to improve, we learned to cope and managed to continue living our lives.
Now, we miss him just as much as we did then. We will never forget his laughter, his smile, his joking about. I will always feel proud that everyone told me Barry was friendly, polite and helpful. I will always wonder what he’d be doing now if he were still with us. And I will always carry a hole in my heart that can never be filled because Barry’s death took part of me too.
Today, I feel the need to make sure other people know the signs of suicide. The information is already on this site but here it is again:
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Giving away prized possessions
- Problem behaviour and substance misuse
- Apathy in dress and appearance, or a sudden change in weight
- Sudden and striking personality changes
- Withdrawal from friends and social activities
- Increased ‘accident proneness’ and self harming behaviours
Did you know that 80% of youth tell someone of their intentions prior to taking their own life? It’s true, what should you do if you are told?
- Listen and encourage them to talk, show that you are taking their concern seriously
- Tell the person you care
- Acknowledge their fears, despair or sadness
- Provide reassurance, but do not dismiss the problem
- Ask if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves, and if they have a plan
- Point out the consequences of suicide for the person and those they leave behind
- Ensure they do not have access to lethal weapons or medications
- Stay with the person if they are at high risk
- Immediately tell someone else, preferably an adult
- Get help from professionals, offer to go with them to provide support
- Let them know where they can get other help
- Provide contact numbers and assist them to ring if necessary
Be suicide aware and maybe you’ll save a life.
Note: The two lists in this posts are courtesy of Better Health, Victoria.
Five years ago, on Mother’s Day, was the last time I saw my son alive although I spoke with him on the phone two more times. Mother’s Day to me is a time for pretense. I smile and laugh for the sake of the rest of my family, yet the images rolling through my head are a constant repeat of that last time I saw my youngest son.
Now I know he knew he’d never see me again. Now I can plainly hear it in his voice when I spoke with him on those two occasions. How I wish I’d known these things then. How I wish…
His name was spoken several times during the course of the day, and not only by me. His brother thinks of him often and told me he had gone to the cemetery to visit Barry only a few days ago. His grandmother spoke Barry’s name, remembering a particular occasion when he had spent a week with them many years ago. I spoke his name just to make him part of the family gathering, just to ensure no one else had forgotten his name. I saw his face in my mind many times, but mostly I saw him walking up a driveway, his backpack slung over one shoulder. He never looked back. He never hesitated. He walked away from us, out of our lives, without glancing back. The scene will never leave me!
Thank God I had told him that I love him and had given him a kiss on the cheek, just moments before he started that walk.
I miss him.
What exactly is a dream? According to Wikipedia…
Dreams are a succession of images, ideas, emotions and sensations occurring involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. The content and purpose of dreams are not yet understood, though they have been a topic of speculation and interest throughout recorded history.
I haven’t had a nightmare in a while, which is a good sign I suppose. Yet last night, the demons took hold and I dreamt of Barry, of murder, of evilness and of abandonment. The bad things were all done by me and Barry (even though he was only a child of about three) was angry at me.
In the dream it was a hot, humid night. The house was filled with people I didn’t know, except for Barry. He was a child wearing winter PJs and was soaking wet from sweat. I offered to find him a pair of cooler, summer pyjamas but he declined the offer…curtly, he was angry with me. Feeling uncomfortable myself, I left Barry to fix himself supper, I went off to find something cooler to wear and whilst changing discovered explosives fixed to the windows. I raced to other rooms and found those windows laced with explosives too. Several men in dark clothing were working on the front door and windows (fixing explosives to them too). They spotted me and in a burst of confusion I found myself armed with a long, sharp knife which I deftly punched into the stomach of one of the men, aiming upward at the heart. He died. I was quick to do the same to the second man and then I ran out the door and attacked the third man. However, the third man was holding a hand grenade between his teeth and the pin had been pulled. I watched it roll slowly down his body and along the ground towards me. I pushed it away and turned to run, knowing that when it went off it would set the explosives off and the entire house would explode. Suddenly, I’m no longer running, I’m crawling away (apparently injured) and my last thought was Barry’s inside the house.
I woke up.
I felt confused, upset and depressed. However, that wasn’t the worst of it. I woke up feeling as if I had let Barry down…again!
That feeling made me cry.
I sat on the edge of the bed and apologised to my son. “How could I be such a terrible mother to let you down so often?”
I know it’s just a dream. I also know that the dream isn’t even about Barry, it’s about me. The anger he felt is my own guilty conscience. That is something I’ll have to learn to live with. However, what about the other stuff? What does that mean? Perhaps it means nothing, but where did it all come from? I certainly don’t go around murdering people on a regular basis (in fact, never!) so why have I dreamed these disturbing scenes.
The Dream Moods Dictionary informs me of the following:
Dreaming of murder means:
To dream that you have committed a murder, indicates that you are putting an end to an old habit and a former way of thinking. This could also refer to an end to an addiction. Alternatively, the dream indicates that you have some repressed aggression or rage at yourself or at someone. Note also that dreams of murder occur frequently during periods of depression.
Well, I know I’m not “putting an end to an old habit” or way of thinking. And there’s definitely no addiction to end. So I have to concede that I have “repressed aggression or rage” and depression is something to consider also.
Dreaming of explosions mean:
To see explosions in your dream, symbolize your repressed anger. The rage that you have been holding in has come to the surface in a forceful and violent manner. Your unconscious is trying to get your attention.
I didn’t dream of an explosion, I dreamed of an upcoming explosion. The meaning is exactly the same as murder reiterating the fact that I could be filled with repressed anger. Doesn’t sound good!
Dreaming of sweating means:
To dream that you are sweating, suggests that you are experiencing some overwhelming anxiety, stress, fear, or nervousness in your life. This dream may serve to remind you that in order to achieve success, you need to endure the struggle and efforts that go along with success. Alternatively, sweating signifies a kind of cleansing or ridding of bad karma. You may be going through an emotional cool-off period.
Actually, I do feel highly anxious and stressed at the moment as I started a new job three months ago.
Dreaming of injury means:
To dream that you are injured, suggests that you need to work on healing old wounds and hurts. You need to stop and slow down. Consider where or how you were injured for further significance.
To dream of abandonment means:
To abandon others in your dream, suggests that you are overwhelmed by the problems and decisions in your life.
The fact that I abandoned Barry in the dream is what is causing me the most pain. There’s no excuse. He’s my child and I should have gone into the house to get him, even if it meant certain death for both of us. I feel quite strongly about this and that’s why I feel I’ve let him down again. Yes, it was only a dream, but still…
And lastly, to dream of anger in a dream means:
If you dream that someone is angry at you, then this means that you either suspect that the person in real life is angry at you, or you have that particular paranoia.
The dream was clear. I was not angry at Barry, he was angry at me. Now the question is: Is he really? It brings tears to my eyes just typing the question. Is Barry angry with me? Is the guilt I carry justified? I suppose I’ll never know.
Dreams are meant to be about us, about how we feel and what we’re going through in our life. It’s not about the person/people we are dreaming about. If we dream about another person it’s because we are worried about them, we carry guilt about them, maybe even hatred towards them. It’s complicated. But dreaming is about us, not them.
Strangely, after several hours of pondering the dream I believe it mainly stems from my new job. The job is mentally exhausting, some of the “policies” go against what I believe in, and I’ve had a particularly difficult time grasping every aspect of the job because it is complex. As a result I feel confused, anxious, stressed and, yes, even angry to a certain extent.
But why did I dream of Barry? Why did I abandon him? In truth, Barry’s role in the dream felt misplaced, contradictory. If he hadn’t been in the dream it would be easier to ignore…
And maybe that’s the key. Maybe that’s exactly why he was in the dream. I could easily ignore the dream as being “just a dream” if it wasn’t for his role. Is it possible that my subconscious is telling me to take better care of myself? Is my body telling me I’m heading for a period of depression and anxiety unless I find a way to deal with the situation? And did Barry force himself into my dreams to reiterate the warning?
I don’t know what it all means. I do know I sound like a raving idiot, but the truth is my life is stressful at the moment and I believe I need to listen to the warning and be careful in the immediate future that I don’t “crack”.
This is a special message written by Barry’s grandparents:
If tears could build a stairway
and memories a lane
I’d walk right up to heaven
and bring you home again
Nan & Grandad
Some people will forget over time or will let the memories fade. There are many reasons for this but the main one is self preservation. I know it will happen and I accept it. Other people will never forget, even if they wanted to. For instance, there are images etched into my older son’s memory that he doesn’t want to remember, but they are there to stay. And then there are those who were closest to Barry who never want to forget and are scared that his image may slip from their memories. I fall into this category.
Barry played a part in many people’s lives. He may have only touched some lives briefly, yet with others he left a lasting impression. The one thing I’ve come to accept is that everyone who knew him, remembers him differently to me. Although I am his mother, I accept that I didn’t know every part of his personality. He didn’t want me to know every side of him. He kept his secrets, just like I keep mine. That realisation was hard for me to acknowledge at first, but in reality I’m aware that we don’t show everyone the same face. The Barry I knew is not the same Barry his mates knew, who is not the same Barry as his girlfriends knew, who is not the same Barry as a stranger met. Barry, like everyone, was complex and that’s exactly how it should be. That’s what makes us human.
But what has this got to do with the title of this post? Everything.
We lost Barry four years and five days ago. For me, it was a time of sadness with the main question being – what would he have been doing today? Would he have been in a serious relationship, married even? What he have had a child by now? Or, would he be living with mates with the world at his feet and fun to be had in every direction? For me, saying I miss him seems silly because how could I not miss my beloved son.
However, in all the sadness, I discovered other people also remember and miss him. Of course, I had hoped this was true but to have it confirmed was like taking the best medicine available when you’re sick as a dog and then feeling almost healthy again. It gladdened my heart. Yes, it brought tears to my eyes but it’s OK to cry. In fact, I believe it’s a good source of release and encourage it.
Below are a collection of excerpts of the tributes made on 18 May 2010:
barry, i just watched ur video, and i nearly cried over it but it brought back so many great memories, i wish u were still hear to be with ur family and friends, we all miss u so very much, when ever i was down u seemed to make me happy and smile again with ur stupid jokes and laughter…
Daniel, Barry’s brother
My friend and my brother! Havent been the same person since u left. Miss u bazza! Love ur best mate matt.
♥ ♥ Miss u Barry… I wish u were still with us, i will never forget you. ♥ ♥ ♥
it’s been 4 years today since we lost you and i still miss you every day
your smile will never be forgotten, you truly were a special person.
i know i’ll see you again one day but until then rest in peace little cousin, you will never be forgotten. xx
This is in memory of the good who die young & we look at u now smiling down from above, We no that u see us now, we no u hear us grieve,This lyf is far 2 short already, & u were 2 young 2 leave. U were d best that we’ve eva known,So believe that U’ll stay with us as we now grow alone. If there’s 1 thing we’ll remember …4 now & 4ever after, D thing everyone talks about is ur unending laughter…
4 yrs have past since u left us but not a day goes past wen i dont think of u….love u always n forever……kuni n heffa foreva
I can barely type as the tears well up just thinking about you today Barry. We are all the richer for having known you and now the sadder for having lost you. The memory of you lives on in all of us and we miss you very much.
You were an awsome person, a great friend. And always fun to b arround. It was a plesure knowing u, youre one of a kind, RIP my lil friend Thinking of you………..
4 years has past but there will be one memory i will never forget and dat was meetin u bazza…….greatest bloke to know and a champion of a friend. never forgotten u baz m8 RIP
I can’t believe it has been 4 years… It seems like yesterday we were walkin thru the plaza with Barry on a Thursday night yelling out stupid shit embarrasing each other…
Its been 4 years bazza but still i see you everyday , you were a great mate and allways will be there isnt a day that goes past where i dont laugh at something cuz it reminds me of you…
Rest In Peace Bazza and we’ll have a drink together, the day we meet again.
4 years baz, i dont even have words to type, not one person u met didnt smile. u were my mate and still are my mate, 4eva, i will never forget u and the memories we hold…
4 years ago already. Feels like just yesterday we were all back at school mucking up and socializing with each other. Words can’t explain how much we all do miss u Barry but we all no we will see each other again one day…
I cry in my pillow
where no one can see
as I think of the boy
you used to be
I stare into the night
at a twinkling star
and find myself wondering
where you are
I don’t understand
and I carry much guilt
but my love for you
will never wilt
I miss you, Barry,
I swear it’s true
and I’d give anything
for one moment with you
written by Karen Henderson
18 April 2010
I always intended to write about Barry’s life, but at first my body – in an effort to protect me – wouldn’t allow me to remember details. Everything was vague and distant and the more I tried to focus on anything, the further away it seemed to be. It was not only frustrating but extremely upsetting, and then when the memories came back, I found it too difficult to write about it.
A few days ago, we hit the four year mark of Barry’s death and rather than focus on the bad things, which only depresses and mortifies everyone, I wanted to share highlights of a young man’s life. I wanted to show myself, my immediate family and Barry’s friends that he did have a wonderful life. A life filled with camping, swimming, regular family gatherings, times when he goofed around, had fun, laughed. A life where there was no shortage of Christmas presents and birthday celebrations. A life surrounded by people who loved him and he loved in return.
So I set about making a video to upload to the facebook page and I chose to share that glimpse of a life with pictures. Each year of Barry’s life is represented. There were some years when photos were not taken, and that was difficult for me to deal with as there will never be another opportunity to take photos and I regret not taking them while I could. But life is like that. I didn’t know Barry wouldn’t be around. I didn’t know how important it would become, until it was too late. We think there’s always tomorrow to do something, or say something important. We never consider the possibility that there will be no tomorrow. Yet life’s issues – such as the breakdown of a marriage or the simple breakdown of a camera – sometimes feel more important and photos are at the bottom of the list, if they are thought of at all. But that is in the past and I can do nothing about it so I must force myself to let go of the feelings of regret.
The photos chosen flash quickly before the viewer – a few photos for each year of Barry’s life. While this is happening, a song pulls at the heart strings. The song is called “Who’d You be Now” by Kenny Chesney. I’ve never really liked country and western, but when I heard this song only three weeks ago, I knew it was the song I would use.
If you want to watch Barry’s life in pictures, please click on this link. (You must have a Facebook account and be logged in to view.)
I would have liked to embed the video into this post, but the website provider doesn’t allow it.
Mother’s Day is especially hard for me because it was on the day that my family celebrated the occasion in 2006 that I last saw Barry alive. It was a Saturday, the day before the real Mother’s Day.
Every year I try to smile and join the celebrations for the sake of the other mothers in my family and life, but the images I see are of my youngest son weaving through tables with his brother with a big smile on his face, of the two of them sitting and laughing while eating lunch in the restaurant, of watching them fill their plates for a second helping, of Barry walking up the drive towards his friend’s place and that last turn to wave goodbye just before he disappeared.
That’s my last memory of seeing him…four years ago. I’ll never forget it.
We spoke on the phone three times afterwards. On Mother’s Day he phoned me and gave me his best wishes, a little bit of cheek and the magic words “I love you”. On the Monday, Gary and I went on holiday for five days, but I spoke to Barry twice more, so I have the comfort of hearing him laugh again, of hearing him tell me he loved me again. I’ll never forget that either.
I still miss him like you wouldn’t believe. I still wonder what if…
My dearest Barry,
It’s been a while, four long years, and I often wonder if things might have been different if we hadn’t gone away. Yet deep in my heart I know it wouldn’t have changed a thing. In hindsight, I see the truth, but at the time I didn’t know. I was blind and unaware and now I am full of regrets and pain because of that. I wish so many things, but mainly I wish I could have done something. I still do.
I’m sorry for not seeing. I hope you can forgive me, because I can’t quite forgive myself.
I love and miss you so very much.
For many months I have been working on a manuscript called Mirror Image. It is a project I have always felt was worthy of telling – not only for the story itself, but for the underlying messages too. It is a manuscript I believe in and I know that, if I were to write it well, it is a story that would catch editors’ attention.
However, it is also a story that runs parallel with my own life. Whilst it isn’t the story of my son’s suicide, it closely travels the path of what my family went through. This makes it a manuscript that stirs emotions in me that I cannot control, cannot combat. And I doubt I’ll ever be in the situation to face the heartache that the manuscript puts me through when I’m working on it.
After much thought and soul searching, I have decided to put this manuscript aside…permanently. The pain it causes me isn’t healthy. The feelings it stirs in me makes me depressed, which leads to not being able to sleep and when I do…I have nightmares. In turn, the sleep deprivation causes me to feel irritable and angry towards other people. And I don’t mean just angry, I mean really, really angry – to the point of wanting to hurt someone, anyone. This isn’t me at all and it scars me. I thought I could pull myself through it and I thought it would become easier with time, but I can’t and it isn’t. For my own sake, I have decided that I have to put my health first in the hope that my emotional strength will improve over time.
I have also decided, finally, not to tackle the manuscript I had planned and started to write called Suicide: A Mother’s Story. If I can’t write a fictitious story about suicide, there’s no way I’ll be able to write the true story.
Having given myself permission to stop, I feel somewhat relieved…and free. I didn’t realise these two manuscripts were like dark clouds hanging over me until the decision to stop was finally made. There’s no guilt, which is something I expected. I do not see the time spent on these manuscripts, especially Mirror Image, as a waste of time either. I can chalk the time up as writing practice, but more importantly I see the writing as therapy. Maybe that’s all I really needed from the manuscript. To face the emotions and torment I felt. Maybe I’ve spent the last two years working on something that has made me face my past so that I can move on to my future.