The Passing Years

purple flowersOver seven years have passed since that tragic day when I heard the words, “Barry is dead.”

How the years have flown by, yet at the same time dragged its weary feet. At times, I believed we wouldn’t make it through the turbulence. That was when the evil face of suicide tempted my elder son to join his brother; and later, it tried to seduce me. Yet, although the fight was sometimes hard, we stayed to live our lives.

Then there were the times when life almost felt normal — or as close as it was going to get to it, anyway. Smiles were easy to find, laughter was a second away. For those looking on, they would never guess our hearts were not quite as full as the smiles on our faces. But that’s okay. We have learned to carry on regardless. Only sharing our pain with each other.

And the pain is still there — buried beneath the surface.

As is the guilt!

For me, the only person who can relieve me of this burden is Barry. And Barry is not here to give me the answers I require.

Having said this, I do not dwell on it as often or as long as I once did. I have accepted that Barry is gone and no amount of wishing will bring him back. I also accept that we will never know, for sure, why he chose this path when other options did exist for him. To dwell on these things will only torture me further and will turn me into a bitter, old woman. I don’t want that.

Instead, I look at the photos I have of Barry and feel thankful that I knew him and loved him. Although I yearn to see him, to hear him, to hug him; I am grateful that our last words were “I love you”. And I cherish the memories we created together.

On bad days I will wonder what Barry would be doing right now, if he were still alive? Would he have a wife or children? Would he have joined the Army and made a career of it while seeing the world? But it is best not to dwell on these things for too long either. It only upsets me more. So I turn my thoughts to my older son who is a man in his own right now. He has a one-year-old daughter. She is a (good) reason why we must move onwards.

Time heals all wounds. And it does. There may be a scar, which will be a permanent reminder, but eventually the pain softens and the heart and mind allows us to live a life that is somewhat normal. And when the scar throbs more than usual, I find myself going back to the one thing that has always helped me through the grief — nature. I take long walks in parks, botanical gardens, animal parks, by the sea, in the mountains, beside rivers. Anywhere where I can see the sky, hear the birds, smell the flowers and feel relaxed.

I believe the worst is behind us. We cannot know what the future holds, but we intend to make it as good as we can … for us and for the new addition to the family.

Fives Years On

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.

Did He Truly Know What He Was Doing?

As the years roll away from that fatal moment that changed the lives of so many and as I witness the maturing of his friends, I often find myself wondering what a twenty-three year old Barry would think today.

Barry was not religious, yet he “believed” in life after death. He believed that he would be sitting in heaven watching over the people he loved, especially the girl he chose death for. He believed that he would be able to protect her forever. He said that.

I don’t know what happens after we die. People believe all sorts of things. My own belief is somewhat different to Barry’s, but how do we know for sure? I don’t think we can. Not until the time comes, and even then there’s no guarantee, because death could be everything and it could be the absolute end. Nothing. Zilch. The End. Our belief systems help us cope with the unknown. They help us face the inevitable. And Barry believed he was going to heaven.

So maybe he is sitting on a fluffy cloud watching us and if that is the case…what would he be thinking now?

He would have witnessed the grief he left behind and realised he had caused a pain and hurt that he had never imagined. Because it is not possible to imagine the grief of suicide survivors (meaning the people left behind). Not if you’ve never experienced it first hand. Also, he had never experienced the death of a close relative, so how was he to know what grief is, let alone how losing someone to suicide would make it so much worse? Watching his family and closest friends fall apart – mentally, physically and emotionally – would not have been part of his vision. I know that if he sat and witnessed all that, regret and sorrow would fill him and he would be sorry he caused that anguish.

But the thing I think of the most is, did he really think through his plan to protect the girl forever? Did he envision life moving on? Would he have realised that she would met someone else and fall in love? She was young. It is only natural and normal that this would happen. But, at the time he made the decision, did he realise that?

In all honesty, I don’t think he did. I don’t think he thought things through properly. If life after death is what Barry believed it to be, then he is sitting up there watching the girl he loved move forward in life. Watching her smile and laugh and be happy. Watching her planning a future. Watching her in the arms of another man. Was that in his plan? Of course it wasn’t! Did he think she would be immobilised by his actions? Did he think she would love no other because of his final pledge to her? I have no idea what was really going through his mind, but I think he must have thought something along those lines. Because why would anyone take their own life just to sit in heaven and watch their loved one move on…with someone else? It would be pure torture!

So, yes, I find myself wondering what Barry would think of his actions now. I wonder if he would regret the biggest decision he made in his life. I wonder if it was worth it (to him) because suicide is final, there’s no going back or changing your mind once it’s done. I wonder if he truly knew these things.

Four Years Later People Still Remember

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.

Matt

♥ ♥ Miss u Barry… I wish u were still with us, i will never forget you. ♥ ♥ ♥

Dusanka

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

Stephanie

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…

Laurinda

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

Natalee

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.

Lyn

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………..

Nada

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

Matt

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…

Blake

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…

Shane

Rest In Peace Bazza and we’ll have a drink together, the day we meet again.

Joshua

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…

Chris

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…

Dave

His Life in Pictures

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.

Three Years Later

It’s strange, after three and a half years one would expect to be coping with the grief of losing a loved one. In many ways I believe I am learning to live with my loss. And I admit that I have more good days than bad these days. However, emotionally I am not as strong as I once was. I find I can no longer deal with pressure. I can no longer make difficult decisions – or any decision – “on the spot”. I am easily flustered and quick to intolerance. In fact, I still feel emotionally drained.

The people moving through life around me, such as work colleagues and friends, and even family to a certain extent, don’t realise that what they see is not a well formed person. They don’t realise how thin the exterior is, how delicate I really am. How dangerously close to breaking I continue to be.

For me, I can feel the difference. I can see it when I look in a mirror. I am consciously aware of the fine line that separates me from a blubbering idiot I could easily become. I have learned the art of pretence well, but I am finding it harder and harder to maintain. Especially when life seems more difficult than usual and life has a habit of throwing those moments at me over and over again. I can feel the balance is not secure and I find myself wondering if, or when, I’ll break!

The thought of going to sleep and never waking up is refreshing to me. Yet I can guarantee you that I am not suicidal. I would never take my own life for I know what it does to those left behind. Suicide is not on my mind. Peace is. I just want peace and quiet. I crave it like some people crave fame and fortune. I want to stick my head in a hole and not know about the problems of those around me, or about my own problems. I just want peace.

This website is aptly named, for I can feel the walls crumbling away around me. Am I to live with this feeling for the rest of my life?

Yesterday, I realised that I need more counselling. I doubt I’ll get that help as time restrictions are at a minimum for me now, but I acknowledge I do need help. Is that a beginning? Is it enough?

There was once a time when I could shoulder responsibility and I would tackle anything worthwhile. People always commented on how strong I was; not physically, emotionally. Some people even said that I must be a cold fish for the lack of emotion I sometimes showed. But that was then. It’s not the case now. Now, I have nothing left to give. Now, I feel as if giving anything more will make me fall apart. For I am not strong any longer. I don’t know how to cope with the pressures of everyday life.

At this moment, I feel total confusion and complete weariness. Will that be my future? I hope not, as I don’t want it. Not today, not tomorrow, not any day. I just want peace.

Book Review: Perfect Victim

perfect-victimPerfect Victim by Elizabeth Southall and Megan Norris

This book is a true story about the disappearance and murder of 15 year old Rachel Barber in March 1999 in Victoria, Australia. There are two “stories” running parallel – the story of Rachel’s family’s anguish and grief as told by her mother, Elizabeth Barber (using the pen name of Elizabeth Southall), and, an account of the investigation and court case by criminal court reporter, Megan Norris.

Because of the nature of the book, I do not feel it’s relevant to dissect the book as I usually do and talk about characters, plot, setting and voice. These things are what they are…true, disturbing, heartfelt and a complete waste of a young life. It would be wrong for me to “critique” a book which has been written out of love, need and pain, so I am going to talk about this book in relation to the loss of my son in 2006.

The loss of a child by murder and the loss of a child by suicide are two completely different things, yet they are so similar as well. The loved ones of each are left with unending questions that may never be answered. The deep feelings of guilt are overwhelming, although usually unwarranted. The grief is never ending. The lives of everyone close to the person who has gone forever are never the same.

Reading Elizabeth’s words made me cry…not only for her and her daughter, but for me and my son. As I read the Barber family struggles with accepting what had happened and their feelings of isolation, distress and frustration, I thought of my own family facing those same issues.

And then, when Elizabeth spoke directly to her daughter through the book, my heart broke. In her words I heard echoes of my own thoughts and feelings. It was like Rachel’s mother had crawled into my mind and plucked secret thoughts from my head.

Finally, Elizabeth mentioned that she wrote the book not only for herself or for Rachel…she wrote it to make the appropriate authorities – such as the police and the court system – aware of how the family of someone who has gone missing and murdered are feeling, how stressed they are. She needed them to know the anguish, frustration and total devastation felt by Rachel’s family and closest friends. It was important to her to inform and educate them of these things because she didn’t want another family having to deal with the lack of communication and isolation she experienced during the disappearance and then the murder investigation of her daughter. I could relate to the reasons, although in this regard my reasons are quite different. For me, I want to raise suicide awareness in others and I feel the need to educate people about grief.

In conclusion, Elizabeth said that at the time the book was published, it had been three years since her daughter’s death. It has been three years now since my son’s death. She said that her family were trying to move forward, although Rachel’s memory would never be forgotten. My family feels the same way. She mentioned the pain she still felt and the tears still shed on an everyday basis, but especially on “important” dates. I can attest to that as I’m the same. She also said how difficult it was to face everyday questions from strangers, such as “do you have children?” and then the inevitable questions that follow, like “how many?” and “what are their ages?”. For most people, these are easy questions and they eagerly reply. For a parent who has lost a child these questions are difficult and bring a lump to their throat because it’s hard to know how the questions should be answered as we are fully aware that whatever we say someone will feel uncomfortable.

The End of the Road

In three months it will be two years since Barry decided to end his time on Earth and move into the great unknown. For the family and friends he left behind, we grieved in many ways, for many months. In fact, the process continues for most of us, to varying degrees.

However, I have reached the end of the road when it comes to sharing that grief in public. The words on this website were necessary and they were put here for other people as much as for me. The words are private, yet it was my choice to make them public. I wanted, needed, to tell people what it’s like to lose a son to suicide and how a family suffers. It was important to me. In fact, it was the only thing that kept me going at one stage. It was therapy. I also wanted to raise people’s awareness because I couldn’t stand the thought of another mother having to go through to agony I’ve been through. I thought if I could inform people of the risks, then maybe – just maybe – it might make a difference to another family.

It was my choice to share, and now it is my choice to stop sharing. I feel sad that I never did write about Barry’s life in the way I really wanted to, but grief plays tricks on the mind and I couldn’t write about something that I couldn’t really remember. Now, nearly two years down the track, I realise it doesn’t matter. My son is in my heart and he is in the hearts of everyone who loved him. I will write Barry’s life story in private and I realise now that’s how it should be.

This morning, I wrote the following in an email to a grieving aunt:

I feel happy and content…and so peaceful. It’s a wonderful feeling. I don’t know what the future holds, and I may or may not decide to write again, but I know I can face whatever is thrown at me. I guess in some ways I feel cleansed.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that it will get easier. You just have to give yourself lots of time. The healing stops and starts unexpectedly, but you do heal.

I don’t know why you came to this website. Are you curious about suicide? Are you a grieving parent/sibling/child/grandparent? Or was it just a complete accident that brought you here? It really doesn’t matter how or why you are here. I just hope you leave feeling some form of comfort or more suicide aware after reading my words.