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.

Advertisements

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.

Writing My Way to the Future

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.

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.

WARNING Signs of Suicide

By: Dr Mike Shery

Suicide is among the scariest words in our language; it inspires an immediate horror among the family and friends of the victim. People frequently experience a gut-wrenching dread, denial, shock, fear … and even guilt.

It is a word so charged with universal dread, guilt and burning emotion that people will avoid talking about it almost at all costs. It has become an intractable taboo.

We must discuss it, however, because the statistics are staggering: In 2001 suicide was the 11th ranked cause of death in the United States, but shockingly, it was the third leading cause of death for 10-23 year olds.

One group in the United Kingdom which provides confidential emotional support for those suffering from a crisis estimates that more than 100,000 people attempt suicide each year there. And, of these attempts, over 6,500 will eventually succeed.

Even worse, some estimate that as many as 20% of those who suffer from bipolar disorder will succeed in killing themselves. NOTE: One out of every five!

It has also been estimated that as many as 50% of all bipolar patients may attempt suicide at least once in their lives. This appalling figure shows the urgency required to properly screen, diagnose and treat the suicide-prone patient.

Therefore, it is as clear as a flashing neon sign that suicide is not something to be cavalierly ignored; it is not going away. As socially responsible family members and friends, each of us must make a commitment to be aware of the warnings signs of suicide-prone despair.

We must do our duty by being prepared to help a friend or family member in crisis. But to do so, we must be able to identify that cry for help for what it is-desperation and not be quick to cavalierly trivialize it.

Please note the following warning signs and red flags. You may just save the life of a loved one.

Situational Red Flags

1. Victim of Sexual, Emotional or Verbal Abuse
2. Sudden or Unexpected Death of a Loved One
3. A Terminal Illness Accompanied by Drastic Deterioration in Quality of Life
4. Sudden Detrimental Change in Financial Status
5. A Condition of Chronic Debilitating Pain with No Relief in Sight
6. Talk about the Possibility of Suicide
7. Extraordinary Withdrawal or Sullen Behavior
8. Traumatic Loss or Disintegration of a Relationship

Emotional Signs

1. Depression
2. Feelings of Futility
3. Oppressive Feelings of Guilt
4. Pervasive Melancholia or Sadness
5. Feelings of Hopelessness or Helplessness
6. Overwhelming Gloom

Recovering from Depression!

Sometimes as a person begins to recover from a depressive episode the possibility of a suicide attempt may increase. This may happen because when a person finally makes up his mind to actually kill himself, he sometimes becomes oddly resigned and at peace with the situation; his mood can begin to elevate slightly.

Also, the depressive lethargy may start to lift, and where a person may not have been able to find the energy to carry out suicidal plans before, he now may have it. However, regardless of the reason, this can be a very crucial stage.

Behavioral Red Flags

1. Hoarding Prescription Drugs which Can be Lethal when taken En Masse
2. Obtaining Possession of a Weapon
3. Overt Attempts to Bring Closure to Personal or Business Issues
4. Sudden Attention to Ones Will
5. Increased Reading or Conversation about Suicide
6. Gifting Away Personal Belongings
7. Reconciling with those who are Estranged
8. Sudden Interest or Attention in Ones Insurance Policy
9. Excessive Withdrawal or Isolation from Others

Thoughts and Comments to Note

1. I wish I had never been born
2. This life is a pile of crap.
3. I wonder what the best way to kill yourself would be.
4. My kids are the only thing I live for.
5. I can not see any way to get out of this mess.
6. Nothing ever gets any better
7. Nothing is worth living for.
8. I just do not care about anything anymore.

Of course, none of these signs by themselves are absolute proof that someone you know may be considering suicide. Any of these may be present individually, and a person still may have given little or no thought to suicide.

However, if any clusters of these are present take particularly strong note.

It is also possible that a person may give little, if any, warning of thoughts of impending suicide and still attempt it.

So, how can you be sure? Ask directly. Share your observations tactfully and honestly. Be open to talking about this with your loved one.

Is it awkward? It certainly can be, but even more important, it could save the life of someone you love.

About the Author:

Dr Shery is in Cary, IL, near Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Marengo and Lake-in-the-Hills. He’s an expert marriage counselor and psychologist. Call 1 847 516 0899 and make an appointment or learn more about counseling at: http://www.nextdayappointment.com

Finding Myself

Over the last six months, my outlook on life has improved a lot. I no longer feel like murdering people for no reason, so that’s a definite step in the right direction. I’m sleeping reasonably well, which does wonders for a person’s mental state. I don’t burst into tears at the drop of a hat. Yes, tears well in my eyes, but I no longer sob like I once did.

This all means that I’m moving along the road of grief and I’m doing well.

However, the last two months has seen me feeling exhausted. Even with plenty of sleep, I feel tired all day. Some days, which is becoming more regular, I can hardly drag myself out of bed, let alone get through the day.

Today, I decided to go to the doctor. My usual doctor is cutting back his hours and his surgery is no longer open before or after work, or at lunchtime. And he hasn’t opened on a Saturday for a couple of years. I find that if I leave work early, his surgery is shut too, even though it’s supposed to be open. So…I went to another doctor.

This doctor knows nothing about me so she asked a lot of questions. I knew it was inevitable that I’d have to mention Barry, but I thought that after almost 18 months I’d be fine with that.

I wasn’t.

As soon as I had to say his name, the tears came. I felt like a blubbering idiot, but she was understanding and waited patiently for me to continue. I told her everything that had happened in the last 18 months – the suicide, the attempted suicide, the loss of will to live, the sleepless nights, the anger, the pain, my memory problems and my lack of focus (which continues to plague me). She typed it all into my file and then gave me a physical. I’m to have a range of blood tests done to find out if there’s a medical reason for my exhaustion.

Later, I sat at home and realised there was a lot I didn’t tell her too. I’m not the same person I was before I lost Barry. I know I’ll never be that person again. I’ve become less tolerant of people and their ways. I get annoyed quite easily and find myself thinking how stupid people are for wasting their lives wanting worthless things. I get angry when people tell me the most important thing in this world is money. I want to tell them, convince them, that happiness is the most important thing. Money is nothing without happiness.

The biggest change in me, is that I don’t like being around people anymore. I never was a social butterfly, but I always tolerated functions and outings and made the best of them. These days, I don’t want to be around other people. I no longer hate people, or the world, for what happened to Barry, but I feel safer and more content when I’m just with the small group of people I call my family (and some of them are friends). I’ve become a loner.

One incident in a person’s life can change a person…for good or bad. Barry’s death certainly had a lasting affect on many people, including me. Finding myself has been more difficult than you can imagine.

I Saw Him Today

I live close enough to my workplace that I can go home for lunch…and that’s exactly what I do everyday. Today, on the way back to work, I drove along our street and in the distance walking towards me…

…was Barry.

I stopped the car in the middle of the road, right there on a corner, and stared. Heaven help me, it’s been over seventeen months and I knew it couldn’t possibly be Barry. But still…

The young man was Barry’s height, his build, his colouring, he wore the same type of clothing, and he had the same hair style. But what pained my heart the most was that he walked just like Barry.

It couldn’t be Barry. But I sat in my car, stationary, in the middle of the road, watching him come closer and closer. I watched the walk I knew so well, unable to tear my gaze away. Luckily, the street I live in is quiet and no cars came along.

He walked along the foot path; his gait easy and relaxed. Then I realised he had earphones on, and that made him more Barry than before. He concentrated on what was happening in the ear phones, he smiled and did a little jig. Barry all the more.

I continued to sit and watch.

He drew closer and became aware of the car and the strange woman staring at him. His gait didn’t change. He came closer still. Now he was staring at me.

Everything about this person was Barry. He wasn’t close enough for me to have a clear view of his face. My heart ached for it to be my son, but my brain suddenly felt self-conscious and urged me to drive on. Barry has been dead for seventeen months so how could he be walking down our street?

I pulled my gaze away and drove around the corner and away from the young man. I had to stop at the lights and I sat staring in my rear view mirror. The young man should have come around the corner by now, but he didn’t. I wanted to have one more glimpse of Barry, but it didn’t happen.

Now, I know it was a stranger just walking along the street, doing his own thing, but my heart won’t let go of the fact that everything about the person was Barry. I never got a clear view of his face. If I had, it would have settled the matter once and for all. But I didn’t and now I’m left wondering what I had really seen…

Life Goes On

I’m happy to say that life, in general, is as normal as it can be right now. Each day we move forward, each of us dealing with our grief in a slightly different way.

Speaking for myself, I still think about Barry every day. I doubt that will change any time soon. Whilst I think about him all the time, I no longer feel the need to say his name every five minutes. Sometimes a whole day slips by and his name isn’t uttered once. Deep in my heart, I’ve accepted that Barry did exist and always will in the memories of those who loved him. Sometimes I bring his image into my mind to ensure I can still remember what he looks like. Some days the image is a bit fuzzy, other days it is sharp and clear and that makes me smile. I find I think of him mostly in “still” photo images now. It’s been 17 months since I saw the living, moving version of him and I guess I’m finding it harder and harder to picture a moving, talking Barry in my mind because of that. I try not to let this upset me.

This morning, I sat on Barry’s bed and looked around his room. Nothing is different in there, except for the fact that he’s no longer there and we can no longer smell the aroma of his deodorant. I just sat quietly and looked at his surfing posters stuck to the walls, at the writing on his wardrobe (I love Natty; Nor loves Mark), the DVD’s in a stand near the door (Seinfeld, Terminator, Jackass, Blade, The Great Rock & Roll Swindle and so many more), the pile of empty cardboard boxes hidden beside the wardrobe (he was a hoarder and loved boxes), the row of shoes beneath the window, the CD player connected to large speakers sitting on top of his chest of drawers, the TV rigged up to the Playstation in the corner of the room and the Bulldogs clock and mug sitting on his bedside table. I sat there, looking at all these things, knowing they are reminders of the boy who once lived in the room and dreading the day that I would have to pack it all away.

Of course, my gaze then found the large photo of Barry, which we have placed in the room since his death. I sat and studied my son’s features and, even after all this time, I tried to understand why. I read something a few days ago that I tend to agree with. I can’t remember the exact words, but the writer said that even if we managed to sit down and ask the person who died by suicide why they did it, their reasoning would probably be unclear…even to them. I understand I’ll never really understand why any of this happened, but I do need to accept it (which I haven’t done 100% yet).

Life goes on. My family and I are carving a new life out of the rubble. What we have forged isn’t as smooth and elegant as before, but it’s liveable and that’s all we can really ask for right now.