Finding the healing

17FEE056-2DBC-4302-AD3D-74BD0CE426B4One of  the first thing I get asked by parents who have just lost their child to suicide is ‘How will I survive?

There is no easy answer to this question. No formula, no prescription, no set of rules. Each person has to find out for themselves. But the first thing I tell them is that they will survive, and more than that they can go on to have a good life. Of course they won’t believe this at first, how can they? But then I urge them to join the support group and talk to other parents who have faced the same nightmare and found ways to cope, survive and even thrive.

I realised today that the most powerful thing to do is to search for what heals the soul. Even after four years I still find that it can be the simplest things that gives healing to the part of my soul where I feel the loss of Toby most deeply. Continue reading

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Don’t stop, never give up

Scan 3Regular readers of my blog will know that the theme is ‘healing and recovery’, I started writing about how I was coping with my intense grief following the tragic death of my son, less than a year after he died. It became my journal, charting my progress. I write about how I’m feeling, how I’m coping, things that remind me of Toby, events that moved me and sometimes write letters to Toby. I share things I have found helpful in the hope it might help others.

I know from comments and emails I receive that this has helped others who are walking in my shoes and following my footsteps. When a tragic event happens, one of the most beneficial things you can do is to find someone else who has experienced the same tragedy, who can hold your hand and just tell you they understand how you feel, and you know that they really do. Parents who have lost a child to suicide can feel so isolated and it doesn’t help when a well-meaning person tells you they know how you feel because their Mum or Dad died. You really just want to scream at them that they have no idea how you feel. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Toby

Toby and me  Dear Toby,

It seems to have become an annual tradition now, writing you a letter on your birthday every year. This year you would be 27 in earth years. It is hard to believe that 27 years ago I was in Good Samaritan hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, cuddling my beautiful little baby boy. Twenty seven years, half a lifetime. As always I wonder what you might be doing if you were still here, and as always I know you would not want a fuss or a party. You were always a low key kind of person. I’m sure you’d being going out for a beer or two with your mates though. Continue reading

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The greatest gift you’ll get this year is what you already have

Toby and Dad on Pole Hill

Last Christmas together

Usually at this time of year I publish my top ten tips of how to get through Christmas when you have lost a loved one. This year I have been moved to take a different view. If you want to see my top ten tips, just search the blog and go back a year and you will find them.

This year I have been moved to write about appreciating what you already have. I know this is an old cliché in the vein of ‘you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone’, but it is something we can forget in the lead up to Christmas with all the adverts depicting happy families showering each other with gifts. Continue reading

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Torn between remembering and forgetting

Toby photo 2This is the conversation that goes on in my head quite regularly.

“I feel OK, today quite content really. I feel quite happy, life is good.”

“But how can you possibly be happy? Your son is dead. You can’t possibly be happy? What kind of mother are you? Didn’t you love him enough? You should be devastated, grief stricken, unable to go on”

I look at his photo, but I don’t connect his image with grief and despair, on the contrary, I usually smile and say “Hello Toby” and kiss my finger and place it on his forehead on the picture. Continue reading

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A bright shining star

bookSo I have had a bit of ‘writer’s block’ this summer, and haven’t written much at all. I was prompted to write something when Robin Williams died and this week I have been touched by the story of a grieving Mum, who could not live with her grief any longer and tragically took her own life, just over a year after she lost her perfect 23 year old daughter to suicide.

Most of the time I feel I am going through life on ‘auto-pilot’. It is as if something took over the day Toby died, like an artificial lung, breathing for me when I did not know how to breathe myself. I wonder about a zillion times a day how I can go on living and breathing and appearing outwardly ‘happy’ and ‘normal’, when my son who was my world, my universe and my raison d’etre is no longer here.

I miss Toby every day, I think of him every day a thousand times but alongside this I function. I care about my appearance, I eat healthy food, I do not abuse substances or alcohol and I do not take medication. I have had some counselling in the early days, but found it did not help very much.

I am ‘getting on with my life’ (I stress the inverted commas here). Then this week I have been stopped in my tracks and got immersed in the story of a perfect 23 year old young woman who tragically took her own life in April 2013, and her Mum who struggled so hard to come to terms with it but ultimately lost the battle.

Continue reading

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Out of tragedy can come change: the other legacy left by Robin Williams

RobinThis week has been a sad week for many fans who loved Robin Williams from afar, who loved his humour, his films and his spirit. It has been an especially difficult week for those of us who have lost loved ones to suicide. Every week is difficult, but this week we have been bombarded with articles in the media about depression and suicide, the aftermath of the shock of discovering that someone who made a living making people laugh was so sad inside that he would take drastic action to escape his pain.

His wife, children, family and friends are now left with a life sentence of pain and a million questions that all start with the word ‘Why?’ If he had died after a long battle with cancer there would be tributes and outpouring of grief as well, but we would not be asking ‘Why?’ We wouldn’t feel so shocked and the sense of tragedy would not be so intense. Continue reading

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