Can we separate the ‘death’ from the life?

ID-10010334 I had a ‘suicide’ drawer in my dresser. When Toby died I accumulated all manner of upsetting papers and documents. The first was an ‘Interim certificate of death’. Imagine going to open the post and seeing ‘Toby Thorn’ ‘Asphyxiation’ and ‘Death’ leaping off the page and stabbing you in the heart.

Toby Thorn, my beautiful boy, my son – seeing in black and white official confirmation of what I had been told but was still struggling to absorb, was just almost too much to bear.

I also received a police report, witness statements from the coroner and had property returned by the police. Later I had a post mortem report, letters from Barclays Bank and Student finance, and newspaper cuttings that reported that the body of a 23 year old young man was found in a field.

One by one these went into the ‘suicide drawer’. I didn’t want to destroy them, for some strange reason I thought I might need them, for what I don’t know.

I went from wanting to know nothing about how my son died, to wanting to torture myself with every gruesome detail.  How could I sit there and read through a post mortem report without it finishing me off? I felt I needed to know, I don’t know what it achieved but maybe by confronting these horrors head on I faced up to it, I didn’t let it finish me, I confronted it instead of denying it, maybe that helped me in the long run.

As the months went on, I started to rebuild my life. My Dad was gone now too, so I set out on a path to recovery of some sort. To all intents and purposes I had a normal life now. A job, a routine, a life of sorts.

All the while the horrors sat there in the ‘suicide drawer’. I couldn’t decide whether to throw all the documents out, something was still resisting. A friend gave me an idea. So I decanted the contents of the ‘suicide drawer’ into a large shoe box. I covered the shoe box with ‘Toy Story’ wrapping paper and added some rose petals, a picture of Toby and a few mementoes and I put it away down in the cellar of my house and forgot about it.

Just recently I have been struggling with feeling low and missing Toby. Sometimes well-meaning people will tell me I have to ‘get over’ losing Toby and ‘put it behind me’.  Of course I will never get over losing Toby but it did make me think about drawing a line between the awfulness of how he died and the wonderful memories of the person he was and still is to me.

So I will try to put behind me how he died. It was not a good or noble death, no one to blame but Toby and his illness which was depression. He succumbed to this insidious disease like hundreds of other beautiful young souls do each year.

I want to focus on his life. I want to keep that memory alive, his beautiful soul and how he enriched my life and all the people he knew.

So I decided to hold a ceremony yesterday. I went into the cellar and got out the box. I pulled out each horrible document and some I read one last time. I don’t ever need to read them again. I made a bonfire in my garden in a large flowerpot lined with foil, and tossed each tortuous page into the flames and watched each one burn. I took the ashes to Perranuthnoe beach and tossed them into the wind and the sea and watched the waves wash away the horror of his death.

I won’t ever have to open that box again and confront the gruesome details of his death. I have filled it with pictures and mementoes so it is now a happy memory box. It is time to let go of the horror of the death and move to a place where I can remember his life and not how he died.

It felt symbphoto (3)olic and I expect some things to change as a result. My son fell asleep in a field when he was 23, that’s all. The memories of coroners, police reports and inquests all gone up in smoke, and it is these memories I will get over and put behind me, not the memories of my beautiful boy.

” Fire Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/”.

This entry was posted in bereavement, Grief, Healing, Loss, suicide. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Can we separate the ‘death’ from the life?

  1. Perhaps holding onto some of the “death” things is part of the processing of his death. I have some of those things myself sitting in a storage unit – newspaper articles concerning the accident and trial (our son and his best friend were broadsided by a drunk driver who was going nearly twice the speed limit), death certificates, a large packet of information from the policy investigation (securely wrapped and taped with a warning, since it contains photos of the accident). I like your idea of getting to a point where those things can be put to the fire and go up in smoke. Sometimes it takes a while to get to that point.

  2. John A says:

    Hi Anne, I’ve spent the most part of this morning reading your inspirational blog. I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to blogs and the like and I hope you get to see this comment. I’m a sufferer of depression. I nearly took my own life two years ago. I prepared myself but could not go through with it. I am a father of two young children and a grown up child. However the utter pain and desperation of the depression masked all of the obvious things that I should or shouldn’t be doing. Luckily for me and my family, another car pulled up in the car park where I was that day.

    That was that, the opportunity was there but it went. I sought help and have made good progress in my recovery. I cannot imagine the pain and grief you have gone through, it is after all so personal. However I’d like to congratulate and applaud you on the what you have written throughout your blog. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, just your way.

    It really resonated with me when you you wrote about saying dont ask “how are you?”. I am open about my depression now, and it’s still the single most common question I’m asked. It’s because of the stigma and people’s own phobias or pre conceived ideas about dealing with such subjects. They just don’t know how to be around the grieving, the depressed etc.

    This is the sort of thing that should be taught in schools – emotional intelligence. I’m still managing my depression but that’s better than it managing me! A truly inspiring story about how you’re dealing with your loss and how you’re making yourself stronger because if it. I’m sure your son, your mum and your dad are very proud of you.

  3. Henrietta Parsons says:

    Anne that is very powerful. Thankyou for posting it. I haven’t even got to the stage of collecting together all those terrible documents, they are just in a pile of undealt-with papers.

    It feels as though you are showing the way to other heartbroken parents on the same path as you. You are a truly inspirational woman.

    I love your drawing of Toby. Have you done others? Have you always been an artist? Henrietta x

  4. Karen says:

    My friend lost her only 27 year old son to suicide just yesterday. She is beyond devastated and so are the entire family. It is hard for everyone to grasp that he really went through with this; his mother suspect he would do it, but could never get him to go to a counselor for help. He used a gun, no doubt of his intentions. What can I do to help her? I spent several minutes just hugging her whilst she sobbed.

    • annwae says:

      I’m so sorry Keren. In the short term all you can do is stay by her side and if she wants to talk just listen. Offer practical help such as calling people and helping to organise the funeral. She can call SOBS helpline if she feels up to it. She will be in extreme shock so you will have to just go with the flow as everyone reacts differently. Tell he she doesn’t have to go through this alone and she will survive. Her son died of an illness called depression, and he is at peace now. In time encourage her to join the forum where she can talk to other Mums who are living through the same nightmare

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