Living alone and being single, I often find myself in situations where I am meeting people for the first time. I belong to walking groups, a writing group, a women’s business group and a dining club, so it is common for me to find myself facing the normal ‘getting to know you’ type questions that people ask when you first meet.
I don’t walk up to people and say ‘Hi, I’m Anne and my 23 year old son died 7 years ago, and by the way he took his own life’. However, the fact I do not have a living child often naturally comes into conversations, as at my time of life most people will tell you about their children and how much they delight in their grandchildren. I refuse to NOT mention my son just to avoid the awkward silences that often follow, and I have just got used to answering the question about children by saying that ‘yes, I do have a son, but unfortunately he died when he was 23, 7 years ago’. I don’t always volunteer the suicide bit unless it feels relevant. Continue reading
I am both heartbroken and thankful when someone emails me about reading my blog. Thankful that they have found me. Heartbroken because they are on the same painful journey of learning to live again after the life shattering event of not only losing a child but coming to terms with the manner of their death. Death from suicide encompasses huge loss along with stigma, guilt, judgment, confusion and isolation.
I haven’t written a new post for nearly a year so thought it might be helpful to look back and reflect on where I am today and how far I have travelled on this lonely road of rebuilding my new normal.
I consider myself fortunate that I had the strength and resourcefulness to go and find support once I realised no one was going to come along and pick me up and lead me to help. Continue reading
It is your 30th birthday today, it is always a bit confusing on birthdays – should I celebrate or cry all day? I still think of you as my little boy, I lost you when you were 23, so you were a grown man then, I wonder what you would be doing now?
I am sure you wouldn’t be having a big party, you never were into big celebrations, your 21st passed without hardly any fuss. I can’t even remember where you were, you must have been at Uni then…
I can’t believe it has been 6 and a half years since you went away, how have I got through these years I can’t tell you. I worry that I will forget you, the sound of your voice and your laugh. I try and hear them in my head, I wish I had some videos, I only have a tiny clip of when you were in Amsterdam trying to climb into a big Dutch clog with Graham. Continue reading
Well it’s that time of year again and I usually just regurgitate my blog about how to survive Christmas after the loss of a loved one, but it doesn’t feel appropriate anymore.
A better blog would be how to survive every day after 6 and a half years and coming up to your son’s 30th birthday.
Losing Toby has just settled into being part of me now, it’s part of the fibre of my soul. In many ways I still feel Toby around me even though he is gone, but what scares me is that as each year goes by he feels like he is getting further away. Continue reading
One of the first questions asked by survivors of bereavement by suicide is – why? We are born programmed with an inner sense of self-preservation; fight or flight. If faced with danger we can access huge surges of adrenaline that may help us run from danger. We are taught our whole lives to stay safe and avoid anything that may harm us, so it can be a completely alien concept that someone would end their own life.
I have learned not to look for answers. Suicide is a complex subject and even academics and scholars cannot definitively tell us why people die from suicide. I know some survivors who find it helps them to cope with their loss by blaming a relationship break up, a job loss, financial problems etc., however there are millions of people in the world who go through devastating times but do not take their own life. I am always amazed when anyone asks me why Toby took his own life but they do not understand as I do that there is never a single reason. A relationship break up or a job loss or financial problems may be the final straw for someone who is suffering and it may be a catalyst, but not a reason. Continue reading
I’m 61 now and when mixing with people my own age there seems to be only one subject that comes up constantly and that is grandchildren. “Oh what a joy it is at our time of life spending time with our grandchildren” I hear, I see memes on Facebook about how grandchildren light up your life, I hear of new ones being born, of their achievements, I get showed photos on your phone, they are all around. It seems everyone has at least one apart from me.
Of course, people talk about other things, but I just seem to tune in when I hear the word and it still makes my heart sink as I am torn between being happy and interested and feeling a deep hole inside knowing I will never have any. Continue reading
Toby Christmas 2010, our last Christmas together
I’m not really fussed about Christmas, to me it’s just another day.
I have an older brother but since our teens we’ve never been close. No big drama, we just don’t have a sibling bond, I’m not sure why. I love him, I’d give him a kidney; but we hardly speak.
He married his childhood sweetheart and they have three perfect sons and five perfect grandchildren. No invite was forthcoming to spend Christmas with them, so I will be spending Christmas day with friends I have met through my walking group who also don’t spend Christmas with their families for different reasons.
I haven’t felt quite so bah humbug this year. I organised a Christmas lunch for elderly people who are alone at Christmas. I gave quite a bit of money and time and made it happen, and it was worth it when I saw people enjoying a lovely meal and making new friends. I am like a pebble dropped in the sea, I send ripples out to the Universe and those ripples keep on going, like a chain reaction.
I just said goodbye to an amazing, spirited, talented young man. I didn’t really know him so how do I know he was amazing? Because I’ve just come back from attending his funeral. Kim John Sequoia Long was 18 years old, blonde and beautiful, the only child of Viv and Tai Long, my neighbours. He took his own life while still in the first term of his law degree at Bristol University.
You can’t avoid it, the world is full of proud parents and grandparents. Everywhere you go, every dinner party, at work, on the train, in the park. There they all are. The lucky ones, the ones that have living breathing children who are passing milestones. First day at school, GCSEs, University, girlfriends and boyfriends, jobs, marriage, foreign holidays. And every one reminds us of a milestone we have had and many more we will miss.
Out of all my friends and Facebook friends I can think of only 3 who don’t have children. I realise some choose to be child free and for some it just didn’t happen, but the majority of people in my age group do have families and now grandchildren too.
I love hearing about people’s families and seeing their happy pictures, but each one is a harsh reminder to a bereaved parent of what they are missing, what they have lost. It can open up the hole inside and turn the dull daily ache of loss into a raging knife-twisting wound that makes you howl like an injured animal for your child. How many times do you hear of a child’s achievements, ‘Oh you must be so proud’ they say to the parent. But what if you can’t be proud? Continue reading
Sometimes I feel really pissed off with you. Pissed off that you left me, you didn’t tell me how bad it was, you didn’t give me a chance to help you and you left me with a life sentence of pain.
But the anger is fleeting, you died from an illness, I wouldn’t be pissed off with you if you died from cancer would I?
It is five years ago today since a policeman knocked on my door, it was 10pm and I was watching the highlights of the British Grand Prix. That’s why I can’t watch it now. Continue reading