Recently a friend whose child died by suicide asked me after Connor died, “When did you know you would be okay?” I must say her question made me pause and think. It is not a black-or-white answer.
After a few moments of reflection, I told her that, from the beginning, I promised I would allow myself to grieve. That meant if I did not feel like seeing anyone, I would stay home. I was okay with it. If I cried in the grocery store, it was what it was. There was no shame in being sad. If someone asked me why I was crying, I answered, “Because I miss my son.”
Strangers, friends, and family were extremely compassionate in those moments of public display of grief and understood when I did not want to be with anyone. The love I received helped me to understand I would be okay, that I would survive my loss, and there would be a day when I would be happy again.
In hindsight, it was my acceptance of what I was feeling in my loss journey that helped me to move through it. I accepted that it was okay to cry, to not want to be around others, and to have a hole in my heart. I understood these are all normal because, as humans, we mourn the loss of loved ones.
My grief journey is mine to walk. No one can do the work for me. I must be open to moving through the pain to heal. Likewise, your grief journey is yours to walk. No one can do the work for you. And you must be open to moving through the pain to heal.
However, I had others help me get through it. I did not do it alone. I leaned into my chaplain, friends, family and used other tools I developed – the tools I am presenting in this book.
Taking that first step – accepting where I was in my grief and that it was natural to cry and be sad – made it easier for me to move forward.
She then asked for any advice I could give her. I thought about it and told her: “Start by accepting that you have experienced loss. It is a horrible place to be. Once you have grasped that thought, it will be easier to process your loss and start moving through your grief. It worked for me.”
Grief is a continuous journey. It is a long and winding road. There will be ups and downs. Some days will be better than others. It gets better. I know. I understand. I’ve walked in your shoes. You will survive the suicide death of your child.