My wife and I, like most parents who have lost a child, have integrated his death into our lives. In the beginning I counted the days, then the weeks, then the months and now the years. Today I went back to calculate that it was 2,922 days. But not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I guess I could focus on the events we never got to share with him, the proms, graduations, college, etc., things that he sadly never got to experience. In the beginning I tended to drift in that direction. As time has rolled on, I tend to wax nostalgic back on the wonderful moments we did get to share with John.
Healing from the loss of a loved one is so complicated. I truly believe that you heal in two different ways (your thoughts and your heart) separately and at two different times. It took me a while to realize that while the head may come to cope with the grief from their loss; the heart takes much longer to accept the loss. Grief is complicated and it can spring up so easily by just looking at a picture, listening to a shared song or visiting someplace that holds special memories of the person we lost.
Innocent questions from others can often catch you like a deer in the headlights. What is the correct answer to when someone asks me “How many children do you have?” Do I tell them about the son we lost to suicide? Do I just focus on our surviving daughter? Do I deny his existence by not mentioning him? In the early days that question could take my breath away. Now it just leads me to choose to decide if this is a teaching moment or not. Being an extrovert, I tend to overshare but I think it is the correct thing to do. More than 43,000 people die each year in the US by suicide. More people die by suicides than by homicides. But our society tends to hide suicide behind a veil of shame and stigma. The front page of the newspaper rarely talks about suicides unless it was someone famous like Robin Williams.