I believe that every parent who has lost a child can articulate the word anguish. We can describe the way our bodies feel; like a deflated balloon 3 weeks after the party, I have barely any air left in my lungs. I need the strength of a powerlifter to get out of bed and even then my heart can’t get off the floor. I require the stamina of a marathoner to move through my day, but that stamina only gets me from bed to office chair, to couch, and then back to bed. Rinse and repeat; day after day. My grief has settled deep into my bones like cement and it’s not only my heart that aches, being me aches.
“Anguish not only takes away our ability to breathe, feel, and think – it comes for our bones. Anguish often causes us to physically crumple in on ourselves, literally bringing us to our knees or forcing us all the way to the ground” ~ Brene Brown
My son Ian died by suicide almost 5 years ago. No matter how hard I try I am still unable to make sense of his passing. I can reroute my anguish into a task list, taking care of Bodhi, or my career; but no matter what it always comes back to me. I’ve moved away from the home and neighborhood that we shared with Ian, but I am still haunted and held hostage to the hours leading up to and just after his passing.
The other day, while running errands without thought or planning I found my car at the water tower where he died. You know that feeling when you’re driving on autopilot and when you come to, you have no idea how you got to where you are? Imagine my shock when I looked up and out of my window all I saw was the water tower Ian jumped from. I felt powerless to the magnetic pull of tracing his steps.
I ended up walking the perimeter of the fence and battling overgrown blackberry bushes. All I could think of were the unanswered questions that have haunted me from day one.
Did anyone hear him walk out of his dad’s house? Did anyone see a 14-year-old boy walk the road to the water tower the night before? Why didn’t he stop at my house, which was on the way and within eyesight of the water tower? How did he get through a 14′ fence topped with barbed wire? How did he climb a 240′ water tower? How long had he been planning this moment? How could you jump bubba? Did you suffer? Do you miss me?
There are a million more questions. Most of them aren’t the softball kind that just scratch the surface. They are the ugly hard ones that I won’t ever have answers for. It’s not ever going to be okay or make sense. But what I choose to do with this anguish is put it into action with kids that I meet every day.
I have the opportunity to rewrite Ian’s ending through another child’s experience. I use all my curiosity about Ian’s undoing, in order to walk other kids through their darkest hour. No matter how dark it gets for any of us, I know sharing Ian’s story, both the beautiful and the broken parts will help someone get through the night.