I can’t feel courageous without walking through vulnerability and my shame grows because of secrecy, silence and judgement. Being vulnerable and transparent is a risk I take in order to experience connection to you and to other kids that may feel like Ian did.
For those of you who are parents, do you remember when your babies were young and someone would ask you how old they were? He’s 6 weeks old or she’s almost 8 months….?
I distinctly remember when I started converting the weeks and months to years and it made me a little sad because my babies were not really my babies anymore and as a family we were traveling each moment into unfamiliar territory morphing from baby to toddler and then to child and off to teenager.
I feel the exact same way, that same tug at my heart strings as the days creep away from May 8th, 2017. It was the day when Ian took his life. It’s been a year and a half, but I would rather say 18 months. Some moments the connection to my son’s life is hanging on by the thinnest most fragile thread, and in big sweeping desperate grabs and pulls, I hang on for dear life praying that the thread will hold me.
Six months ago, I stood up and spoke at the first gallery showing of Faces of Fortitude. I danced around being a Face and what the experience was like. A Few months ago, I wrote a Medium Blog post for the Face project and I myself even have this blog where I share tiny letters to my grief. While I have been writing from truth and love, I don’t think I shared with transparency and vulnerability. You see I just barely scratched the surface, peeling back enough wall paper for you to see a glimpse of what lies beneath my armor.
Let me tell you, this….my broken heart…this sucks. Nothing really suffices to communicate the heartache that I continue to move in. I am unable to give this shattered heart a name. The life I am left with after losing Ian to suicide is…it’s loud and fucking noisy in my head. It’s full of shame and blame, fear and hate, and judgement. I am stomping and punching and kicking my way through each second of every day. And as I travel and fight through this timeline, bouncing between the before and the after…all I can really do is shake my head in disbelief.
As I look at Bella, I worry that my transparency puts more on her heavy heart than she can handle. I am fearful that my sadness and need for acknowledgement of my pain leaves her starving for her place in this story. In Ian’s last letter to us, he called her his one and only. Highlighting the connection and bond the two of them shared. She was and still is a fierce protector of his. I am so grateful that he had you to call his own.
I promised Bella, that after Ian died, she would not look back 10 years from now and feel that I died the same day as him. And I have to add to that promise, that I will honor and acknowledge her truth and storyline just as much if not more than my own. I welcome her falling tears and invite her pain to penetrate our world. And we will find our way, together.
The fall before Ian died, he mentioned more than once, enough for me to take notice that he didn’t have friends. It was usually in response to me asking him who he was going to hang out with over the weekend. He’d text a few friends and they’d be busy. He’d give me this response with a little snort as if to say he was joking. But there was something there, some sort of truth for him that I couldn’t quite audit for myself.
I sent an e mail to his school counselor. Letting her know the occasions that Ian had said this and asked if she could just quietly observe him during the week and let me know what she saw. She came back to me with her observations that Ian at lunch is usually surrounded by 10-15 kids and he is always at the center of the laughter. His teachers were included in that observation and each one came back with a report of how Ian was in class, participating fully, working great in team settings, not keeping to himself and providing the entertainment at the most inappropriate of times. So, I put that “something there” aside and let it rest and without a second thought determined that it was just Ian being 14 and dramatic.
In the last 18 months, my heart was protecting me from all the should have’s, would have’s and could have’s. In the most transparency I have ever shared I will tell you that I wish I had sat with him, and let tell me about his connections rather than school counselors and teachers. I would listen to what set his soul on fire and heard what gave him goosebumps. I imagine that if I gave him this space he would feel safe enough to be fully transparent and authentic with describing the dark blanket he found himself underneath.
You see that true connection; human interaction cannot be discovered through FINSTA Feeds or Twitter Timelines. The space and silence that exists with living in the digital age is too dangerous for us and specifically for kids. Brene Brown says “The silence our kids find themselves in allows them to construct their own stories – stories that almost always cast them as alone and unworthy of real love and belonging and truth that becomes connection.” I’m not saying that we need to absolve ourselves from social media, but knowing that we are starved for connection and heart space with others means we know technology has a time and place. And it’s not to supersede the connection quest.
Out of the silence our community is creating The LiveHard Movement. Livehard is a place we are building where we can connect to kids like Ian. We are creating an organization that will stand on firm pillars of connection, transparency and vulnerability. The LiveHard Movement will host camps where kids can learn to be ambassadors of connection, define their own purpose and learn how to spot their friends in crisis, gently guiding them to safety. We will also offer peer to peer support groups so that the ones who are left behind can share their story and begin to heal. Secrecy, Silence and Judgement are not welcome at LiveHard Movement.
We are here in this heart space together, breathing hope and love and forgiveness into our future selves. I want to specifically thank Mariangela Abeo, Founder of Faces of Fortitude. Every time we talk, text or hug I can feel her gentle nudge to keep telling the real story. Because the shape of someone else’s darkness and pain, quite possibly looks like my words.