How DO you move forward after suicide? Do you ever get the answers? If it’s tough for you, imagine how little sense it makes for kids.
Have you ever had this experience at the dinner table?
How was your day today? “Fine.” What did you learn at school? “Nothing.” Not good.
After my husband committed suicide, this was one of the many challenges, and by far the hardest. I have never felt this kind of pain, the agony you feel for your child. I was devastated; what about him? The constant heart wrenching truth that your lives will never be the same again.
He was trying to be the happy kid he’d always been, and even told me this when I was asking him if he was ok. “Mom I just want to have a happy childhood”.
His words left me stunned. His determination even more so.
So, I tried to rise to the occasion and support his quest for normalcy, while watching for cracks, waiting. Teenage years are tricky enough as kids explore independence, but it seemed like now every life lesson was more complex, rather than typical growing pains.
My own pain was crippling, multiplied by watching him manage his emotions. It almost impossible to describe.
On the flipside, the joy I felt when he had a breakthrough was also off the charts, and it’s still the best feeling.
I soon realised that important conversations, big or small, happened IN THE CAR. And not always while driving, him in the back me in the front. Sometimes they occurred in the driveway. It became irrelevant when or where it happened, as long as it did.
I discovered quite by accident, that if we were in the car together post exercise, endorphins up, some really powerful stuff happened.
One evening after the gym when we were on the way home, I wanted to show him something. Instead of “OMG! I just want to go home”, I got “Yeah sure”! even when I announced it was the sunset, he was ok with it. A real victory with a 12-year-old.
Driving along, and totally out of the blue he says “Mom, I don’t like the idea of moving on”.
Realising with a broken heart that he was thinking right then about his father’s suicide, I was fighting back the tears. I was very glad he was in the back seat. Careful to help him navigate this without crumbling myself, I replied that I didn’t like it either. “I think the idea of moving on means you are forgetting the past, or somehow dismissing it. Maybe we should say moving forward instead. This means we don’t forget the past, but we keep moving”. He agreed.
By moving forward, rather than on, we had given each other permission to be happy. To honour our beautiful memories and maybe create some new ones.
He’s now grown and sits beside me, listening to music, but when we pull in the driveway we sometimes talk … until I have to open the door for air.
It has become even more evident since then, that we do need to keep moving forward, not moving on, and never disregard the past. Honouring our experiences even when they are terribly sad, but being willing to make new memories is what has made us who we are today.