11 Years by David McManaway

posted in: Uncategorized | 6

It’s been almost eleven years since my 15 y/o son, Jonathan, suddenly stopped his own life. I have learned things and grown stronger yet grieve as heavily as I did on the day it occurred. The only difference is that I can now embrace the grief in a way that gives me comfort. One of the first things I learned, however, is that no one, whether a fellow survivor or not, should offer specific advice about how one should feel or act. I was truly fortunate to have understanding friends, family, and coworkers.

Instead, let me relate some of the specifics of the journey that my family and I have been on and if it strikes a chord, take what you will from it.

Within hours of his passing, my wife and I agreed to not dwell on “why”. We did not see it coming and we could only speculate. The only true answer can never be accessed which is as frustrating as it is sad. For us, it has kept us relatively free from feelings of “what if”, “what was he thinking”, and unfounded guilt.

My son had 3 brothers; one he was not getting along with; one he adored and protected (he is autistic), and one who was his best friend. We recognized early that they were all grieving differently but just as intensely as my wife and I. Difficult as it was to step away from our own grief, we had to allow our other children to have availability to us. Ultimately, helping them, and others, became it’s own best reward. Listening and sharing with other survivors was cathartic and strangely comforting. We joined a support group and after a time discovered that we no longer depended on each other because we had managed our grief together. I do remember our first group meeting. We all introduced ourselves and timidly offered tidbits about what had happened. No one, including myself, mentioned to the group the name of their lost loved one. By the second meeting most of us were able to say their name and, in fact, looked for opportunities to say it as often as possible. I found this kind of progress in my healing consistent over the next few months and I am forever grateful.


I had a pretty high-level supervisory position at my job and could be demanding and impatient at times. After Jonathan’s passing, I noticed significant changes in my demeanor at work. I became much more patient, understanding, and forgiving and subsequently happier. I felt a need to take people under my wing and truly mentor them, sharing both my work and personal experiences. Maybe that was the result of guilt over parental inadequacies but I am grateful for that as well. My son’s death changed me and the positive aspect of that continues to help plug the hole that will always be there.

Most of us probably thought that this would never happen to us. Like so many aspects of life, we pay little or no attention to things that don’t affect us. Now that we’ve had this experience we are much more sensitive to other tragedies and can spot quickly those who have no idea what we have gone through. We are patient and understanding with them; glad that they don’t have this experience to draw on.

Forgive my random thoughts but as you are no doubt discovering in yourselves, they come often and from the heart. Tragedy and grief are neither contests nor a race. We all make the journey through not around it. We survive, we smile again then laugh. We have additional joys and sorrows. I am sorry that you have to make the journey. Safe travels.

6 Responses

  1. Pam Goff
    | Reply

    Hit home with me this morning.great words

  2. Donna Budelis
    | Reply

    Thank u for sharing your story. It was very touching n I certainly understand it all. I also lost a son, my youngest of 5 children, John was 28. I know I was lucky to have him for so many more yrs. I am so sorry for you n your family. The grief journey never ends but you seem to have done well, supporting each other in your travels. Take care.

  3. Julie
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    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I lost my husband 4 months ago tomorrow, and got a call yesterday from a cousin whose son took his life Tuesday morning. My heart is broken for her and her family that they too are walking this path. My silver lining is that I can help her through these first days by paying forward the love and help that was showered on my children and me.
    I’m encouraged by your words that we are forever changed, sometimes in a good way.
    God bless!

  4. Mae Brown
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    I too know that sad long journey. The hole in my heart will never heal completely. My son Brian was 22 when God took him home, along with his bride to be, her younger sister and her father. Her mother also has to live through the pain and the hole in her heart. God Bless everyone who has lost a family member, no matter how God took them. They will always be remembered, never to be forgotten.

  5. Mary Jane Williamson
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    Eleven years. Im only into 3 mos. and it feels like forever. I live alone so I have more time to sit and think. It’s not a good thing. I try to cope the best I can but nothing will ever be the same again.

  6. Kerri-Ann Dunn
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. We too lost our son and brother 11 years ago. The experience has made us far more sensitive to others and the loss they may have in their lives. I recall reading to look for the gifts in this experience. For some reason I held onto that advice. It has helped me through many bad days, weeks, and months. We are now able to laugh and feel joy in our lives. We are all doing well. My heart still aches for my Michael. It will for the rest of my life. Michael’s father didn’t have the supportive family or friends that I had and failed to cope with the loss. He too took his life almost 4 years ago. So sad. I hope you and your family continue to do well.

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