Ever since my son Charles died by suicide in June of 2015, I categorize everything as either before his death or after.
His death literally split my life in two and I am forever changed.
I still instinctively scan family photos taken after his death looking for him. And when I don’t see him I feel shock and ache that loss all over again.
I have always heard when you lose a limb it takes a while to get used to the fact it’s missing and you feel it’s still attached to the body and moving appropriately with other body parts. They call this a phantom limb. That’s how I feel sometimes about Charles. Phantom child.
My family of 4 is now 3 and it feels unnatural and incomplete. Learning to live without the person that was my purpose is probably the hardest part of my grief journey.
Before his death, I knew what I wanted to do and where I was headed.
Charles’ suicide triggered a complete about face and reassessment of my life.
Once I lost something precious to me, the reality that I was not exempt from tragedy inspired a fear that it could happen again.
I often feel untethered, like a kite cut loose, flapping uncontrollably in the wind. Those are the days I feel unsure of myself. That is often followed by a grief relapse after which I come back fighting.
Slowly I have gotten back on my feet and started to find myself. I fall backward still and I respect that I am not always the captain of this journey.
Things that meant a lot to me before, mean nothing now. My family has always been important. That hasn’t changed. But my purpose definitely has. And it changed the moment I heard the words, “Your son Charles killed himself.”
My mission as a mental health advocate is now a passion that I won’t give up until the day I die.
I can look at a person now and know they are hurting. I can instinctively pick up that someone else has lost a child. I reach out more. I am bolder about exposing my failures, my grief and my guilt as well as my joy.
Some days I feel worthless. Other days my heart is so full I swear it will burst.
When people ask if I have children I tell them my oldest child is living his dream as a filmmaker and that my youngest died by suicide and suffered from addiction and depression. I feel no shame. I honor my son’s struggle. I use the word suicide; I talk openly about my son that died.
I tell my friends I love them. I have wisdom that I didn’t have before. I stand up for people others dismiss. I push the envelope daily.
I tell my own story before audiences without fear or admonishment. I give back to help me fill that hole in my heart. I worry less about what others think. I stop and smell the roses. I hold onto hope despite having suffered the most devastating loss of my life.
I listen to others tell their stories because each and every one of them is important and woven into the tapestry of life.
I am determined what I do after his death will mean something. That from the ashes of despair will emerge a new person who will make a positive change.
I feel if I can survive this, I can do anything.
To read more from Anne Moss, you can find her blog at Annemoss.