Before and After by Anne Moss Rogers

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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.

28 Responses

  1. […] Read more at The Gift of the Second […]

  2. Jacqueline
    | Reply

    Thank You.. Your story brought tears to my eyes this morning. I could not have said it any better. I lost my husband in May 2015.

  3. Dianna Matzo
    | Reply

    Thank for writing this Anne. I am inspired by your strength. I call also relate to so much more: the reassessment of your purpose, sensitivity to others radiating pain, days where I feel unsure of myself. Everyone has their own grief process, but I find myself feeling a tad jealous of your energy. I lost my sister around the same time as your son and my journey seems much more bogged down. Possibly by my own clinical depression. Regardless, love from another survivor and encouragement to keep going! Dianna

  4. Anne Moss Rogers
    | Reply

    Thanks to both of you for commenting. A loss by suicide is really not like any other loss. And the grief process is so complex.

  5. Carolyn
    | Reply

    Dear Sweet Anne Moss,

    Thank you for your willingness to share your story and raw feelings. We all have loss in our lives however; the loss of a child is an unnatural act for a parent to have to endure. There will never be anything on this earth to take Charles place. There is a place in your heart that Charles will always live and will never die. Hold on to your memories of him, shed your tears; they are healing. Charles death is not who he is, it is his life you want to treasure, and I know you do. Thank you for being the light that so many need to see that may be going through the same thing. Blessing and healing to you and your entire family.

  6. Emily Vaden
    | Reply

    Beautiful. Your words resonated deeply with me. Thank you for sharing your story and your struggle and strength <3

  7. Charlotte Moyler
    | Reply

    Beautifully written and so very true. Keep pouring out your heart Anne Moss, the world desperately needs to hear what is you are saying!

  8. Anne Moss Rogers
    | Reply

    You guys have no idea how uplifting you are. Thank you. It means so much.

  9. Rebecca Huff
    | Reply

    I too lost my son June 2015 to suicide. He was my eldest of 3 sons. I can so relate to your story. Thank you for sharing. It truly is an inspiration. Beautifully written and from your soul. Best wishes for you and your family! 🙂 ❤

  10. Wendy
    | Reply

    Thank you Anne. Your article touched me and I relate to so much of it. I lost my much loved partner to suicide in May 2015. He had struggled with depression and alcoholism for ten long years. He was the most beautiful, caring and supportive partner anyone could wish for and I miss him so much. I have one close friend who has been there for me all the way and I’m so grateful for her. But apart from her, no one has ever asked me how he died or anything about the circumstances of his death even though people know it was suicide. I understand that people may not want to upset me and also they are protecting themselves. It’s just another one of the sad and isolating aspects of this type of loss. I firmly believe in speaking up and being open about suicide and depression as we as a society need to lose the shame surrounding it. When addictions are involved however people turn away. There needs to be more compassion and understanding and less judgment. Thank you for writing this. Much love to you.

  11. Anne Moss Rogers
    | Reply

    I wrote an article in February about honoring my son that died by suicide. Thought no one would ever read and it is the #1 article of the year for that newspaper. That means a lot of people are suffering and it’s more common than anyone is saying. Thank you Rebecca and Wendy for your comments and your stories. And for speaking up. I read every last word. Makes me feel less alone.

  12. Rebecca Reimers
    | Reply

    I receive your posts via email and always read them. You write so eloquently and “real.” Thank you for all you are doing to help others. My son, Ray, died on July 28, 2015, at the age of 39 after suffering from depression since he was a teen–he battled valiantly for 25 years, and then he couldn’t. He is my only child and it’s like losing half of myself. I know he would want me to “do” something for whatever years I have left; so I’m helping to start a local suicide loss support group–I have much to learn in preparation, but I’ve found a satisfying purpose in this. I thank God for His strength, comfort and peace.

  13. Mary-Ellen
    | Reply

    Bravo ! Another beautifully written article by a person with a beautiful heart and spirit. AM, I think of all the people you help and support by sharing your personal journey with mental health, addiction and suicide and I’m simply in awe of your strength !

    • Anne
      | Reply

      Thank you Mary-Ellen. 🙂

  14. Diana cook
    | Reply

    Love your story my only child my son Greg took his life March 27, 2014. For some reason last 2 days has been bad otherwise like you I celebrate gregs life. I am no longer afraid to say the word sucide I want people to know its real & happening everyday. There is a hole in my heart where Greg lived. Tks again for sharing.

  15. Shirley Beck
    | Reply

    Thanks so much for your inspiring words. I lost my daughter to suicide on October 3, 2011. My life has been forever changed. I can so relate to everything that you said. I’m looking forward to seeing Kim again in Heaven some day. You truly are an inspiration.

  16. Anne Moss Rogers
    | Reply

    Diane, that is so hard to lose your only to suicide. We will always have a hole in our hearts. Giving back helps fill it but it will always be there. And I just have to accept that. I appreciate that you, too, are speaking out without shame. It takes a village.

  17. Mary
    | Reply

    Thanks for telling this important story. Suicide needs to come out in the light and be discussed so it can be prevented. I lost a parent to suicide and it took me awhile to understand they are too sad to live and that overrides everything else. It is very painful to process. I am sorry for your loss which you have converted into a gift for others with your empathy and compassion.

  18. Barbara
    | Reply

    Again. You have a gift to share and you are sharing it with so many grief-stricken mothers and fathers who have gotten slapped in the face with their worse fear ever—losing a precious child. I know I will never ever be the same again I lost a part of my heart and soul the day my beloved Charliejohn ended his life. Like you AnneMoss my husband and myself tried everything to keep our son alive but to no avail — our last words to each other were “I love you” I know Charliejohn was loved by so many — his friends keep in contact with us and tell us how our son helped them change their lives. I want to thank you for your beautiful and heart wrenching posts. They are so very much appreciated and they help so many of us in our journey of grief and mourning.

  19. Anne Moss Rogers
    | Reply

    Rebecca, Shirley – Even though it happened to me, I still don’t always have the right words. But we do honor our children that died by suicide. And I think that is important. No shame.

    Mary – You are right. Conversation saves lives. I have the letters from young adults to prove it. Losing a parent has got to be excruciating and when you are young, you don’t have the maturity to understand why like you might have as an adult. There has to be self blame for kids.

    And Barbara – We won’t ever be the same. And we will forge ahead. I have gotten to know Charliejohn. Thank you for your shares and your words.

  20. Dana
    | Reply

    I lost my son to suicide on 6-2-2016. He was 21 years old. Your article was very inspirational, but right now I don’t know who I am and how I’m supposed to live. I’m in the midst of confusion and great pain. The sadness and guilt overwhelms me.

  21. Anne Moss Rogers
    | Reply

    Dana – I lost my son on June 5, 2015. A support group helped me tremendously. Just being with others who have been through this was the best thing I ever did. I have been where you are right now. You just can’t see how you can go on. But I know you can. And once you get to a certain point, you feel like you can do anything and you find a new freedom you didn’t have before. That part is very liberating. If they don’t have suicide loss support groups, try compassionate friends. It’s nationwide and for those suffering the loss of a child.

  22. jacki
    | Reply

    What an inspiration u are anne.reading ur story brought a tear to my eye,see I’m a daughter & a parent who was at the desperation stage &tried to take my own life suffering from server depression.
    Reading ur story I feel enormous guilt how it feels to those left behind.
    Fortunately for me I survived.
    I’m so thankfull to people like u standing up to mental health also how the last year or so there has been so much around mental health & how serious it can be.
    Giving people the courage to open up about their suffering &not being ashamed &now able to feel they can reach out for help.
    If it’s any consolation I think if ur son was to see what u are doing now being a mental health avocate ,being so open around ur loss &being an inspiration to help all those suffering too I’m sure without a doubt he’d be so proud of u.

    • Anne Moss Rogers
      | Reply

      Thank you Jacki. I am so glad you are still with us and you fight for your own life. I am proud to be an advocate on your behalf. I am thankful you told me your story. It’s so inspiring to me and others

  23. Sheila
    | Reply

    Dear Anne, our stories are different but the common thread is loss via suicide. My mother died in January of this year. I have spent the last 9 months wondering who I am whilst still attempting to be a wife and mother. Keep writing.

    • Anne
      | Reply

      Thank you Sheila. I write every day on my blog. My older son was out of the house so I didn’t have to perform those every day mommy duties. Suicide is a loss like no other. Losing the person who was the core of your upbringing is earth shattering. And coming back after that is as tough a journey as the one I am on.

  24. Katherine Morris
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story! You are a brave and strong woman. So sorry for your loss. Bless you and your family.

    • Anne Moss Rogers
      | Reply

      I’m sorry I didn’t reply. I’m two years late but thank you.

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