Dear Beloved Dylan by Cheryl French

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Dear Beloved Dylan;

I love you still, perhaps more fiercely than ever. Though I miss you every day, I want you to know that we are OK sweetheart, really OK. The jagged, vicious pain we lived with for such a long time after you chose to leave us has softened. Life is truly different now, in ways that are surprisingly good. I say that because at “the beginning” we never expected life to be good again.

It has been a horribly long journey – surviving the pain of your suicide. The hardest part for me was that I believed I drove you to it. How else could such a promising, brilliant and beautiful young man make such a decision? How else could you be in such pain? How else could you be so despairing? As I write this now, it is clear to me that those tormenting thoughts of mine were irrational – a mind and heart in chaos – desperate for any answer to “Why?” I know now there is no answer to The Why. I know now, you probably couldn’t answer The Why even if I could speak to you. Your decision was not rational, and as you chose what you chose, I don’t believe it was a choice.

But Dyl, I want you to know that we are absolutely certain you are safe with Jesus. We are excited about when we will see you again, but until then, there is much life for us to live and many people for us to love. Since you have been gone, we have had to learn to be a family again without you. I am not sure we could have carried on without the guidance we received at the beginning from the Survivor Support Programme. After that, we met Karen and had such wise counselling. She even came on June 27th that first year to help your friends. We always knew it was time to see her when our emotions felt like a pressure cooker about to explode. I went to programmes called GriefShare & Healing Care at church. 

The best books (besides my Bible) I read were: Understanding Your Suicide Grief, Take The Dimness of My Soul Away, Finding Your Way After the Suicide of Someone You  Love, A Grace Disguised, One Thousand Gifts, and The Divine Romance. There were dozens of others, but these left a deep and lasting Hope in my heart. 

Oh – and this too…The word Hope became our “family word” and the anchor, the symbol of hope, our family symbol. To this day, people give us anchors and hopes.

So honey, we have arrived at a “new normal”. Funny thing is, we didn’t notice how far we’d gone till we arrived there. I remember wanting to hit the person who told us at the beginning that we’d arrive at a “new normal in life”. 

So far, the road to this new normal has allowed us to see Dad’s business grow and be sold (we often think about all the ideas you had about making that business succeed); Nicole’s trip to Capernwray New Zealand to study (she went ahead as planned, just 23 days after you died…we couldn’t believe it); then starting and ending her degree programme at Western (she was a Mustangs hockey player…you would have been so proud); a family trip to celebrate those milestones right after Nicole’s last exam (we even were able to take a small vial of your ashes with us and so we left you all around Kauai…even one place you wouldn’t like…way up on the cliffs of The Sleeping Giant Hike…made me smile remembering how heights made your palms sweat!);  and Dyl, over the years, there have been sweet things set up to help others in honour of your memory. 

Our life now includes many people we’d not have otherwise met; it is curious how pain opens you up to others and how healing happens sometimes in the helping.

My beautiful Dylan, I want to tell you we are OK. Changed, shattered, softened and healing still, we are able to laugh and be silly sometimes now, to look forward to things again, to make plans for the future without the sharp anguish of your absence from here. Most importantly sweetheart, as we ponder who and where we are now, I am thankful for the huge part your life and death have played in our family life and the lives of others. I understand now what Karen meant when she said that a powerful milestone in our healing journey would be when our reflections were no longer “Why did he die?” but rather “Why did he live?”

Your living taught us so much about laughter, risk-taking, and defending those who need a champion; your dying taught us and our little community so much about hoping and persevering and caring and loving.

Thank you for the gift of you. We love you always, Dylan…mom

18 Responses

  1. Katie
    | Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. My father ended his life almost 18 months ago. I’m still struggling with the Why and the guilt, but every once in a while I come across something like your letter that does give me Hope – that Hope that seems so illusive these days. So, thank you for being and sharing a ray of sunshine in the storm of surviving the suicide of someone you love.

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Dear Katie… you are so very welcome, and I am so very sorry about your dad… It is a horrific and terrifying storm of emotions we are forced to face in the wake of suicide… I am sure those who leave us never intended to burden us with guilt and why…It took me more than four years to arrive at the place of writing that letter… lots of counseling, tears, prayer, walks and talks with trusted friends … and trying each day to find something that could make even the tiniest sparkle of joy. Our grief counsellor taught us to learn how to hold onto those moments for even one extra second. It was a good thing to know… and I think you are doing the same by reading and looking for Hope… I’ll be praying for your continued healing.

  2. Vel Carter
    | Reply

    That was a beautiful letter. I wish I could find my new normal. For me it isn’t possible. My son was my only child. He was my entire world. Life without him just isn’t hardly life at all. I am not sure how I have made it this long. Or if I will make it tomorrow.

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Hi Vel… you don’t say how long it has been since you lost your precious boy..I wonder if there are support groups around where you live… it is a rough road, and I cannot imagine losing an only, but I do encourage you to continue to feel the pain, lean into it and to expect that one day… the “when” is so different for each person, but one day you will notice that you smile… I found journaling to be incredibly helpful… as much to release the pain and to notice month by month I was surviving and stepping slowly back into my “after” life… God bless you with caring and encouraging people in your journey Vel xxoo

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Hi Vel… you don’t say how long it has been since you lost your precious boy..I wonder if there are support groups around where you live… it is a rough road, and I cannot imagine losing an only child, but I do encourage you to continue to feel the pain, lean into it and to expect that one day… the “when” is so different for each person, but one day you will notice that you smile… I found journaling to be incredibly helpful… as much to release the pain and to notice month by month I was surviving and stepping slowly into my “after” life… God bless you with caring and encouraging people in your journey Vel xxoo

  3. Cam Raulston
    | Reply

    this is just beautiful . My heart goes out to you . We lost our beautiful son William on March 25th 2019 . William left us before his 22nd birthday after yrs of depression and anxiety , side effect from all the meds he was prescribed . We were shocked and devestated , our hearts in a million pieces . I know William is in heaven , free and full of joy . He was very intelligent , kind , funny , loyal , many friends and everyone loved being around him . William was just too good for this world . He is totally at peace I’ve read many many books and The Gift of Second is the one most special to me . And the support I’m getting from friends , family , church , support groups is amazing . God bless you and your family and all of you who are survivors . Remember , our dear dear loved ones are at peace in a beautiful place that we can not even begin to imagine 😇

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Dear Cam… I am so sorry to hear about the very long struggle you had to watch William endure…he sounds like a wonderful young man. Dyl left us in January 2012, just before his 21st birthday, which would have been March 29. It is wonderful that you are able already to reflect on what a beautiful person William was and what a gift he was to this world. May you feel God’s tender comfort as you travel your grief journey… a hug, Cheryl

  4. Laurie Kiely
    | Reply

    What a beautiful letter. And your words and feelings expressed are so close to home.

    As your family has benefited from the word and symbols for HOPE, our family has lived by the words “Be Grateful” – a message (and gift) our son left to us the night before he died. It has been our family’s motto.

    My family approaches the 10th anniversary of the suicide death of our beloved son and brother. I think it’s time for me to write him a letter.

    Thank you so much for sharing yours.

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      To Be Grateful …is such a gift and such a choice…I hope, Laurie, when you write your letter, we get to read it… we are a couple of years behind you on this unchosen journey, but we know, as you do, how to live in it pretty well most days. I hope your letter writing brings you joy… 😉 c

  5. Wendy Faust
    | Reply

    Wow this has hit home for me also and I have experienced this same after my son Deven chose to leave us also , it’s been 4 years and I can say that we all have changed and getting use to the new normal not recognizing what that new normal is , just reading this makes me feel that anxiety when I think about my son not sure that will even go away
    Not even sure it’s anxiety just that yucky feeling that my son is gone
    I love what you wrote !
    Your son is so handsome !
    Thank you for sharing your story !
    Devens mom 💜💙💔

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Hello Deven’s Mom 💖💙… it is funny how we arrive at a place where their absence from here is not shocking to us as we awake each morning, but how always, we yearn for their physical presence …for just one more hug or one new photo…or we read something and even if it’s encouraging… it takes our hearts right back to that ground zero feeling…I hope that this day brings you light hearted and playful memories of Deven’s whole life with you….thank you…

  6. Chris M
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing. Praying for continued healing and comfort.

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Thank you so much Chris… I am absolutely certain that the gift of others’ prayer has carried us since January 6, 2012… ⚓️⚓️⚓️

  7. Wendy
    | Reply

    Dear Cheryl, Thank you for sharing this. It is so beautifully written and I felt your words so deeply. I lost my 16-year-old son T.J. to suicide and I found your words to be comforting. I love that you were able to communicate your love for your son and leave readers like me with hope for peace and joy in the face of devastating loss. With love, friendship and T.J. hugs, Wendy

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Omigosh Wendy! Thank you for the TJ hugs… I am so thankful that Dylan’s letter brought you comfort… I guess it might his “hug” to the world … there’s a verse in the bible that says “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I come that they may have life to the ful”… I remember saying to satan the day Dylan died “you stole my boy, you will NOT steal my joy!”, and so… this day, I pray Wendy, for yours to be one with moments of deep peace and bubbly joy… hugs from my ❤️ to your beautiful one… xxoo

  8. Harry
    | Reply

    Thanks for your beautiful, and very positive and hopeful, letter. For me it was my dad, years ago, and I still remember.

    • Cheryl
      | Reply

      Thank you Harry… I am so very sorry about your dad… I hope that you are finding healing in each day… ⚓️💖

  9. Anne
    | Reply

    Cheryl,
    Thank you for your beautiful letter. We lost our sweet boy,Ryan, on Sept. 23rd at the age of 25 and it’s been devastating. Just reading your words and the responses of others has been very comforting to me during this most difficult time. When I read what your wrote, “Your decision was not rational, and as you chose what you chose, I don’t believe it was a choice.”, it brought me such comfort, because that is truly what I feel. Your words make me very hopeful that one day I will reach the level of peace and comfort you now seem to have. Thank you for sharing your letter. God bless you and your family. Ryan’s mom

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