Life Moments #19 – I Thought of You Today

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I thought of you today

     which is nothing new

     because I think of you every day

     a million times through.

You remember this picture?

I didn’t take it, but when I seen it…I just fell in love with it.

There’s just something about it that caught my eye. I have always loved the photos that are taken as someone is walking toward and/or away from the photographer. I used to practice with you and Haylie doing exactly that.

As I’ve said before, some days are okay and some days are

So. Not. Okay.

Today wasn’t too bad.

I thought of you and I cried for the millionth time since you went to Heaven, but I was a little bit okay.

And I have good news!

Your friends’ mom — no names yet!! — and I are working together to accomplish a goal to start a non-profit. Well, today your friends’ mom set up a meeting with a contact who, hopefully, will get us pointed in the right direction. It’s a small feat, but it’s a big feat! I am excited!

She and I have been working on a name for the non-profit, our trademark, and our slogan. Our goal is to help others who feel that same hopelessness. I have been pretty busy doing research into suicide and of course, non-profit information gathering.

I am also still working on getting the team organized for the walk coming up. Our team is doing well by way of participants.

The funds aren’t quite making our goal, but the walk support is there. I have ordered our team shirts. Now, I need to get some posters done, bracelets ordered, and beads bought. Suicide awareness, here we come!

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I was invited to a Suicide Prevention meeting taking place in the middle of August. I am looking forward to that. And then, in September, I am invited to attend a conference with some of ND representatives to address the suicide issue. These meetings will hopefully encourage needed changes in regard to suicide in ND. I am excited to be involved. I am your voice!

Every day, I wonder how our tragedy can make a difference in the lives of others. I miss you so much. And with that, my thoughts are haunted with your words, “It’s just Darren gone.” As I said before, to me, it’s not just Darren gone. A piece of my heart went with you. I will never let it be “just Darren gone.”

As much as or as little as I accomplish in my day, you linger in my mind, my heart. You will forever be there and that’s the way I want it!

I thought of you today

     which is nothing new

     because I think of you every day

     a million times through.

We will fight suicide with hopes of saving other’s from this heartache.

#nomoresuicide #suicideawareness #suicideprevention

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Suicide – Every Life Matters

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Suicide can and does wreak havoc on families across the nation much more than is realized. The only suicides we hear on national news are the suicides of entertainers as if their lives and families are the only lives affected by suicide. On local news, we hear nothing of suicides.

Why not?

Many fear that speaking of suicide may glorify it thus generate more suicides.

Sadly, ignoring the issue does nothing to help.

All lives matter. My son’s life mattered. He mattered to me. To his father. To his siblings. To aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends.

When we take a crisis – such as suicide – and only pay attention or promote awareness when its an entertainer (movies, music, sports, etc) we do the lives of every-day citizens and society as a whole a great disservice.

Every life matters.

It wasn’t long ago when my son took his life. In fact, I am very much still trying to get past the shock and disbelief. My friends and family have been supportive. I haven’t faced any rude comments, but I have dealt with change of subject when the topic of my son’s death comes up. I understand that people are uncomfortable with the subject or,  possibly, tired of hearing about it. I understand. I do not judge or condemn. I just go on doing what I do.

Since I lost my son, I’ve learned a few things as I stumble through my grief.

  • I do not want to glorify my son’s death, but I do want people to understand the emotional pain that got him to the point of no return. Emotional pain can be caused by any number of circumstances, but from what I’ve read, it often arises from depression or other mental illness.
  • My son didn’t take his life to hurt me or anyone else. He was not trying to cause anybody any pain. He took his life to end his own pain because he didn’t know any other way. In that state of hopelessness the individual does not – cannot – think past his/her emotional frame of mind. This is where suicide awareness, mental illness, depression awareness plays such an important role. Feelings are normal and society needs to get educated that strength is in talking about these issues rather than hiding the issues.
  • I am now THAT person. THAT person who has lost someone. THAT person whose child took his life. THAT person forever affected by suicide. THAT person who will use that tragic loss to spread awareness – to help others. THAT person who will always talk and never forget about my son and who hopes you talk about and never forget him either. His life made a difference.
  • How one person experiences grief is completely different than the next. Grief is personal and it is a necessary part of the healing process.
  • We all walk a similar path: uphill battles and downhill coasts. We stumble and we fall, but our paths have different circumstances and trials to stress and/or rejoice over. We all carry burdens no one else knows about. When we cross paths with another just remember, he/she has a story, too.
  • Before I ever had personal experience with suicide, my attitude was a common one: “how selfish of this person to do that, cause that kind of pain, to people who loved him/her. It is only through this tragic loss and witnessing my son’s pain that I realized: Suicide is not selfish nor was the individual. The person who takes his/her life believes suicide to be the only way out.

Again, society needs education rather than condemnation concerning what strength is in relation to emotions and mental illness.

Become a society in which people can show “presumed” weaknesses without fear of judgement.

My son once said ‘I don’t talk about my feelings because I don’t want to be some emotional freak show or give ammunition to use against me later.’

Feelings are normal. Everyone has them. It’s all in how we handle our feelings that makes the difference. Never shame someone for their feelings. Never shame them for voicing their feelings.

Why is that what we are teaching our children, our teenagers? Why are we teaching our teens to keep it all bottled inside when most adults can’t handle it? Why do we expect more from our youth than we expect from our adult selves?

#SuicideAwareness #SuicidePrevention #SaveaLifebyBeingaFriend

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Life Moments #18 – One More Day

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This is one of my favorite pictures of you and your baby sister. I remember this day like it was yesterday…I remember all the days like they were yesterday. Anywhooo….you came in after school and lounged on the furniture for a bit. It was very seldom that you were without socks, but for some reason, you didn’t have socks on at this time. You picked her up from me and proceeded to lay down on the floor with her. I remember you saying all the time that she didn’t like you because she fussed when you held her, but you held her anyway. You loved her so much.

And we miss you so much. I think about you constantly throughout the day. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I smile. Sometimes I laugh. But you are always in my mind.

I have so many different things running through my head about you, about suicide, about how what has happened to us can help others, about your siblings and their stories, about Dylan and Heaven…..about everything. Speaking of your siblings and their stories, they have such good stories. I encouraged them to go to a suicide loss support group and we went this evening. I only spectated as it was a children’s support group. To start the group they introduced themselves and you. Throughout the hour, the told stories of you and how this loss has impacted their lives. They mostly told stories of your tough truck. They goofed off by telling some silly stories. And they enjoyed telling the stories. They laughed at the antics you guys pulled together. They had the leader of the group giggling.

Oh, how they loved you, love you still. I will never get the image out of my head of the moment that we told them of your death. They miss you terribly. I want you to know, Darren, that you impacted their life while you were here. They looked forward to seeing you all the time. They missed you so much when you weren’t with us and the stories that get them through their days now involve so much of you. Those last two months before you took your life left a mark on them as well. Now they hold every memory with you so dear to their heart.

Oh buddy, how different life is without you!

We just continue to move forward, or at least try, one day at a time.

Today was just one more day.

Another day without you.

Another day thinking of you.

Another day wondering why.

One more day………

Let’s raise Suicide Awareness in hopes of preventing other families from going through this same heartache, preventing others from believing suicide is the only way out.

 

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Life Moments #17 – Living with Loss

Suicide is on the rise across the nation. As a society, we must pull together to educate adults and our youth when it comes to mental illness, depression and other medical issues that can lead to suicide. Education starts in our homes, in the schools, in our churches and youth activities.

We can start by showing what suicide looks like from the perspective of a suicide loss survivor.

I am NOT Crazy!

My friend posted the story below to me this morning. The story comes from the Blog

The Life I Didn’t Choose @ https://thelifeididntchoose.com

My friend posted it to me in form of support. I am lucky to have met her and her daughter. She was not someone I knew, but her daughter and my son were friends. When my son died, they contacted me and attended his wake and funeral. I have only met them those two times, but we have talked frequently via text and FB messaging. My son made an impact on their life and now they are making an impact on mine. ♥♥♥♥

It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief.  Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”

It hurt my feelings.

And it was inappropriate.

Because not only had I not participated in any of the listed behaviors (most of which anyone would deem odd and some that were actually harmful) but as far as I could tell, I was doing pretty good, considering.

Considering I went to bed one night with four children alive and well and woke in the wee hours of the next day to the news that one was dead.

No warning.  No good-byes.

Just gone.

In the months since that day I had gotten up each morning and taken care of necessary tasks.  I was not abusing alcohol, drugs or food.  I was still exercising when I could.

And I was engaged with my family -working with them to put the pieces of our shattered lives and hearts back together again.

Yes, I cried.  A lot.  No, I didn’t like to be around crowds.  I stayed at home much more than before. I struggled with anxiety when anything out of the ordinary happened.  I found small talk hard to follow and forgot things (still do). And I was not participating in many “extra” activities.

I slept with Dominic’s pillows………To continue this story, click the link below.

via I am NOT Crazy!

After reading her story, I can definitely say, I understand where she’s coming from because I am there myself.

I can say your child’s death is not something you ‘get over.’

I am there, in her spot, and will be for the rest of my life.

And like her, I don’t wish this heartache, the loss on anyone. In fact, I hope that my story can help others.

***FYI, I am uncertain how her child passed away. She does not say in her story. Suicide is my son’s story.

Another Day Without You

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You’ve been gone two months today…..sixty-two days to be exact.

And every day, I sit here and think about you. I do the things I’m supposed to do – get up, shower, care for the kids, take them places to enjoy time with them – but you’re always there in my mind, always.

I’m trying to figure out ways to honor your memory and to help others. I can’t even bear to think of others facing this loss, this heartache.

I’ve always wanted to start a non-profit organization, but I’ve never been sure what exactly. It’s always been in my mind to help women and children mostly, but since this has happened, since suicide has become personal for me, my focus has switched to helping fight suicide. People need to be educated on suicide and how to prevent it. I’ve spoken to some people. I have the plans in my head, but fear holds me back for whatever reason. The financial aspect of it also weighs on my mind…..

When I’m not thinking about that, I’m just remembering you.

Remembering your eyes.

Remembering your smile.

Remembering the sound of your voice and your smell – don’t worry, everyone has a particular smell that’s all their own….

Remembering your hands.

The other day when I spoke with the grief counselor, she mentioned some about the loss of her son – right around your age when he took his life in almost the same fashion. She told me all she kept wondering about – after the shock of losing him – was his shoes. She wanted to know what shoes he was wearing at the time of his death. It’s funny the things moms think of during such tragedy.

For me, it was if you waited for help. Did you wait for someone to come to you after you texted Christina? That’s what haunts me.

When I got to see you in your coffin the morning of the funeral – you were behind a shroud so I didn’t see much – I touched your hands through the shroud. I touched your arms and your legs. Your fingers were laced together so neatly at your waist. At that moment, I simply remembered your hands, your fingers so long and skinny. I remembered how you used to let me hold your hands, studying your fingers for only seconds at a time.

I have so many memories, good and not so good. Disagreements we had and laughter. I always wanted you to talk to me, but you weren’t a talker if it involved anything emotional — your words: I don’t know why you try to get me to talk, I’m not going to talk, mom….I don’t talk about stuff like that, never have, and never will.

Oh, how I wish you had…….

My worst fear came true the night you took your life. My very worst fear….

Now….

Now, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to live with you gone. I’m the mother, the parent, I was supposed to go first. You were supposed to help bury me…not this. I was not supposed to bury you!

Now….I replay every conversation in my head. I try to remember the last day I seen you, the last vocal conversation we had. I am pretty certain I told you I loved you because I know me, but I second guess myself sometimes.

I look at our last messages to one another, searching for clues as to why and I come up empty.

Your friends text and call me sometimes, especially Alex and Tyson. They miss you a ton. We all do.

I know I need to go on living, but how?

How do I do that when you can’t?

I just want you back here with me, with us.

There is no better place for a child than with his/her mom so I wonder why you can’t be here with me.

I love you.

Suicide: Facing the Facts

22405754_10210525861967178_1941262998951808257_n As a parent who has lost a child to suicide, my mind often reels with questions….

About. Everything. To. Do. With. His. Suicide.

Also, as a parent, I like to think that I knew everything about him, about all of my children. I am fooled into thinking that they tell me all about their lives, leaving nothing out.

The sad truth is: children, especially those in adolescence, do not tell their parents ever half of what is in their minds. I think back to my adolescent years and I cringe at all the things I kept from my parents because now I have an idea of what my children keep from me. So, what leads an adolescent to keep secrets from parents?

Again, thinking back on my own adolescent years, I kept secrets because:

  • low self-esteem
  • believing I wouldn’t be accepted as I was
  • not trusting the adults that my life would go right
  • not wanting to hurt the people that I loved
  • fear of repercussions
  • feeling alone and unheard.

These are feelings and thoughts that I can remember about my own adolescence.

Now, do all teen and young adults fell and think this way? I couldn’t tell you that. I suppose at some point they do because they are trying to figure out who they are outside of their parents. I am inclined to believe some of these feelings/thoughts are true of most teens and young adults, but I also believe whether these feelings are true of all young people depends on their home life, where they are raised, how they are raised, and other contributing factors.

Okay, so then I look at my son’s suicide. I keep asking myself why. I suppose why is the biggest question parents and loved ones face when an individual takes that route. While I may never know the exact why, if it can be pinpointed to any one thing or not, I can learn something from his death that will hopefully strengthen my the relationships with my other children.

Not a consolation by any means, but……I feel guilty for even thinking these thoughts, but letting something good from his death is on the road to healing….or so I’ve been told.

My question now, is:

Can suicide be prevented?

Non-profit organizations such as American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and International Association for Suicide Prevention believe through research, education, and bringing awareness, society can get a reign on suicide.

Current suicide statistics

According to the AFSP (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/), suicides statistics in the US are as follows:

  • the 10th leading cause of death in the US
  • 44, 965 people die by suicide each year
  • for every suicide, 25 attempt

According to North Dakota Department of Health (http://www.ndhealth.gov/suicideprevention/?id=57), suicide statistics in ND are as follows:

  • the ninth leading cause of death overall
  • second leading cause of death between ages 15 and 24
  • North Dakota’s suicide rate is higher than the national average

No, facts and statistics aren’t any fun to most people. I, myself, hate reading stats and figures because they make no sense to me. I can see the numbers, but that’s really all it is: numbers.

My question is: how do we help lessen the numbers? How do we make those figures smaller, almost non-existent?

The answer: pay attention. Pay attention to your children, your loved ones. Pay attention to their behaviors, routines, words, and actions. Pay attention closely because then even the slightest change will be noticed.

According to ND Suicide Prevention Program (http://www.ndhealth.gov/suicideprevention/?id=57), the following information can be helpful:

  1. Most people exhibit warning signs: words, actions, and behaviors
  2. Ask direct questions if suicide becomes a concern
  3. Offer help to anyone who exhibits suicidal signs.
  4. Most suicide attempters and victims don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain, their confusion so intervention, even forced, is always worthwhile.
  5. Long-term care is necessary for those considering suicide, but knowing the warning signs and immediate intervention can save lives.
  6. Take every suicide mention or behavior seriously — this one I cannot stress enough. In my son’s case, his mentions were not taken seriously by his father and father’s girlfriend, his own girlfriend or an employee of the juvenile court system.

Of course, knowing risk factors of suicide can be helpful as well. According to the AFSP (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/), these factors include:

  • mental health conditions
  • serious physical health
  • traumatic brain injury
  • access to lethal means (guns, drugs, etc.)
  • prolonged stress: harassment, bullying, relationship problems, unemplyment
  • stressful life events: divorce, rejection, financial crisis, loss
  • previous suicide attempts
  • family history of suicide and
  •  childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

So, again,

Can suicide be prevented?

I believe my son’s could have and if his could have, then anyone else’s can be as well.

And again, I cannot stress enough:

Pay attention to your loved ones. If you think you do it sufficiently already, then double your efforts.

 

 

 

Life Moments #16 – The Next Chapter

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Something that has really kept me going in the midst of the most devastating time of my life is:

I am going to be mimi!

My oldest son and his girlfriend are going to have baby. I’ve known this for quite awhile, actually since shortly after she found out. Thankfully and sadly, when my son took his life, he knew that he was going to be an uncle. I say thankfully because it’s quite a privilege and sadly because his niece will never get to meet him, to know him, to sit on his lap. She will never know just how awesome he was on a personal level…..

but, she will have our stories and she will have pictures of him so she will know him through all of us.

Now, as I am still trying to figure out how to live without my son, I am in the process of welcoming my first grand-baby.

I am excited, yet torn.

I’ve been having a hard time coping with my son’s death. I’ve been having a hard time trying to get through the stages of grief.

I am just having a hard time.

To be expected, I suppose, but so often I feel like people just want me to forget that it happened, to say that it’s done and move on.

I don’t know how.

So, as I keep struggling through my days, I am also going to plan for baby girl. I am in the planning stages of their baby shower. I am nervous and excited and sad all at the same time, if that’s even possible.

My son is going to be a daddy.

That’s exciting!

I am going to be mimi.

That’s exciting!

All my babies are going to my aunties and uncles.

That’s exciting!

I look forward to watching my son as he becomes a dad.

I look forward to seeing him hold her and love her.

I look forward to meeting her and holding her and snuggling her.

I look forward to our families meeting that sweet little bundle of joy.

I am sad that Darren won’t meet her.

I am sad he’s gone.

But, I am happy Heaven and Dylan are having this baby.

They will be wonderful parents.

 

Life Moments #15: Suicide Awareness

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Suicide awareness has never really been at the top of my list…….

Until Now

Sad to say, but it was just one of those things we heard about, got a little info on, told ourselves it would never happen to us, and shove it into the stockpile of information we keep stored in our brains.

Not anymore!

After my son took his life this year, I have done nothing but think about suicide. His suicide mostly, but the pain of other families whose lives have been turned upside down due to loss of a loved one to suicide.

Honestly, I’ve only known of three people in my life that have committed suicide that I can say I actually knew. However, none of these three was I ever close with, not even a little bit.

I will say this, I have never felt such an immense amount of heartbreak as I do these days. Some days the pain is completely unbearable. And it’s not just emotional pain, it’s physical pain. My whole body aches. The pain has settled into my shoulders and my neck and seems to meander its’ way down my back just to continue on down into my legs and settle into my knees. Tears seem to fall at most unwelcoming moments. I am exhausted due to changes in sleeping patterns. My nerves are frazzled all the time. My eating habits have changed which also contributes to the exhaustion I feel. I don’t want to leave my house and if I do leave my house, I want to return as soon as possible. Right now, I am still not wanting to really be around people, not even my own family sometimes. I keep waiting for my ‘normal’ to appear again, but I am beginning to understand that my ‘normal’ will no longer be what is was prior to my son’s death. Through heartache, my mind and my heart will create a new normal in which I get used to living without my son. I am not excited for that because well….who wants to live when one of their children is no longer with them?

But, I finally recognized, there is light at the end of my very narrow tunnel….

I spoke with a grief couselor

the other day.

And now, my focus has shifted.

Oh, I am still angry and heartbroken and unsure that I will ever function as I used to, but when I visited with the grief counselor, she informed me of a fundraising walk – Out of the Darkness – that I decided to join so I created a team. You can find the information here. If you would like to donate to any member of my team you can click Walking for Darren team member. Each blue word is a different member.

After I signed up for that, I started thinking about other ways in which some good can come of my son’s death because, as I have previously said, I don’t wish this kind of pain on my worst enemy. It’s a heartbreak that I don’t want anyone else’s family to suffer.

Through a Google search “suicide” I found that there is actually a World Suicide Prevention Day – September 10. On this day, one national association I found, has created a Cycle Around the Globe event in which people pledge to cycle in their area – either in their homes, the gym, in their town, in the park, across the city, just cycling a certain number of pledged miles. The days set for the Cycle Around the Globe event are Sept 1-17 and I have also decided to pledge a number of miles. This is also a fundraiser in which one can get donations or sponsors.

Both the Out of the Darkness walk and Cycle Around the Globe event raise funds that aid in research, education, and awareness/prevention of  suicide.

If you get a chance, take a peak and offer any support you can. It doesn’t have to be monetary support. You can pledge the cycle, you can join a walk or create a team in your own area.

For the saddest reason, I have finally found a cause that I am willing to support.

An Open Letter to My Granddaughter’s Mommy…..the Woman My Son Loves

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You must be something pretty special to him because he’s a different person with you. You make him happier than I’ve ever seen. You are a beautiful young lady, but your heart and soul are what shine. You are a keeper.

My dreams for him have always been simple.

Happiness.

I believe he can be or do anything he sets his heart on. I’ve always told him he could do or be anything he wanted, but to always choose happiness. Money is important, but it’s not most important.

You make him happy.

And that makes me happy.

As you and he embark on this incredible journey known as parent-hood, cling to one another. If I’ve learned anything in my parenting years, it’s that children need both parents. Please remember that.

As you complete this journey through your pregnancy, the journey that is going to make you a mom, treasure it. Treasure each and every uneventful, nauseous-filled day because the fruits of that labor will soon be snuggled into your arms.

You’re slowly going through each milestone of pregnancy: the sickness, the tiredness, the check-ups, the ultrasounds, hearing the heartbeat, and finding out what you will be having. Now as you ease into the latter part of your second trimester, your tummy will begin to grow and you will start to show. You may start to feel a little more energetic and not quite so sick. And then you will be in your third trimester, probably getting antsy-er by the day for the impending arrival of your beautiful little bundle of joy. By this time, you’ve carried her for nine long, sleep-depriving, sick months and you’re ready to hold her.

Well, I say…..

Hold her.

Snuggle her.

Breathe in her scent.

Get to know your daughter and give her all of who you are and let him do the same. Remember, she will need you both.

And please, neither one of you, ever use her against the other. It will destroy her. It will destroy her self-esteem. It will destroy every ounce of trust that she has built. It will destroy the love she has for both of you.

You and he are her security. You and he are her whole world. Her comfort. Her protection. Her providers.

I hope for so much for this beautiful little family being created. I want what’s best for all of you even if it’s completely different from yours. Please know that I am here for you, for him, and for baby always. I love you, I love my son, and I love that baby girl. I cannot wait to meet her.

I will be mimi, you will be mommy.

I will never intrude on that.

I will never tell you how to do it.

I will never try to make you the mommy I think you should be because you will be the exact mommy that she needs you to be.

I will help you whenever you ask.

I will love her like she’s something special because she is.

I will be around as much or as a little as you need or want me to be.

And I will love you more every day.

You are special to me because of who you are, not because of who he is.

Thank you for loving my son and thank you for blessing our family with our first grand-baby ♥♥♥.