Every year I relive Oscar’s last year

Facebook. Thanks to Facebook each and every year I relive Oscar’s last year through reminders of memories.

The cycle of my grief has hit a rhythm that I seem to be flowing with fairly well these days. I have begun to feel gratitude for my experience as a bereaved mother (that is a place I never thought I’d be). This morning on my drive into work I listened to my Calm app daily meditation, which I have been doing for the better part of the past year. It helps. There are many cliches and platitudes that I don’t buy so easily since Oscar died. Sayings like “there is always a silver lining” or “everything happens for a reason”. It so happens that the daily meditation today was about resistance and how our suffering increases as we resist things in our lives, especially the things we cannot change. Okay, I can vibe with that (which is progress for me, by the way). Then at the end of the meditation the cliche was dropped about seeing the silver lining in each situation that we cannot change. Just a few short weeks ago I would never have been able to say that there was a silver lining to my son’s death.

Even now it feels sort of uncomfortable admitting that I have reached a point that I can see a silver lining out of what I hope was the darkest time of my life. What is the silver lining? The silver lining is that I finally went back to school and finished my BSN. I had no plans to go back to school before Oscar died. I was making as much as I could make in my nursing career as a staff nurse in the OR. And I loved my job at KU. But after Oscar died I needed to feel like my voice carried more weight. ADN wasn’t enough anymore. I also wanted to do it for him. In his memory. So I did.

Today’s Facebook memory was my excited and hopeful declaration that I finally had full custody of all three of my kids. My heart is breaking because I had no idea what 2015 had in store for me and my family. No idea. I completely trusted God to care for all of us and show me the way to heal all of my beautiful children, especially Oscar. I am finally to a point in my grief journey where I am beginning to open back up to healing my relationship with my higher power. It isn’t easy; it is simple, but not easy. I am trying to allow myself to feel comfort in faith again. And trust. Trusting is the hardest.

poem

yearning to hear his voice

smell his skin

touch his face, his shoulder, his hair

look into his beautiful eyes

his eyes like rare jewels with a spark of knowing

always with a hint of mischief

i want to say the words one more time

so he can hear them

oscar i love you

you are my life, my soul, everything that is good about me

my reason for living

my first baby

you have taught me everything about life that is worth knowing

please don’t go

please stay

but it is too late for all of that

he is already gone

he has already left

the pain i feel cannot be defined by words

every single moment i feel his absence

whether waking or sleeping

i feel his absence

my life is now defined by the death of my oldest child

his death from a disease shrouded in taboo

and not understood

largely because it makes people uncomfortable to speak the words

pediatric suicide

The World Before and The World After

I was living in a world full of hope, happiness and love before Oscar died. I believed that so long as I kept putting my recovery first, which included all of the time that I was spending on myself to go to meetings, play music and exercise, that I was setting an example for Oscar that would somehow rub off on him. Somehow it would inspire him to recover from his depression. Before Oscar died I lived in a world that avoided conversations about suicide. I lived in a world that denied the reality of mental illness. A world that believed mental illness was a choice.

The world I lived in was like a beautiful, fragrant garden. An early morning garden where the leaves and petals of the plants and flowers are still covered in a soft, filmy dew. A garden full of bright colors and rare blossoms. The warm morning sun slowly melting away the chill of the night before. Steam, like fog, slowly creeping into the brightening sky.

After Oscar died the world instantly plunged into darkness. While my eyes were adjusting to the lack of light I had to use my hands to feel my way in this new place. I would slowly reach forward, shyly testing my new boundaries. The pain no matter where I placed my hand, or how gingerly I attempted to discover the new terrain was shocking. All sides of this new world pressed in on me, causing the greatest pain I have ever felt. The world that was once bright and full of hope was now small, black and lifeless.  Suffering was my new companion. As I slowly, so slowly, learned to integrate this new sensory stimuli my vision began to see another world. As my brain began to make sense out of this new stimulus my understanding of life without Oscar grew.

The world I live in now, two years since Oscar died, is gray. There are moments of joy and happiness. Pierce, Vivian and Phoenix’s smiles always bring light. I have learned how to carry the weight of my grief. I can see the garden again, it is just colorless now. The fragrance of the sweet blossoms has gone. It is shrouded in a gray haze.

I see things that I didn’t see before. Life is now defined by death. My extreme ignorance regarding mental illness has been replaced with the keen wisdom of lived experience and a clinical understanding grown from hours of research. Mental illness is not a choice. Suicide is a disease process that affects certain regions of the brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. Suicide has it’s own cluster of diagnosable symptoms.

Also in this new world, one where Oscar is dead, I have a new sense of the other side. I feel Oscar on the other side. I feel his spirit self. His angel self. He has been making himself known to me through dreams and impossible coincidences since the moment of his death, when he crossed from this plane of existence into the other. The first time that Oscar hugged me in a dream after he died I felt an incredible comfort, like an itch was being scratched that I could not reach no matter how hard I tried. Within that dream, after that dream hug, Oscar said to me, “Mom, keep yourself open to me and I will be able to keep doing the work that needs to be done.” And so I do, and so I will.

In this brave new world without a living, breathing Oscar I will keep having the conversation that no one wants to have, the one about pediatric suicide.