I’m a mother. My most important role in this life’s journey is being a mother. I’ve done a lot of things: I’ve had a career or two; I’ve traveled; I’ve been married; I’ve been divorced; I’ve been in love; I’ve fallen out of love. But the role of all of the roles that I identify most of all with, is that of being mom to my four children.
They all grew up and moved away. They started their own lives. They started their own families. They bought houses, and got pets and ran businesses and started careers. Everything was moving along as the Universe planned. They would get older, and I would get older and one day I would die and they would bury me. That, is the natural order of things. That, is what was supposed to happen.
But that is not what happened. Sam died. At 31 he left us all behind and the natural order of things as the Universe had set out came crashing to a halt. Suddenly, I’m not who I was anymore. My world came to a screeching halt. Before that day, four people called me mom. After that day, there were only three.
The death of my son stopped me in my tracks. If I could choose a day that I wish I could go back to and just stay there, it would be August 18, 2021. My life was normal that day. But it was the last day of normal for me. I wish I could go back and stay there. Or, I wish there had been no more tomorrow’s for me after that day. But tomorrow came, and it is that day that my world came to a grinding stop. It is that day that I can’t get past: that I am stuck in, and I had to watch the world carry on without me from that point on.
I was an aircraft mechanic. I still am technically. But I’ve taken a desk job now and I bury myself in the work to keep my mind occupied.
I used to be fit. And I was proud of that. But I don’t care anymore. I turned to food as a source of comfort and now my clothes are uncomfortable. I wish I could swallow a pill and become skinny because I don’t have it in me anymore to do the work that kept me fit. Or the willpower to stop eating the bad stuff thats making my clothes too tight. I suppose it could be worse: I could have turned to alcohol or pills.
I have become outspoken. I have become an advocate for being kind and for mental health and suicide awareness. I reach out to strangers and talk about stopping the stigma. I have posted stories, and shared my grief to those who will listen. I have been open about my grief and my family’s loss in hopes that it would ” normalize” the word suicide so that people don’t feel that they need to hide their illness : so that they feel safe talking about what they are going through to a compassionate and caring audience. So that they are not afraid of being stigmatized or judged. So that they will ask for help.
I’ve had strangers reach out to thank me for being so open. I’ve been told by some that I made a difference in their lives and that they chose to seek help instead of leaving like Sam did. I’ve been called a mental health ambassador by one of my higher ranking supervisors, and I’ve had friends tell me that I am saving lives. And I hope I have and I hope I am and that I continue to do so.
I am happy for those whose lives I have touched and made a difference to. I’m happy for them and their families that won’t have to go through what my family is going through. I’m happy for the moms who won’t have to receive that call or hear the words that their child is dead: that they died by suicide. I hope I have made enough of a difference that it will spare others of this insidious pain.
But with each person who I help, the guilt digs in just a little bit deeper each and every time : I can help others, but I wasn’t able to help my son. And that eats me alive.
As a mom, from the moment of conception, it is built into us to love our child; to protect them and keep them safe and healthy and happy. There is no time limit or age cut-off that changes that. It is a lifelong commitment. So what happens when your child dies? They are a part of you and you can’t let go. No matter how many people tell you otherwise, you feel like you failed. You failed them. You couldn’t protect them. You couldn’t keep the monsters at bay that took them away from you. You failed. I….. failed. And I feel like I’m failing my surviving children because I failed their brother and now I’m not really here much anymore. I have moments of lucidity but those can’t erase the fact that I failed Sam and he left.
So who am I really now?
I’m mom to four: but only three call me that now. I’m Goob Goob, to my grandsons. I’m a mechanic now who just hands out the specialty tools to the other mechanics who don’t live in a brain fog.
I’m everybody’s friend: I go out of my way to smile and to be over the top kind. I try to make sure everyone is treated fairly. I advocate for kindness and mental health. I am deeply spiritual. I am a mom who speaks my son’s name to everyone so that the world doesn’t forget him. So the world knows he was here. Sam.
I’m still a mom. I will die a mom. And it’s still the most important thing in my life.