It is no secret that my son Harry died by suicide six years ago. I fought really hard to have suppression lifted — to be able to tell his story. Way too often, it appears families are too overwhelmed by death by suicide and the stories of their loved ones remain behind locked doors. Also, the assumed stigma associated with a death by suicide imposes a life sentence of silent endurance.
I like to believe I am not someone who suffers such a massive loss in silence. I write about Harry, I speak about him at public events and I try hard to own my mental health and the feelings that are associated with that.
Do I though? Do I ever really acknowledge how much Harry’s life and death have impacted my own existence in this mortal coil?
The mantra I live by is, “Love never dies.” In fact, I had that phrase tattooed on my arm on Harry’s fifth anniversary as a permanent reminder. Love never dies, sunshine boy; love never dies.
But oh, how it hurts sometimes. The love I feel for my son today is as real and as overwhelming as it was on that first day I held him. Harrys’ birth wasn’t an easy one and he needed some intervention before he pinked up enough to be placed in my arms. His death wasn’t easy either and intervention was required again for him to survive for three days in ICU before he died in my arms when life support was removed.
And in between the first and last time I held my beautiful boy in my arms, there was a lot of life. It wasn’t always pretty. It was definitely not perfect and it was very, very human.
There were many days when life overwhelmed me and I cried late into the night because I felt I had failed my children. I struggled so much to make ends meet — I struggled to have time to spend with them because I had to work. I struggled to provide more than the basics in life (they always had food, shelter and security). And they had the love — the massive I-would-die-for-you love of a mother for her children.
The love I had for Harry — have for him — didn’t die with him. It still exists inside of me. It cocoons itself around every memory I have of my beautiful boy — every hope, every prayer, every wish.
It doesn’t grow though — it stopped growing when Harry stopped breathing. And now I feel as though the layers of grief that come from a lost future threaten to overwhelm the life that existed for 18 years and 9 months. All of the major events over the past six years we have celebrated as a family and all of the events to come — major world events Harry would have taken an interest in. The changing shape of his life that I will never witness.
What would Harry be doing now as a 24 year old? Where would he be living? Would he have found the love of his life? Would he have helped others with what he learned through his depression? Would he still come over and raid my fridge and crash on my couch? Would he still be a skinny wee thing?
And what about me? What would my life look like without that massive weight of grief? Would I have so many silver sparkles in my hair? Would my arthritis be as bad without all of that stress? Would I still be dancing? Would I have met my husband, got married and sold my home?
There are no guarantees in life, I know that. I also know I am living my best life, right now. And if that includes nights where I don’t sleep because my anxious mind fixates on what I’m going to wear at a wedding to stop me from focusing on Harrys impending anniversary, then so be it.
I do still manage to work, to live and to laugh, as well as still have those moments when a lost life leaks out of my eyes and drips down my face. And I do still believe that love never dies; not only my love for Harry but also his love for me.
I will love you forever sunshine boy and I will miss you always.