Posts by Julie Achterhoff

Suicide Kills More than One


Last February marked 12 years of living with being the mother of a child no longer on this earth. You somehow get used to living with this pain. I imagine it’s somewhat similar to becoming disabled in some way that will never heal, but you learn to work around it. I still don’t know how to answer when asked how many children I have. I say five, but feel like I’m lying. But if I said anything else I’d be damned by the pity. So I say five.
  I try to believe that Jason is still with me like they say, but that seems poor compensation. What is a relationship without interaction? He may be at my side all the time, watching and listening, maybe trying to comfort me. But this scenario would only be frustrating to us both in my mind. He could be screaming and I’d never hear a sound. I could scream at him and never really know if he could hear it.
The senselessness of it never goes away. You can never forget – the most mundane things pop him right back into my head.
The guilt is the worst part I think. I am wrapped up in a cocoon of it. I am the judge and the jury and have sentenced myself to life.
  Not that I haven’t wanted to die many times. But 12 years ago when my oldest son took his life I still had had his sisters and brother aged 19,16,13, and 8. But I don’t think I did them any favors because my whole world was shattered, my spirituality was in tatters, and for a very long time the mother who was always there for them might as well have been dead.
  I had been a single mom for two years, going to college to become a nurse. After 20 years of being married to a jerk I finally felt happy and in control of my life.
  Most of the guilt I feel is from emotionally abandoning the rest of my kids. But if one of them could actually die, then couldn’t any of them? I could feel that truth so deeply that my formerly deeply felt connection with them snapped. I grieved that and felt the guilt eating at me from the inside out. I was completely alone. No one understood. I didn’t want them to anyway. It would hurt them too much.
  My memories are scrambled. I am a whole other woman from the naive one before 12 years ago. I barely remember her now. My kids unfortunately don’t remember her either. They only remember the one they met after.      When I was finally able to work on getting that precious connection back, the one that had previously meant the most in the world to me, it was too little too late. My oldest daughter doesn’t tolerate me. Although we live in the same town we don’t see each other much. She’s too busy. This year she was even too busy to do anything but text me on my birthday. No gift, no card. Just a text on my phone saying happy birthday. She won’t tell me why she wants nothing to do with me. But I know.
  My second daughter lives 6 hours away. She doesn’t speak to me anymore. I call her now and then to leave a message on her phone that I love her, but her heart has turned to ice. And not just towards me. The coldness she showed her two little ones broke my heart. Of course I feel responsible. I showed her the way. She also stopped speaking to her younger sister, her closest friend, because the man she lives with is a pathological rager who can only feel relief through control of everyone in his environment, especially my daughter and grandchildren.
  My youngest daughter talks to me on a regular basis. We are pretty close. But she suffers from acute anxiety. But I do too, so we have a lot in common. She came back home last summer, but I couldn’t make her and my two grandchildren stay. She moved back where her estranged sister lives only a few miles away. Their children, who were once very close don’t see each other. Her older sister’s husband has done what his kind do and isolated their family from anyone close enough to upset his home where there are holes in the wall from his outbursts and doors ripped from their hinges. Both of their children are on anxiety medications. 
  One Halloween I was walking a step behind this person and my grandson when out of the blue he pushed him down to the ground. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak until I brought it up to my daughter later. She tried to cover it up saying that’s how they played. Normally I’m pretty good at letting things go and not interfering, but not this time. I told her that was NOT playing. When I returned home from that visit she didn’t speak to me for months. I had gotten too close to the truth. I worked hard to get back into her good graces somehow and we were close once again for a while. But it didn’t last and I don’t know how to get there again with him still in the picture.
  My youngest son was still pretty young 12 years ago and very easy going. But he kept me grounded by getting into mischief constantly. He never speed moving when he was awake and I could never take my eyes off of him for a minute. It was a blessing that he seemed so unaffected by our family tragedy and brought life and light to us all with all his craziness.
  As he grew up he kept his sweet disposition, even through his teens. I could always trust him and he made great friends in high school, who always ended up at our house. None of them got into drinking or drugs, and I became their second mom. They’re awesome kids!
  But I had to quit the nursing program. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t take care of myself or my kids properly, much less other people. Something good inside me was gone. I’d had depression my whole life, but kept it in check until that one day when the police officer called me and said the unthinkable. My son? Suicide? A garbage bag? Suffocated? No! Impossible! We just got back from visiting him. He was fine. I thought. Better than ever, or so he led me to believe. But before I drove away from him for the last time, something whispered in my ear. The other kids were eager to go, but I made time to sit in his room with him before I would leave so we could talk alone. It was my final gift from Jason.
  As I was about to pull out of the drive, I jumped out of the car and hugged and kissed him a second time. He knew I loved him. He was 23 years old and we understood each other like no one else. He took what I had taught him and flew so high with it. He amazed me. He was the most beautiful soul.
  I’ve been working so hard on myself lately. If I’m not gonna die then I need to live. The thought crossed my mind recently that I got to live 41 years before this changed everything. That’s something I want to be thankful for. A lot of people don’t even live that long. Jason didn’t.
  I used to feel guilty for any happiness I felt after he passed. It felt horribly wrong. But I can’t really live if I’m feeling sorry all the time. I have to change my way of looking at things. If he is around me I’m only making him miserable being sad. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure that out.

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As you watch this performance think about what grace does for you in your own life.

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Here’s the link:


 

Kiler Davenport’s Original Digital Art – squirmypantsproduction’s posterous.

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