I have wrestled with this blog post while trying to decide if I should write on this topic yet again. People seem to not be hearing my message, so why write more? When a child hits another, should I let it go because I did the same thing when I was young? No, we get better people by addressing the problem. Avoiding death is impossible. Everyone will die. Your children will die too, but hopefully only after you. I do not get that luxury, so please forgive my constant prodding for stories. My current memories are all I have. I do not get to make a new one with him.
I want to hear stories about my children and this includes those of my son, Caleb, who died by suicide. Grieving parents often do. The parents want to share in these tales and learn about the impact their child’s life had on others. They want to know their child’s life had meaning to others.
I want to know Caleb lived. I need to know he made a difference. I don’t want religious platitudes or philosophy because so many well-meaning people say lies to make survivors feel better. So the best way for me is simple stories. Maybe he was mad or happy, contemplative or goofy, it does not matter. Whether the story is at his best or his worst, I have already seen those. I can almost guarantee there is nothing you can say which would shock me, or make me sadder, or make me love him less. I still want to hear it.
Nineteen months ago, I asked people to talk about Caleb with me. I need it. I asked again sixteen months ago. Then again two months ago. I want people to know how to support those who are grieving, not just for myself, but I do need it.
Instead, I get silence. It is not just some silence, but nearly complete silence. I thought those who loved Caleb would like to keep his memories alive. In the 28 months since Caleb died, six people who knew him have communicated with me about him; this is friends, family, and relatives combined.
I have spoken to many parents whose child died by suicide. Way too many of them have a similar story of needing to hear about their child and not having it fulfilled. There could be various reasons people do not share their experiences with us. Shared grief could shut some people down and not want to talk through it. Some may not want to see our grief as they talk. Others may feel guilty for some perceived part in his death. These are all dysfunctions. You need to talk through it. Our relationship needs you in it. And as much as you might have what-ifs or should-haves, you cannot hold on to those.
There may be other reasons for not sharing, but it seems to be so common that I wonder if the root of the persistent avoidance is the cultural aversion to suicide. I see family and friends whose child died by other means, and people talk about them often. You do not have to talk to me, but the Systemic Cultural Avoidance Behavior must stop!