I’m finally sitting down to write as this Thanksgiving week comes to a close. We have been nonstop with our family and friends all week. Our son Nick and his wife Katie just left hours ago, back to their new home in Dallas. So now reality is setting in again. Many of you know what we have been through, but some of you don’t. I’ve wanted to reach out to my Happy First friends but I just haven’t been able to write about it. But I feel it is time now. I’ve been thinking about it for months, wanting to share my journey but not ready to go into all the details. It’s too much, still too raw and painful. But I have always seen myself as an encourager, wanting to be a light to others.
So here goes-we lost our younger son Dan at age 20 to suicide on July 25, 2015. It is still strange and unbelievable to say those words. We still can’t believe it happened. No one can. We thought everything was going well for him-he was in summer school at college, had many friends, was so bright. We didn’t see the clues along the way. We constantly are still asking ourselves WHY, trying to retrace everything we did as parents. We do feel good in knowing that he knew we loved him and would do anything for him.
There is so much that has happened in these past 16 months-I can’t write about it all now or this would be very long. We have been surrounded by incredible family and friends. We have a great support network. We have met new friends that have also had great loss. We now have strong bonds with these incredible people, I just wish we had met under different circumstances. But here we are. Sometimes it is hard knowing we will live the rest of our lives with this huge hole in our hearts. But I know God isn’t finished with us yet. I know I have been given a talent and purpose and that gets me going every day.
The first year was mostly a blur. I’m usually an energetic person but was flattened. I never really understood grief before. We had lost all of our 4 parents in recent years, but losing a child is like nothing else. It bothers me when I hear the word grief used almost flippantly. Some words I would use to describe grief-anxiety like I had never had before, physical pain-chest tension (one suicide survivor friend who lost her husband said her heart really did feel broken), lower back pain for over a year. Feeling vulnerable, different. Not being able to focus on anything. Not knowing how to respond when someone new asks how many kids you have. Sad. Mad. Hopeless. Broken.
I have done a lot of seeking to help ease the pain.One thing Randy, Nick, Katie, Lyn (Randy’s sister) and I did was join a Survivor of Suicide Group at the Tristesse Grief Center in Tulsa. Our new friends there understand exactly what we are going through. Another has been talking with a counselor. Yoga Therapy to help with my pain. Yoga classes. Golfing obsessively with great friends to escape and be outside. Bible Study Fellowship classes-don’t know what I would do without these women. And DRAWING. When I create, I am in a zone. Time flies. It’s energetic. I forget everything else. I just draw.
Many of you have been my biggest encouragers and cheerleaders. I would draw and doodle randomly and post on my artist facebook page or instagram. So many of you were so there for me-your encouraging comments just spurred me on. In the last few years I had already started making the switch from selling tee shirts to illustrating, and now it is really coming together. I am loving designing stationery, working on different commissioned works and just recently publishing my first adult coloring book- Happy Flowers Coloring Book. It’s now for sale on Amazon and in some local boutiques and florists. It gives me something to be excited about. Drawing has been my grief therapy-maybe coloring my books will be grief therapy for someone too. Or maybe it will be helpful for someone stressed, or just a great way for someone to express their creativity.
I’ve been waiting to write to you all after I got it all together. Well things will never be perfect. I might as well invite you along for the journey now. I want to make changes to the look of my website and blog and everything, but it’s just going to take time. If I wait until things are perfect, it won’t happen! I’m not even going to stress about how often I write or what my schedule will be. I just want to get myself back out there and reach people. I’m still ME, a really changed me, but I still have my positive essence that I can’t contain. Someone recently told me I need to live a good life, that is what our son would want, so I am trying. Thanks for listening, I hope I can help someone else.