Maybe we start by being present

Be present

I have sat through three suicide prevention trainings now and each time I take away a little bit more. While these trainings are amazing to teach us the skills to have a real conversation with those we think are struggling, for a parent who has lost a child to suicide it has become the laundry list of all the things I didn’t do right.

These demons have been with me since the night of June 20 but to hear them spoken out loud is hard. The guilt is so heavy. I’m working on not beating myself up with all the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s but it’s a real thing.

There were so many signs along Nikolai’s journey and I dismissed many of them to just being a moody teenager. Dropping out of sports, purposely failing school, disrespecting his family and his teachers, and becoming withdrawn. This was him literally crying out for help.

This is what it looks like parents. It can also look like a million other things too. We communicate with our kids but we aren’t really present with them. We have allowed being busy to take center stage of our lives and we have stopped giving importance to the real things. It’s become more about running our kids to sports practice, homework, who is spending the night at who’s house, video games, cell phones (theirs and our own), trying to fit in dinner, late nights, last minute projects, and the list goes on.

We sought the help of teachers, counselors, and a therapist. None of it was enough. His pain ran so deep that literally he thought his only way out was to take his own life. But maybe, just maybe if I had hugged him more, sat down and really listened to him, not been so busy. When all is said and done, I will never really know. But what I wouldn’t give for another chance to do it all again knowing what I know now. That is why I believe with absolutely every piece of me that God has set my compass to helping others see the pain in others and reach out.

Therapy is definitely helping me cope with the guilt. I don’t think that will ever go away; however, recognizing that reliving every wrong step with Nikolai is not serving me is what I have to say to move forward.

Since Nikolai died by suicide on June 20, there have been three more teens in northern Oakland County that have taken their lives. We have to figure this out. Maybe we start with just being present with our kids.  

2019 – My Year of JOY

My word was joy

I am not one to do resolutions at the new year, instead I choose a word. A word to help me focus on something important. One year it was determination, another listen. Joy was my word for 2019. I wanted to live as joyfully as possible, choosing joy and seeing joy in all the things. And then June 20 happened and I thought I lost my joy forever. 

While my sadness has been overwhelming, almost consuming at times, there are so many things in life to be joyful about that this word actually helped me get through the toughest year of my life. Talking to a friend over coffee the other day, it occurred to me that 2019 taught me many things: 

  1. My children have always been my greatest source of joy. I lost one to the physical world, but he is always a part of my heart. For my two living children, I will continue to always be their biggest cheerleader and love them more fiercely than the day before. My love for them is intense and immense and I am more proud of them this year than at any other time in their lives. They have lived through something no one their age should. They have lost a brother, a friend, a confidante, yet have come out the other side with resilience. 
  2. My relationship with my husband is the strongest it’s ever been. God started this path for us over a year in advance – bringing us together in a much deeper way than we had ever been. I believe with every ounce of my being God did this to help us weather the storm of Kola’s death. While the statistics of marriages dissolving after the death of a child is astounding, Joe and I love and support each other on a whole different level of peace, understanding and kindness. I could literally not do the day to day without him. 
  3. My faith and belief in God and the way He works in our lives is at a level I cannot describe. I have never felt so close to God before in my life. Ever. I really do see Him clearing my path – setting it out for me to follow. And, the people He has put in my life at just the right moments – unbelievable. 
  4. This little book club I started in July is one of the single best things I have ever done. This group of women have become some of my very best friends. I have realized over these past few months that we actually all needed each other, for very different reasons. I love watching us laugh, cry, grow, empower, motivate and inspire each other. This group is what living fantastic is all about. 
  5. There are friends I thought would support me through my sadness with their every breath, and many of them walked away from me because my sad was too much for them. It doesn’t make them bad people, it just means they didn’t have the capability to be there in a way I needed them. 
  6. There are people in my life that I never in a million years would have thought would be able to offer support to me in any meaningful way. Yet, today, these people have become friends that push me to get up every single day and do the impossible things. 
  7. I have friends who have become a part of me. People I talk to or text every day. Friends that love me unconditionally. Friends that pray for me and love me through all things good, bad and ugly. These people bring me such joy.
  8. Kola’s death has made me realize who I am. I am strong. I am courageous. I am brave. I am kind. I am pain. I am sorrow. I am joy. I have a purpose now that I didn’t have before. I have direction. And while this is still sometimes fuzzy and full of obstacles, I know that all of these things will become clear at the time that I need them to. 
  9. Mental health and suicide deserve more attention, and alongside friends I have made through this journey, we will make this happen. We will do the important things that we can and help as many people struggling as we can. 
  10. Kindness rules. 

Every day since Nikolai died, God has continued to show me that there are so many things that bring joy into our lives. Life really is joyful. This year, I urge you to take time to appreciate the present moment and learn to live where life actually takes place. At this exact moment.