Yesterday, was the the fifth birthday my late-son Max had since he died by suicide. He was just 16 years old, and yesterday, he would have turned 21. Like any survivor parent, I couldn’t imagine spending one single moment separated from my beloved child, how I was meant to go forward, knowing *THESE* types of days were invariably coming. His birthday, and the anniversary of the day he died; they would come, and I was running below empty. How would I find the strength to navigate these unforgiving days… ?? Would our family ever be able to feel peace and joy again … ??

I don’t need to describe the state of complete and utter devastation our family was in when Max died. You know the cruel, and unrelenting pain that permeates every fibre of your body and soul. The gapping chasm of a hole where your heart used to be; though it doesn’t feel empty as one would assume a chasm does. Your chest feels like an unmovable, cold stone is inside, and life blood has been replaced with razor-sharp despair, longing, loneliness, and confusion. You’ve died along with your beloved one, but yet you physically remain, frozen in the horror of your new life; and……….birthdays and anniversaries are coming.

Right, so, I am alive, and have two surviving ( and now also grieving ) children. In a couple of months, it was coming. Max’s first birthday away from his beloved family. Everything is raw, painful, and I barely have enough energy to lift food to my lips. Where am I going to start with the tough days ?? I reconciled a few things mentally:

  1. Max’s birthday and anniversary of his death would come without fail each year, so I was going to honour whichever way emotionally that was going to go as a mother. I allowed myself to express my feelings. Along the road, I connected with other survivors of suicide, and I had a couple of friends whom let me pour out my aching heart. Allowing others to help was pivotal !!
    2. I wasn’t going to make HIS important days of the year, about myself. Many people love Max, and miss him. These are days of suffering for many. I also reconciled to find a way to include ALL of my sons’ loved ones on these days.
    3. There is nothing I can do about the pain I feel on these occasions. It’s implacable, inevitable, and will come whether I want it to, or not. I wasn’t able to change my pain ( how could any parent … ??? ) so what could I change ? I couldn’t help myself on these days, *BUT* I could still help others !
    4. My surviving children ( God willing ) will have to live with the loss of their beloved brother, friend, and champion longer than myself. I needed to lead the way, and teach them what we are capable of doing as people whom live with grief. I would find local organizations that would accept larger groups of volunteers, with a variety of ages, for Max’s birthday and the anniversary of his passing.

Early on in your own journeys of survivorship, everything is daunting, and extremely overwhelming. I have found the path back to peace and joy, in many ways. One way, has been through the beautiful experience of sharing these difficult days with everyone in my support network, and my greater community. For the remainder of my life, I will grieve for my son. For the remainder of my life, I am committed to my healing journey. I will not shut myself away from the world, as the forever broken part of me begs to do…. I am still a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend, a daughter, and a teammate for the people I work with. This post is just a general outline of my tough days of the year philosophy, and approach. I will write future posts about the many tools I use to mentally, physically and emotionally carry the weight of this grief. I know the insurmountable task that is in front of you….

I hope this post has been a tiny spark of hope to help you along your own grief journeys ! Our therapeutic support group is thoughtfully designed to help you build connections, and learn valuable tools to help you find peace and joy in the days that are to come !

Five years down the broken road of losing my precious son to suicide, I can reflect back, and say that his birthdays and anniversaries haven’t been the dreaded days I expected them to be. In fact, they have been some of the most beautiful days of healing ! Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with others, and allow yourself to be enveloped in human empathy and compassion !! If you can put your pain ( anger and every other negative emotion that comes with this cruel type of loss ) on pause, long enough to plan a day or giving to others in need….then I’m sure you will experience the transforming qualities that comes with helping others !!

Sending you much love, and strength today,

Jill Cowan – Max’s Mom

Back to blog