Writing to live, writing to love.
In 2014, my nineteen-year-old took his life. Potato chips and M&Ms became my infrequent meals, utility bills languished unopened on the kitchen counter. Night threw a veil of darkness over days that had lost any point. From midnight’s murky shadows, voices whispered nasty thoughts to my sleepless mind. Go! the voices hissed, no one needs you, just go! Ask any parent who's lost a child, any person who’s lost a beloved person; surviving that loss becomes a challenge.
Every person who takes their life leaves behind, on average, six survivors – mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons, daughters, grandmas and grandpas, teachers, counselors, lovers, friends. These survivors are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide than the non-exposed. Loss of a child for any reason increases the risk to parents; if that child died by suicide, the risk climbs even higher. People in the field refer to suicide contagion, the concept that the experience of a loved one killing themselves creates suicidal thoughts or actions in people where there were few or none before.
I didn't recognize it at first, but I was contaminated.
Fortunately, I'd begun writing seven years earlier. Chronicling daily life with two boys adopted from foster care and our multiple rescued dogs. The downs - many, the ups - few but oh, so sweet and precious. I wrote my way through a morass of struggles, through therapy appointments and principal calls, through arrests and court dates, through lying and stealing and property destruction, all underscored by tender vulnerability.
I studied to hone and develop the craft of writing. With every class, critique, and workshop not only my writing improved, so did my understanding of life. My relationship with truth. My grasp on what it means to love.
After my son died, I began writing with new urgency. I applied the lessons of teachers and workshop leaders - Ann Hood, Karen Karbo, Cheryl Strayed. I found Lidia Yuknavitch and her Corporeal Writing where I dove all the way in, though I'm not a strong swimmer and distrust deep water. Mostly because of the best teacher of all - my son, Brandon - I wrote myself back to the living. I wrote the book I needed to read. I'm currently in the search for a publisher so that other people like me can read themselves back to the living, too.