My son Kieran died by suicide on August 28, 2010.
Even after almost ten years, the words strike me as harsh, even almost brutal.
At times I’m not sure whether they’ve ever truly sunken in.
Long before its arrival, 2020 was already weighing on me. Needless to say, the sense of trepidation I’ve been feeling—and am feeling still—has absolutely nothing to do with the coronavirus, which, like most Americans, I’d never even heard of until around mid-February.
No, for me, the sense of foreboding, if you like, stems from the fact that 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of my older son’s death. Although I try not to think about the impending anniversary, it’s always there, in the back of my mind.
Ten years. How could it have been this long?
It suddenly hit me the other day that somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve been wanting—or possibly even expecting—something momentous to happen simply because it’s the tenth anniversary. And yet at the same time I want to experience that highly vaunted, almost mythical state known as closure. I want it—whatever “it” is—my grief, my guilt, my sense of loss—to be gone. This is understandable, though, isn’t it? After all, who doesn’t want an end to the pain, a healing of the endlessly festering wound?
Still, I’m conflicted. I want closure and yet at the same time I don’t. For a mother, closure is nothing less than blasphemy since it suggests that your child has indeed been forgotten by the world and even, possibly—if only for a few seconds—by you. (After all, even a mother cannot consciously think about her deceased child literally every moment of every day.) And yet the idea of others “forgetting” is the mother’s worst nightmare, especially since for her the memory of the child is always “there” just below the surface.
The realist in me knows that when August 28 arrives it’s likely to be just another day on the calendar. To think otherwise is to indulge in what’s known as “magical thinking,” which can be defined as an attempt to bend reality to one’s own desires or wishes. No, even after ten years, I already know that on the actual day itself there will almost certainly be neither closure nor anything “dramatic.” A harsh reality and yet one I’ve come to accept with what I hope is an appropriate measure of grace.