On a glorious, if blisteringly hot Saturday in August 2010, Margaret Thomson’s world is suddenly shattered by the incomprehensible news that her twenty-two-year-old son, a medic in the army, has taken his life.
One of the most devastating aspects of this unspeakable tragedy is the fact that after struggling to find his way, Thomson’s son Kieran had appeared to be doing so well in the army. Still, his mother and stepfather couldn’t help wondering—and worrying. Growing up, Kieran had undoubtedly had issues. Was the army really the right choice for him? It was, after all, such a regimented path when, in reality, their son was the sort of young man who, for better or worse, tended to march to a different drummer.
In a deep state of shock, Thomson and her husband Tim immediately board a flight to Raleigh, North Carolina, and then from there they drive to Fort Bragg, where Kieran had been stationed. Upon their arrival, the couple find themselves plunged into a a labyrinthine, and, at times, seemingly bizarre world of military rules and regulations.
Eventually, after the funeral and memorial services are over, an even more challenging journey —emotionally as well as geographically—ensues, especially for Margaret, who, as a former journalist, is determined to find answers to her son’s death, no matter how high the cost.
As part of her quest she soon finds herself entering a new, and profoundly foreign landscape, one populated by parents who’ve lost children under a variety of circumstances, as well as those who’ve lost loved ones, whether children or not, to the terrible scourge of suicide. Over time, while listening to and learning from these survivors, Thomson and her husband manage, at least to a certain extent, to reassemble the shards of their fragmented existence.
As she enters her second year of grieving, Thomson receives an unexpected invitation from an unlikely source—the army, which she’s often blamed in many ways, whether fairly or not, for her son’s death. Seizing upon this opportunity, Thomson experiences a tangible, if subtle, shift in her grief. Her perspective is changed—quite literally—into a new and different one that’s much larger as well as infinitely more hopeful.
With gratitude, Thomson realizes, partly as a result of this transformational experience, that the world does indeed look different now.
Thomson instinctively turned to writing during the days, months, and even years following her son’s death in an effort to make sense out of a seemingly senseless act that she never dreamed could happen. In The World Looks Different Now, she chronicles the difficult journey that she and her husband, along with their surviving son, are forced to embark upon as they move toward eventual—if only partial—healing.
Poignant and deeply moving, this groundbreaking memoir provides a courageous and unflinching look at a subject that many, if not most, of us quite naturally turn away from, unless or until it strikes us close to home.
While providing a special form of solace for those who are grieving, The World Looks Different Now is also meant for those who treasure memoir in general, whether suicide has personally touched their lives or not.