For some time now I have boldly researched the topic of suicide ideation and related mental health concerns. I’m not a scientist or a doctor, rather, I’m a grieving father who lost his son to suicide two and a half years ago at the age of 39.
Relish the Unknown
“Bear” still makes an occasional visit in my mind. I’m enough of a believer in how connected the entire universe is to believe that my son even graces us through butterflies and birds – even through a buck deer who one time paused to pose and speak to me. I know to some that sounds strange, but I’ve also learned to relish the unknown and make that a part of my faith.
My wife, Ginger, and I and our entire family were graced with certain experiences in Skyler’s passing that have anchored us in a solid foundation of things divine. In fact, the circumstances, and events we were graced with at that time caused us to delay, or perhaps even believe it unnecessary to deeply grieve our loss.
But the pain never really goes away. And because we love him so, frankly, it shouldn’t dissipate like fog in the morning sun. No, it needs to linger from time to time so we can sit and celebrate our Bear. Sometimes he even stops by to comfort us with a figurative bear hug.
Mourning is Personal
Since his passing, at Christmastime we put up a small tree and decorate it with Skyler’s ornaments. It’s a tender time as we relive how these ornaments came to be. We laugh and cry and miss him so. Recently, the day after Christmas, my wife and I looked at each other and both felt to take down Christmas and move on.
As I was taking the bulbs off the tree, a royal purple one with a lovely manger scene and Skyler’s name imprinted near the top, slipped from my hand. In slow motion I cried “noooooo” and then it shattered on the wood floor. Suddenly, the pent-up grief that had never been released, gushed out of me as I sat and sobbed. This bulb would never grace the tree again. It was broken and beyond repair. Ginger was kind and came from the other room to witness the commotion. She joined me in the intermittent sobs as I picked up the damage.
We have some of Bear’s ashes on our mantle in the form of a bear. He was watching over this entire episode. I heard him say in my mind “That’s OK Dad, it’s just a bulb.” And later, “I appreciate the sentiment, but don’t put too much energy in the things I had. I’ve moved on. Those things don’t hold my soul, God does.”
Living in a World of Wonders
My intent in researching and writing about suicide ideation and mental health is to provide foundational truths that can change the way one deals with these issues, and hopefully heal some of the unknown and delayed sorrow and grief.
I recently learned that living in the world of wonders is better than living in a world of answers. Ultimately our path is defined by love. When we love into the wonders and the unknown, we also invite a peace and tranquility that sifts reality from broken Christmas bulbs to a reminder of who it is who holds our soul.
Embracing What Is
Not coincidentally, I was recently reading the book Art + Faith by Makoto Fujimura and learning about Kintsugi, the art of taking broken fragments or chards of glass and pottery and restoring them. The idea is to embrace flaws and imperfections and turn them into even more beautiful art than before they were broken. I momentarily looked at the broken Christmas bulb, wondering if this might be possible. But then I heard a voice again telling me “Your son is in no need of repair, let it go.” Understanding that my son’s brokenness was no longer in need of repair helped me to see what “is” rather than what “was.”
The Beauty That Continues
So, I begin this new year with added perspective. Makoto Fujimura said,
“There is no art if we are unwilling to wait for the paint to dry.”
Time is a healer, and for those of us living beyond the most painful sorrow imaginable, WE can move forward too. Continue to hold space for the occasional sobs of sorrow but understand the bulb that was broken is not in need of repair. We need only to love and see the beauty that continues, even if it is from and through loss.
Steve Hitz is a co-founder of Launching Leaders Worldwide, a nonprofit organization that provides young adults with tools for personal leadership and faith, with participants from 75 countries. He is the author Launching Leaders: An Empowering Journey for a New Generation, and Entrepreneurial Foundations for Twenty and Thirty-Somethings, available at Deseret Book or Amazon.