Heidi Crosbie’s beloved only child, Scott Crosbie, died by suicide at the age of 34 in 2012. Her youngest brother, Beat Jenni, also died by suicide in 2002. Her journey to parenthood had not been an easy one with multiple miscarriages and the stillbirth of Christopher in 1982. After Scott’s death, she sought the help of local support groups and therapy to finally deal with her multiple losses. She currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Sacramento-Placer County Chapter of the Bereaved Parents USA, helping other grieving mothers navigate through their losses. Her hope is that she can bring more understanding and compassion to why people die by suicide and the mental illness that so often precedes it. She also hopes her honesty will shed some light and allow for open conversations about grief.
Most mornings I write his name in the steam on my glass shower door. As I write, a droplet of water often runs from one of the letters down the door, like a tear. “Scott, I haven’t forgotten you”, I say silently to myself as I stare at his name. Sometimes I add messages to him, such as “I love you”, and on those tender days, I write “Why?” The grief from my only child’s death by suicide five years ago still sticks in my throat as I try to swallow the reality of my new life.
I write his name in the shower because I rarely hear his name mentioned anymore. I fear his death is just a sad footnote to the lives of those he touched. I think we suffer two deaths when we die. One is when we physically leave this earth, and the second is when one’s name is no longer spoken. I want to hear people say his name. I want to hear people say his name because then I would know he still exists in their memories, too.
I know there are many more memories of Scott left to unpack. I just wish others would share them with me. When they do share a moment with Scott, I hoard that memory in my mind and take it out when I am feeling empty. Who knew my job now as a mom to Scott was to be his memory keeper, flame and grave tender? Sometimes I want to stop people when they talk about their child or grandchild and let me share something with them about my son. Because he is and will always be as important to me as theirs are to them. But they would think I am not doing well, and I would make them uncomfortable by doing so, which is not what I want. So I stand there silently trying to be in the moment with them, in a moment that my son is not a part of any longer. And his name doesn’t get spoken.
My heart, this vessel into which I poured all my love for my son, broke open when he died. And into the nooks and crannies, envy seeped. I don’t like it and am somewhat ashamed that it has happened. When I see other young people going on with their lives, or when I hear other parents talk with pride about their children and grandchildren, I often feel empty, disconnected and sometimes even angry at what has been taken from me. Those feelings startle me as envy drips through my veins. I am happy for them, but the truth is that those feelings are laced with sadness for what my son has missed out on and for what I will no longer experience. I try not to let others see how hard it is for me as I watch life moving on for them and living the life I assumed I would have as it passes me by. I am also envious of my friends and the fact that they don’t have to live with this unimaginable burden of child loss, and the yearning for what will never be. I would never want another person to lose their innocence and be in my shoes —- never!
I know that life is full of loss, and my loss is not unique. But the most important part of my life has unraveled, and it has changed me into someone new. And while I am confessing that there are some things about myself that I don’t like, my envy and my fear that Scott will be forgotten, it is clear that they are real. I can’t deny them. But I also know that there is one bigger reality that I can never change: Scott’s death. So I have to accept that I am a new and different person. And I want to work on knitting together what I want this new person to be, weaving this new reality into it. I know Scott would want me to. And in my quiet moments, when I write his name on the shower door, or think of him, I will try to remember this.
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