Monday, March 16, 2020

7th Death Anniversary Amidst Fear & Uncertainty

Day after day in this coronavirus pandemic, another piece of our social fabric is ripped away. Day after day, I’m overcome with crying spells that I know are mostly for my son Noah’s impending death anniversary and memories of our family’s distress in the weeks leading up to his suicide. But surrounded now with collective anxiety and uncertainty, I’m also crying for—and fearful of--the vulnerability we share. Plus I’m on edge from sleep deprivation and sciatica pain that spiked this week—the body, right on schedule, howling its protest.

Know that we are connected/in ways that are terrifying and beautiful, writes Lynn Ungar in the new poem, “Pandemic.” Know that our lives/are in one another’s hands.

Noah would have been incredulous at the shutdown of everything he adored--travel, parties, movie theaters, cafes—even in his beloved France. He would have scoffed at the restrictions, strained against social distancing that went against his nature. He would have worried about his grandparents in California and his friends in Italy.


Scanning through photos of Noah, landing on this one at age 16 in the Alaskan tundra, I’m reminded of how his teenage hair sprang full and fluffy atop his head like … a corona. How I loved to pat that springy hair; how still today I stroke his head in pictures. 

The photo was taken on an extended family trip at a time when Noah scorned smiling for pictures. Was he really as brooding as he looked? Did the tumultuous sky and bleak expanse remind him of an inner state that he was starting to feel and didn’t know how to express? There was no place in his fun guy persona to put that darkness. There’s so much we’ll never know about the wilderness of Noah’s despair, how vast and unnavigable it seemed to him, how it drove him five years later to take his life. 


More lines from Ungar’s poem for everyone suffering from fear, anxiety, and isolation in this pandemic:

Reach out all the tendrils/of compassion that move, invisibly/where we cannot touch./Promise this world your love--/for better or for worse,/in sickness and in health,/so long as we all shall live.

Would that Noah and others who died by suicide could have kept the promise. 

Would that the tendrils of compassion and self-compassion reach everyone who is struggling with traumatic grief or mental health conditions at this difficult time.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255


  1. My son David had the same kind of curly hair,but ashen blonde and his brothers, teasing him, used to say that he resembled a calliflower, or a bush. He didn't like this very much and demanded an immediate haircut. Memories bitter and sweet.

    1. I'm so sorry for the loss of your David. What a fun memory of him -- thank you for sharing. Take good care of yourself.

  2. Hi Susan, yesterday was the second Christmas Day without our Anton, who ended his life on 18th December 2019, aged 32. I want to thank you for your writing which has brought me some comfort this morning. I am so sorry that we have this terrible sadness in common

  3. Dear Ligia, My condolences for the loss of your beloved Anton. This must be such a heavy time for you, just past the first anniversary when so many others are celebrating and having spent the first year without Anton living through the pandemic. In another comment, you mention that your emotions feel blunted -- I understand -- in the first couple years, it can be so strange to be living at a distance from the world and how we used to feel and be in the world. I hope you are able to reach out for support, even if it's only virtual talks and hugs, with those you love. Have you looked into (now online) support groups in your local area (see American Fdn. for Suicide Prevention) or visited the community forum at Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors? I wish you comfort, courage and clarity as you move through your grief.
    (And yes, poet Ellen Bass is the same person who wrote "The Courage to Heal.")
    In shared sorrow,