It wasn’t until I came back from a recent trip that I had the jarring realization that I’d barely thought about or talked about my son Noah, who died by suicide in 2013. This was a first since Noah loved to travel and my husband and I often try to imagine him in places we visit. On this trip, I hadn’t even written Noah’s name on every beach, as I vowed to do in my memoir. Instead, I was reveling in new vistas, tastes, and experiences with my husband and son Ben after so much pandemic isolation.
I loved the trip and getting to spend extended time with Ben. He deserves my full attention, which I couldn’t give him back when still overcome with grief. But on future family trips, I want to make a point of saying Noah’s name, making a toast to him, remembering and celebrating him together. With time, this may take more effort and intention.
“Grief is a floating barge-boat,/who knows where it’s going to/moor?” –Charles Wright,“Toadstools”
In the unpredictable drift and swell of grief, I’ve been missing Noah a lot since coming home. It’s the time between my father’s 40th death anniversary and Noah’s would-have-been 31st birthday. I welcome the upwelling of sadness and regret and the good cry I had during deep relaxation at a yoga class—far better that than weeks without Noah on my mind. At 9+ years after his suicide, what I fear most is no longer carrying him with me as memories flee.
Grief is a ghost that visits without warning. It comes in the night and rips you from your sleep… It interrupts you mid-laugh when you’re at a party, chastising you that just for a moment you’ve forgotten. – Suleika Jaouad, “Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted”
Sometimes I’m living my life and reasonably happy, even excited or full of gratitude, and suddenly I trip over Noah’s death. It’s like an ambush by a little alien voice in my head. Wait – how can I be happy when I’ve lost a child to suicide? Now or ever? How can I forget the enormity of what happened and blithely move through my days? As if I’ll always bear this burden and it will always hobble me. I have to rise up, quash the demon voice and assert my right to thrive, even amid sorrow and regret.
Grief is such a small word for such big feeling. Like light, it is right on top of you one minute and halfway across the world in the next. – Sarah Haufrecht
After Noah died, I thought a lot about the biblical Noah and decided to consider every rainbow a sign from my son—luminous, rare, spanning worlds. We hardly ever see rainbows where I live in southern California. But every afternoon lately when the angle of the sun is just right, I’m treated to little streaks and smudges of rainbow light skittering across the bathroom floor. With those splashes of color, Noah’s spirit is peeking into the house, leaving his mark, determined to live on among us. Every afternoon, a little bit of Noah comes home to delight me.
To my fellow survivors: With each of us at different stages, you may feel banished from joy right now. I get it. Still, summer’s here and I hope you’ll allow yourself some of its pleasures. You deserve a grief respite. You deserve a delightful day or week in spite of—because of ---everything.