Women Who Inspire: Accepting My Son’s Death

This past week, after my article was published on Scary Mommy, I thought it was was time to take a break from writing in order to clear my head and reconnect with my husband and children.

I am very thankful that Linda Sienkiewicz also approached me this week with her beautiful article about grieving for and learning to accept her son’s death. It hits very close to home for me and I felt it was very important to share her story.

When she sent me her article, it acted as great reminder why I started The Mama Nurse in the first place – in order to help other women – and it prevented me from throwing in the towel for a little while longer.

It took great strength for her to send her story to me. She is a survivor and an inspiration. Please give her a warm welcome and any comments that you have are much appreciated.

Thanks,

Tori Hamilton, RN


Derek as a boyMy eldest child, a son, took his own life in the fall of 2011. He was thirty-two years old. As a mother, no matter how many counsellors, doctors and friends tell you suicide isn’t the parent’s fault, you can’t help but wonder what you did wrong.

Didn’t I cuddle him enough? Should I have been stricter? Was I too strict?

The bottom line: I felt I had failed as a mother.

As a writer, my dreams of publication, my writing goals, everything I’d once aspired to seemed trivial. Derek often called me in the afternoon when I was writing to talk about philosophy, mythology, Egyptology, Jim Morrison, travel, whatever. I found it impossible to sit at the computer, knowing the phone would never ring with his call again.

I shut my computer down and let it all go.

I had to trust that the desire to write would return when I was ready.

If not, well, that was okay, too.

The first Christmas after his death was especially heart-wrenching. Every year I bought ornaments for each of my three children since birth to decorate their own tree when they left home. I couldn’t bear to even look at at Derek’s ornaments. My husband and I scaled back on holiday decorating. We picked out a live tree, a black hill spruce, in his honor, that we would plant in our yard in the spring. I looped a strand of lights on it and hung a handful of ornaments.

dereks treeWe were pleased at how beautiful his memorial spruce looked when we planted it in our front yard. The following spring, it had lots of new growth. I looked forward to watching it grow magnificent, tall and full.

I’m sorry to say this doesn’t have a happy ending, though. But stay with me. I need to tell you what happened.

Two long years passed. It was time for me to return to my writing. My husband accompanied me to a July writer’s conference in Texas, where I hoped to find inspiration. When we came home a week later, we were shocked. The spruce looked severely distressed with brown needles and brittle branches, as if parched. What went wrong? Would one week of no rain have done this much damage? A landscaper suggested we water it daily.

I watered it every day, but it continued to drop needles, and every day I felt more distraught. I was convinced I had neglected Derek’s memorial tree. I had failed to take care of it properly and now it was dying. The metaphor was obvious.

It seemed almost fitting that the tree would die under my care.

By chance, my husband happened upon a news article about a spruce decline throughout Michigan. The needle cast and branch die-back that began years ago had reached epidemic proportions, and the previous year’s weather made them vulnerable to canker diseases. The article stated fungicides are generally ineffective.

DerekAll you can do is remove the infected branches and hope for the best.

I ran out to look at our son’s spruce and saw blue fungus on the trunk. It had a disease. I hadn’t neglected it after all. There wasn’t anything I could have done to prevent it from succumbing.

Similarly, our son didn’t like taking medication, and you can’t force-feed an adult, although we did strong-arm him into a hospital once. After that, his depression seemed to improve, but it never went away. When he moved out of state for a new job, we hoped it would give him focus and a new outlook. He even found a new doctor he liked.

Then he stopped taking his antidepressants and shortly after quit his job. We were distraught and, I have to admit, a little angry, too. Didn’t he know better? What was he going to do now? If we rescued him, were we enabling him? As his mental health declined, my husband and I sought the advice of a counsellor, who told us to take him to a hospital, again, for an evaluation. We knew he would be furious with us, but we made a plan and headed out to Ohio, a three-hour drive.

Linda-DerekWe were about 12 hours too late.

There’s no way of knowing if we could have helped him. Maybe the doctors could have put him on different medication, but, once left to his own devices, he might have stopped them. There’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t have tried to commit suicide again.

I’ve come to accept that the psychic pain from his illness was too great for him to bear.

The loss of my son is an ache I will always carry with me, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t have dark days. Just like the spruce, it’s a sad truth that, as parents, we can’t always prevent everything, and we can’t blame ourselves.


Linda K Sienkiewicz
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is a published poet, writer and artist with a poetry chapbook award, Pushcart Prize nomination and and Masters in Creative Writing. Her award-winning debut novel, In the Context of Love, is about one woman’s journey to find the strength not to live in shame. Linda and her husband live in Michigan where they spoil their grandchildren and send them home. Connect with Linda at her website http://lindaksienkiewicz.com.

TheMamaNurse

Hi! I am a Registered Nurse on a unit that encompasses labour and delivery, postpartum, medical, surgical and palliative care in a rural hospital in Ontario, Canada. I am a mom of two and am passionate about women's rights, mom and infant care, parenting and nursing. I hope to create an educational, entertaining and highly relatable resource for women around the world. Thanks for stopping by! Xo, The Mama Nurse

13 thoughts on “Women Who Inspire: Accepting My Son’s Death

  • June 10, 2016 at 1:59 pm
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    Tori, thank you from the bottom of my heart for having me on your blog.

    Reply
  • June 13, 2016 at 1:20 am
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    I find it hard to comment on these sorts of posts as they are really heartbreaking and I never know what to say. I always take time to read but not neccesarily comment.

    Linda I hope you can find some sort of peace in your life.

    Tori, thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

    Rachel xx
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  • June 13, 2016 at 2:59 pm
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    I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel however what came shining through was how brave you are.It’s something that can and will never leave you but I’m glad you’ve come to terms with it the best way you can x #kcacols
    Pickinguptoys recently posted…House of Fraser Father’s Day WishlistMy Profile

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  • June 14, 2016 at 10:04 pm
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    Linda,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can only imagine how hard things have been since the death of your son. As a new mom and someone in the mental health profession I think it is important to share your story because you never know who it might reach and help some day. I hope that hearing how you have dealt with your loss will help other’s in similar situations. You are certainly one strong and brave women.
    Good Luck in your future writing and thanks again for sharing! #KCACOLS

    Reply
    • June 15, 2016 at 12:47 pm
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      You’re welcome, and thank YOU for your comments. I agree with you about sharing. People are reluctant to talk about suicide, but once you do, others are encouraged to tell their stories. My husband has been open about it, and one by one, people came into his office, sat down, and told him their story of loved ones or friends who’d died by suicide, or talked about friends that they were worried about.
      -Linda

      Reply
  • June 16, 2016 at 1:46 am
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    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I don’t know that there is anything I can say that will help he hurt you have been through. Depression is a difficult thing to deal with you did all you could, you did. Thank you so much for sharing this there are so many who can benefit from it. #KCACOLS

    Reply
  • June 17, 2016 at 8:20 pm
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    Linda,
    My heart aches deeply for you. I often find myself fumbling for words on posts like these, as I literally cannot imagine your pain. I sit here, holding my own son even tighter, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this. I know it must be so painful to share, but it is so incredibly important. Depression is an awful awful thing-and I’m sorry you had to see the worst of it. Much love! <3 #KCACOLS

    Reply
    • June 17, 2016 at 8:41 pm
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      Yes, give your son a big hug and kiss for me. Love him as best you can, and know that you are a good parent.
      Thank you for your love and kind words.
      -Linda

      Reply
  • June 17, 2016 at 9:24 pm
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    Just read your story and wanted to share just a bit of mine. I just lost my only child May 2. He was 42 years old and lived in a nursing home in Chicago. We moved back to FL last April. We were in the process of getting him down here. The nursing home called me and said that he had passed away. ME said it was cardiac . His real dad and family had heart problems as well as my mom. I didnt want to see him at the ME so we chose to have him cremated and the ashes were sent to me. I miss him so much and feel guilty that we hadn’t got him down here sooner, but we have chosen to believe God took him up there so that the family would not have had to deal with his death here. I know it all probably doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’m selfish but I love him so much. We had given him the opportunity to come with us when we moved , but he chose not to. I know I will see him again someday, but it still hurts. Does this make any sense?

    Reply
    • June 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm
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      You’re dealing with a lot — hurt, grief, guilt — and whatever makes the most sense to you is all that really matters, isn’t it? I’m so sorry for your loss. It might help if you make a little memorial for him at your home with his photograph and candles and whatever else has special meaning for you. Keep it there as long as you need to. We have a special candle by my son’s photograph that we light on special occasions like holidays and his birthday.
      Take care, and be gentle with yourself.
      – Linda

      Reply

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