Eleven years ago, my 18-year-old son Evan died by suicide. These are the six most important things I learned from his death:
- I don’t have control over other people and their choices, but I do have control over myself and my own choices. I’m not an all-knowing being and I wasn’t able to prevent Evan’s death. The pain and confusion I experienced in the aftermath nearly killed me, but I finally realized that how I move forward and heal is my responsibility. Evan’s death is a part of my history, but it doesn’t have to define my future.
- I am resilient and capable. If I was able to survive my son’s death and go on to thrive, what can’t I do? I discovered a well of strength inside of me that I never imagined I had. With time, it has become a quiet confidence in myself and in life itself.
- An open-mind is a powerful tool. I can use it to question my beliefs and imagine possibilities. “Who says a parent can’t survive the death of a child?” “What if God is something different than I originally thought?” “Can something good really come from tragedy?” It takes courage to ask the big questions, grapple for the answers, and adjust your worldview accordingly, but I’ve learned that it’s worth it.
- Death is just a change of form. I no longer fear death or a place called hell. God is not interested in punishing us or teaching us a lesson. God is pure love and only love is real. Everything else is an illusion.
- I don’t know what hidden pain others might be carrying. I do my best to extend compassion to those around me. I avoid judging others and instead send them love and light and strength as they find their way through this oftentimes difficult journey of life. It costs nothing to be kind.
- Life is complicated and precious and beautiful. In the grand scheme of things, our time on earth is very short. I strive to live in the present moment and to spend my time and energy doing the things that bring me joy. I eat delicious food and laugh with friends. I hold hands with my husband on the streets of a foreign city. I lie in the warm grass with my granddaughter as we watch butterflies float through the air above us. It is true that there is great sorrow in this life, but it is equally true that there is great goodness. I choose to focus on those parts and express gratitude for it all.