As Mothers’ Day approaches I find myself reflecting back over the past 14 years and the journey I have been on. It began on November 25, 2001. My nice, happy world all came crashing down when my son Matthew walked out the front door never to walk back in. My first born had joined the Navy earlier in the year, following in the footsteps of both my husband Ray and myself. He was a new submariner who, while home on Thanksgiving leave, took his own life.
Losing a son to suicide had me doubting the previous 21 years of motherhood. What had I done so wrong? I was entrusted with this life and I had failed. It tore my heart out that Matthew had been in such pain and I didn’t know it. The guilt was overwhelming. At first it was nearly debilitating. How did I not know my child was hurting so much? How did I fail my son so badly?
Those first Mothers’ Days were so very hard! I just wanted to hide until the day was over. How could anyone tell me “Happy Mothers’ Day”!? Even though I had a surviving son, Brian, Mothers’ Day was never going to be happy again. Matthew was gone.
As the years have gone by, with much work, the help of AFSP, the Overnight Walks and of support groups, I have realized I am and always will be a Mom. Though I don’t think the guilt will ever completely go away, I now know an illness took my son. I will always have 2 sons. Now I’m a grandmother too and Mothers’ Day has new meaning.
Though Matthew is not here physically, I have a different relationship with him and he is always in my heart. It seems this journey has come full circle and Iam now able to enjoy Mothers’ Day (and the days around it) again.
Mary Anne Burke is on AFSP’s Loss and Bereavement Council. She and her husband Ray have walked in every Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. They live in Virginia.
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