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Armen Bacon: My 10-year tour of ‘Griefland’

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The Fresno Bee
July 19, 2014

Alex and Armen Bacon

Alex and Armen Bacon

On the street, there are only a few signs of life this morning. I am awake early, a night of tossing and turning. Insomnia, I guess. It’s “that” time of year. I walk outside to get the morning paper, greeted by a pair of doves collecting twigs to build a nest. This gives me reason to smile on an otherwise uncertain day.

Caught in my annual grief relapse, tethered to that moment in time when everything in our lives changed, I wonder how can it be 10 years, an entire decade since we lost our son, Alex. Friends have been especially kind lately, knowing the day was approaching, going out of their way to send cards filled with love messages, texts that read, “Thinking of you.” Many, I imagine, are silently quizzing themselves about how we will cope, manage, on such an unhappy anniversary.

When this column goes to print, I will be in Seattle, Wash. Months ago, I was invited to speak at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual conference about the making of our book, “Griefland,” and the process of co-authorship. It’s odd knowing I’ll be out of town on the actual date, July 17, but Dan was rather insistent I accept the invitation, saying it would be a fine way to honor our son’s memory. Alex, after all, was the catalyst for my book-writing. He’s right, I know, but as the day approaches, I feel my heart nose-diving toward my feet, the ground quivering as if there is an earthquake in progress.

Joggers and cyclists, oblivious to my state of mind, smile as they carry out their early morning routines while I cross Friant Road en route to Highway 41 South heading toward the airport. Some are holding Starbucks coffee cups, others talking on cellphones, a large pack holding leashes and trying to keep pace with frisky pets. The road is full of travelers. The summer heat I normally love is an irritant this morning as I wish for it to pass, bringing cooler temperatures and another season — one with less angst attached.

Yesterday, I received an email that caught me off guard. Its tone was somber and tentative, from a long-time friend whose notes generally bring a smile to my face. She writes that a childhood friend is grieving the sudden loss of a son and wonders if maybe my book might help. She also asks if I will inscribe it with words of encouragement. A message of hope from one mother to another. I’m still wondering what I’ll write. That the ache dulls with time? That the journey feels like a blindfolded walk through a dark and dangerous wilderness? That I’m still crashing into walls after 10 years? My pen will write, “I’m so sorry that you’re here.”

Across the country, in Boston, a father writes about the steady trickle of mail that arrives almost daily, addressed to his son who died 21/2 years ago. The postal service, IRS, banks and credit card companies, even colleges and universities, are unknowing of our losses. Like me, he keeps every envelope, each solicitation, welcoming their arrival as if to suggest our kids might be hiding around the corner and about to find their way home any minute now. The mail stacks up.
There is no equator line when it comes to pain and suffering. It knows no ZIP code, transcends the rural and urban boundary lines, and is color blind to race and ethnicity. The outer landscape of our lives paints a diverse portrait with varying background scenery — more smooth lines and pastels used on some; more vivid, lively and attention-getting colors on others, but no one, I have learned, goes unscathed.

During the past few weeks, I have reread the early grief journals stored high in my closet and carrying words I was too scared to read until now. I have also scavenged through boxes of notes and letters, printed out emails from members of this unlikely cemetery club to which I am now a lifetime member. Nancy. Gail. Terri. Octavia. Liz. Dakota. Robin. Christine. Kristine. Karin. Sue. Pearl. There are so many of us holding vigil, leaving the porch lights burning, hoping our kids will show up, come home. For all of us, life was normal and then, suddenly, it was not.

Ten years is a very long time. I should be better at this by now, but I am still fumbling through my grief. The air still hurts. I am terrified his face will fade from my memory. Drowning myself in writing, I befriend the silence that arrives this time of year. Some may feel that this is a moment, a memory, too personal to share. But those who know me will know it is a writer sharing her truth and being human. A column without a bow tied at the end.

My mother will call me later today to make sure my plane landed safely and gently tell me the words were too harsh, too sad for her to read. I will convince her I’m better now that my thoughts are on paper. And then I’ll hang up and cry.

Permission to reprint given by the author.

About the Author: Armen D. Bacon is a writer and co-author of “Griefland – an Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She is working on a new collection of essays, “My Name is Armen – a Life in Column Inches.” Please visit her website, Griefland. Email: armenbacon@gmail.com

Other articles on this topic:
Griefland: Armen’s Story (drug overdose)

Authors Face Loss of Their Children

Navigating the Holiday Blues

Bereaved Parents 150X150


  1. Thanks, Peggy. I will check those sites out. The Lord knows I need something. Thought I had it figured out for a while…

    • I visited your blog about the death of your son, Brandon. So sorry for your loss.

      Did you receive permission from Pastor Lineberger to reprint his article on your blog? If not, reprinting a post from my blog without my permission is not acceptable. You must ask a blogger for permission to repost and, in most cases, once given permission, you must include a link back to the original blog. Please contact me direct at peggy@sweeneyalliance.org

      Thank you,
      Peggy Sweeney, editor

      • lensgirl53 says:

        “Permission to reprint given by the author.” This is a statement at the end of the article which perhaps, to make it perfectly clear to the reader should be re-phrased to read: To reprint this article permission must be obtained from the author. But as it is stated now…it looks as if permission is being given to anyone who wants to use it. I will quickly remove it from my blog as I never intended to cause you distress. It was only meant to help the few readers who come my way who are dealing with the devastation of suicide.

      • No need to remove. Just include the link back to my page. I have a copyright clause on my blog that states about reposting. He gave ME permission to share his eulogy, not everyone. it was not a blanket permission. You also did not include his bio. It is a very good piece for anyone coping with a suicide death. Thank you.

  2. I am approaching the first anniversary of my only son’s death. Brooks was murdered on Sept. 9, 2013 and I have yet to find any kind of peace. I have great support from family, friends of mine and Brooks, and colleagues, but all the compassion and empathy in the world will not bring my son back and I just can’t imagine another year of this heartache, much less ten years. I sometimes wonder why I can’t get over this, as I was always able to fix things in our lives. I always was able to make things better, for myself, my son, my wife, and others…I was the “giver” of all that I had, and my son was the same way. Now, I find I have nothing to give any more and that makes everything even harder. So much of me was lost that day, and I don’t know how to get it back. I want to be the person I was before, but know that will never happen, and so I strive daily to go about this “new normal” in a way that will honor my son. I am failing at that now too, and am slowly drifting away from all that once was good and special in my life. I know there is hope, and will continue to search for it, but it seems so far away. I read experiences of others who have lost children, and I share with others on another online site, and I pray that will be my salvation. Thank you Peggy for posting Armen’s story, and thank you Armen for what you do for others on this same journey. I just hope that “Griefland” is not where I will be living the rest of my life.

    • Hello Wade,
      I am so very sorry to hear about the death of your son, your only child. This website has some good articles by parents with no serving children as well as those whose child was murdered. Also, visit the Good Grief Library. Note that there are several books written by parents with no surviving children. Another book I highly recommend is Grieving Dads to the Brink and Back by mr. Kelly Farley. If I can be of any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me.
      Sending warm hugs,
      Peggy Sweeney, Editor

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