Does It Get Better?
by Sue Endsley
THEN ~ article submitted 2013
It has been almost 14 years since my youngest of three sons, Ryan, took his life at Niagara Falls. I definitely remember those first days, weeks, months, the first year. Three years after Ryan’s death I started a support group for suicide survivors. When people new to the grief of losing a child attend the support group their first questions are does it get better? Will I survive this? Helping others survive and get beyond those first years is what also helped me in my healing and moving forward. So the answer is yes, it does get better.
But it does take a while and you do have to want to move forward. Most important of all is that moving forward does not mean leaving the memory of your child behind. I have moved ahead and keep Ryan’s memory with me always. And I do still get knocked over by a wave of emotion now and then, but it is much less often than at first.
The moving forward actually took me by surprise. I remember thinking on the ninth anniversary of his death that I couldn’t believe nine years had passed already. And then it struck me – life is kind of “normal”. I guess about as normal as it can get after losing a child but definitely better than it had been the “first year”. I also remember being amazed at how I was nine years later. Because I also remembered those first months when I was sure I would never laugh again, never “see color” again, never… survive. But I have and life is good again. Still filled with memories of Ryan, but also full of new memories being made with grandchildren.
So when I meet newly bereaved parents I try to offer support and show that YES, IT DOES GET BETTER!
AND NOW… 2017
My son, Ryan, youngest of three sons, took his life by jumping at Niagara Falls on October 1, 2000. When we received the news, it was like a double punch to the stomach. Punch one – your son is dead; punch two – by his own doing. My life was over, I thought. How can I go on?
At the ninth anniversary (2009) of Ryan’s death, I realized life was “normal” again. I didn’t think that would ever happen. But we had moved forward. There were still times, days, which were overwhelming. But basically, life had moved on. Daily trials and tribulations had resumed.
We now have two grandsons and a granddaughter and moved to a different house. This time there was not a “Ryan’s Room.” The Touched By Suicide support group I facilitated was very active. Helping others was the best help for me. At the meetings, I was able to talk about Ryan and share my feelings with people who knew and understood. I am a strong believer of support groups. The ability to express what is happening in your life to people who know and are experiencing the same feelings is beneficial. A lot better than talking to someone who does not understand.
My husband and I eventually separated and divorced, and I moved out of the area leaving the Touched By Suicide group in capable hands. The divorce was not because of our son’s death, though that often is the case. Ryan’s death kept us together for an extra ten years. When life returned to normal, the marriage difficulties also returned, and I left.
My son, Andrew, was very close to Ryan and felt he should have known Ryan’s struggles and prevented the suicide. I would say Andrew got stuck in life for over five years. It was hard for him to put his life back together and move forward. But eventually, he did. He got his teaching and coaching career back on track. He and his girlfriend set a wedding date. And I was scared to death! Often at the support group meetings, others would say, “Life was back on track. Everything was going well, and then we got the news”. It was terrifying even to think “everything was going well.” But it did go well. Andrew and Christine got married, and Ryan was with us in spirit!
The death anniversary can still be difficult, especially if other problems abound at that time. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if I’m upset because of the anniversary, or because of the current situation in my life. I have decided it’s both. If it weren’t for the anniversary to remember, I might not be so emotional. Or, if I weren’t so upset about current situations, the anniversary probably would not be so emotional.
Now I have reached a new, strange plateau. In two years Ryan will be dead for as long as he lived. That realization astounds me. I seem to be looking to that anniversary with anticipation and not dread. I’m not sure why other than knowing it marks another milestone to reach. I feel that new milestones come now with wonderment and not dread; with anticipation and acceptance, not avoidance.
Of course, none of this means I love Ryan less or that I forget him. To me, it means I’ve learned how to live with him in spirit instead of in flesh and blood. Ryan will always be my son and always be a part of my life. It’s just in a different way than Eric and Andrew are part of my life.
I have three sons: Eric 41, Andrew 38, and Ryan forever 19.
About Ryan’s Mom: Sue Endsley joined the club of bereaved parents on October 1, 2000, when her youngest son, Ryan, died by suicide. Sue founded the Touched By Suicide support group in Flower Mound, Texas. There are now four TBS support groups in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and last fall the organizers celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Touched By Suicide Walkathon to raise funds to support the organization and its programs with the Lewisville Independent School District.
Sue currently lives in Kerrville, Texas where she helps facilitate the Compassionate Friends local chapter. She is also planning the tenth year of Safe Place Retreat; a weekend program for bereaved parents, at Mo-Ranch in Hunt, Texas. Helping other bereaved parents is how Sue has learned to cope with losing her son.
“Thank you, Peggy, for sharing her story. We were in the same chapter with Sue when we lost Kyle she came in as we had started going”.