Four years

Four years. It is how long we take to get through high school. Through college (that is the plan for most parents!)

Medical school is four years.

I should know how four years should feel. I have done four year tasks many times.

These four years have been painful and slow with my grieving.

The first year is all fresh with firsts – first Christmas, first Thanksgiving, first birthday. The Angelversary. You struggle to focus, you are exhausted.

The second year is horrible. It stings and all the milestone days come again and you are reminded he is not coming home. You are still exhausted. Wake, rinse, repeat.

For me the third year was the year of figuring out balance. How to still function as a full time pediatrician, mom and wife yet still honor my need to grieve.

Fourth year? My grief is still here but the need to stay current with the daily changes in a pandemic world keep me more as a doctor and less as a grieving mom. This world is getting harder for those struggling with loss, addiction, depression and anxiety. I have seen so much anxiety in my pediatric population.

I honor Nolan today, his fourth Angelversary.

I really don’t want to cry all day. I don’t have time for that. Life goes on. This day will come again and again. How many more I will have to live through I do not know. I would rather put my energy and grief today into my purpose – why I am supposed to be here.

100% preventable?

You have seen this saying before.

I agree- suicide does not need to happen.

But when a person loses a loved one to suicide this saying can sting. It can be read as “You could have prevented him/her from suicide. You missed the signs. You failed.”

The act of taking your life to end your pain, to be under the trance that suicide is the answer to your problems- that is what COULD be prevented. But not all suicides can be prevented.

The first year of life without Nolan I had no interest in advocating for suicide awareness and prevention.

How could I say it is preventable if I didn’t stop Nolan from ending his life? I FAILED. He was taking his medication and seeing his therapist. We supported his decision to go back to college. He appeared the healthiest he had been the months before.

The good Dr. Gold, a pediatrician with years of experience, she must of known Nolan was that bad, that low.

HOW DID SHE NOT SEE THE SIGNS??

The months after Nolan died I was a busy detective. What did I miss?

He was doing so much better. He had goals and he had plans. I went through his phone and read his texts. College was going well (at least that is what his professors told me) but he was seeking a relationship. With someone. With anyone. It appears he would have great anxiety (depression and anxiety love to hang together) in social situations. So when rejection happened he wasn’t able to bounce back. It pushed him farther to feeling like he didn’t fit in. Was this the final straw? Was it school and it’s stress? Was it because he couldn’t lose weight? Was his medication dose increase the push to give plan to taking his life?

I still do not know where Nolan was the night before his suicide, nor where he went for most of the day. I imagine he went to the dunes and hung out at the beach. All alone. It was a beautiful September day. What was he thinking? Was he at peace with his decision and enjoying his last day on earth? I understand from my research that people do usual everyday things up to the minutes before they take their life.

I will never know.

The detective mom did see what Nolan did the minutes before he got out of his car with a shotgun, walked a dozen yards to a large rock mound in a construction site in view of his home and ended his life.

He watched a mundane YouTube video on his phone of his favorite gamers. No goodbyes to anyone. No note. No hidden meaning in any texts to anyone. He just ended his pain.

Tell me where the signs are with that?

It will be four years since Nolan died by suicide. The guilt can still try and take over my thoughts.

When the guilt pushes me to think I failed, I remember the following:

  • You cannot control another human being
  • You can make home safe and give tools to find help but you can’t make a person heal
  • Suicide is not the survivor’s fault
  • The act of suicide is not to hurt others, it is to end pain

I see the phrase suicide: 100% preventable in a different light. It reminds me of my role in helping others and bringing awareness to pain that leads to suicide. I cannot prevent every loss from suicide. I can be the person who listens and offers the tools to help and redirect to a path of recovery.