I've been in Canada for twelve days. I departed from home on August 25th, the day before what would have been my son's forty-eighth birthday. Since Pat died, unexpectedly, on a psych ward two years ago, it's been difficult to maintain my equilibrium. In Canada, I wanted to be in nature. I hoped to find some solace, some connection to my deceased son. I seem to "see" him outside -- in sunsets, in moonlight, in trees and flowers. In the wind.
I miss Pat, of course. I'm still grieving. The part that concerns me about myself, however, is something else. My anger. Why did my son have to have such a difficult, shitty life? Why did he die when he wanted to live? Why did both of us try so hard for so long to fight a such a formidable foe? Why are loving moms and dads often considered the "enemy" by our mental health system? Why is mental illness and our understanding and treatment of it still in the dark ages?
In the support group I run for families, one of the mothers mentioned a quote that goes something like, "A mother is as happy as her unhappiest child." When Pat was alive, my happiness was often impacted by his illness. When he was doing well, I was doing well. When he was suffering -- and let's be honest here, we really are talking about suffering -- I found keeping my own balance challenging. How could I be grateful for all the good things in my life -- my three wonderful daughters, my grandchildren, my friends, and every other blessing when one of my offspring was in serious trouble?
I know it's not just me. I see how other mothers and grandmothers in our support group suffer along with their ill children and grandchildren. If you haven't walked in our shoes, there's no way you can get this. It's like walking around with a hole in your heart. All the time. Everyday.
Pat's ashes are in my living room high on a shelf where he can watch family gatherings. He always wanted to be home and now he is. He loved his red electric guitar and his urn -- it's really a handsome black box -- has a three dimensional electric red guitar on it. The inscription reads, "Pat, You are the Music." When the time comes, my ashes will join his.
Meanwhile, I'm back. The Canadian lakes -- Moraine, Louise, Emerald, Peyto, and Bow -- and mountains I visited were varied and stunning. I walked on Athabasca Glacier at Columbia Ice Fields. I descended to underground hot springs and rode a gondola high above Banff. I saw my son everywhere. I hope he saw me. And Megan, Marisa, and Kerry I thought of you, too. I love you lots.
If you've discovered ways to keep joy in your life when you're in the thick of the battle with mental illness, please share your ideas and comment below.
Hope you're having a good week.