The Special Honorable Mention and Profile for the July 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest: Deborah Bowman, “Our Last Day”

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

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YOUR HUMBLE HOST

It is my pleasure to present to you the Special Honorable Mention winner from the July 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest, Deborah Bowman, “Our Last Day”

Please note: Special Honorable Mention is NOT a consolation prize.

Occasionally we have a story that does something special but doesn’t neatly fit into a category, so we award a Special Honorable Mention. 

Don’t think somebody gets a Special Honorable Mention as a sympathy vote. They don’t. It’s my way of saying, out of the all the entries, this was unique and deserving of recognition.

Debbie brought us a unique story under difficult circumstances. She had, I believe, set writing aside, and it was during a conversation we had that she decided to “pick up the quill” again, so to speak. That’s always gratifying to hear.

This unique piece will tug at your heart strings because it’s a true story, but…

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Some Words

Whatever you’re feeling, it will eventually pass. You won’t feel sad forever. At some point, you will feel happy again. You won’t feel anxious forever. In time, you will feel calm again. You don’t have to fight your feelings or feel guilty for having them. You just have to accept them and be good to yourself while you ride this out. Resisting your emotions and shaming yourself will only cause you more pain, and you don’t deserve that. You deserve your own love, acceptance, and compassion.

Lori Deschene

Ben & Cody Jinks

 

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I have always loved music, in particular, country music. But once I had my kids, life got busy and I didn’t have time to listen anymore.
A couple of years ago Ben walked in and said, “Mom you have to hear this song! It’s us!”
It was Mama Song, and it was definitely us!
I had seen Cody’s videos and been sharing them for quite sometime before that day, so I was surprised I hadn’t heard it before. But, it was the perfect song that described this mother and son relationship.

A year or so later I would lose my beautiful tortured boy to suicide on Thanksgiving Day 2017.
For a few months I was in a fog. Hell, I may still be. But, a couple of months after his death, I started listening to Ben’s music. Ben loved music, in particular Texas country and rap.  Yeah, rap. Ugh. I can’t do the rap but I dove into the country!
At Ben’s funeral we played Alan Jackson’s “Drive” because it reminded him of his uncles.

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. That had always been our song since the first time we watched “Remember the Titans” together.

Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again”. He Loved Wiz Khalifa! When he was a freshman, the principle had to tell him to quit  writing Wiz on everything!! No, he didn’t get in . The principle loved him. Hell, everyone loved him!

His girlfriend, Ashton, had told us his favorite song at the time he died was Chris Young’s “Neon”. So we played that as well.

Sadly, we lost her the next week, the same way. She wanted to be with Ben.

I wanted “Mama Song.” That had to be played! The pastor wouldn’t let us play it in the church, so we had it blasting at the graveside!
On his headstone we had the words to Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” inscribed. Ben had also been the one to play that for me.

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That was the night I knew I would lose him. That was the song playing when I picked his pallbearers a year before they were needed. I knew that night. But, that’s another story.
It has been Cody Jinks that has brought me through these last months. His songs could easily be talking about my Ben. “I got an angel on my shoulder, but I got the devil too.” So poignantly perfect!

Ben’s quick wit, and bright smile disguised the darkness he was fighting. Yes, he fought hard to stay here. He told me he didn’t want to die. He told me that he loved his life. But the pull was to strong.

In Cody’s music, I hear that battle he fought! I wish I could have understood it better. When I hear, “Last Call For The Blues”, I picture Ben. I can hear myself saying those words to him.

“I’m Not The Devil.” I can hear him saying that to me. But, I never thought he was. He was harder on himself than those of us who were fighting for him were.
“Loud and Heavy.” Holy crap! That song is perfect!

“Bad news surrounds me. It’s always found me. Creepin’ up when things are good. Yeah, the dark days find a way!”

That was Ben’s life. Nothing came easy for him.
“No Guarantees”, “Been Around”, “David”, “Heavy Load” and finally, “Head Case.”

“Sometimes it takes a thin white sheet to put things into place.”

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Since Ben’s passing I have seen Cody twice. Once in Witchita Falls, then at Loud and Heavy this last weekend. I have cried through “Mama Song” both times. Yesterday, I placed a guitar pick, given to me by one of Cody’s friends on Ben’s  headstone .A6DA004F-9301-41F4-9043-70651314C899

Thanks to the man who is helping me get through this!! Helping me to understand what was in my kids head. Damn.

Someday I will meet Cody and tell him how his music is bringing me back.

If you are going through what I am, give Cody’s music a listen. The understanding it brings can comfort you through the hard days.
Ben left me a great group of boys who I can call on anytime and I know they will be here for me! That’s what Cody is. He is one of my boys who I call on. He never lets me down.

National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255

Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss Suicide is a death like no other

Shared from Psychology Today

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Grief is a universal experience all human beings encounter. Though death inevitably touches our lives, research shows that many people grieve in varying and different ways. From the textures of emotions, to length of time in mourning, to even the kinds of rituals and remembrances that help heal the irreplaceable loss. Grieving the death of a loved one is never, ever easy.

Suicide, however, has been described as a death like no other … and it truly is. Death by suicide stuns with soul-crushing surprise, leaving family and friends not only grieving the unexpected death, but confused and lost by this haunting loss.

Who is a Survivor of Suicide Loss?

Despite science supporting a neurobiological basis for mental illness, suicide is still shrouded by stigma. Much of the general public believes that death by suicide is shameful and sinful. Others consider it a “choice that was made” and blame family members for its outcome. And then there are people who are unsure how to reach out and support those who have lost a loved one to suicide, and simply avoid the situation out of ignorance. Whatever the reason, it is important to note that the underlying structure of grief for survivors of suicide loss is intricately complicated.

When someone dies by suicide, research shows that at least 6 people are intimately traumatized by the death. Those who are directly affected include immediate family members, relatives, neighbors, friends, fellow students and/or co-workers. And because 90% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder, mental health clinicians are also included as a survivor of suicide loss.

From the nearly 800,000 suicides reported from 1986 through 2010 and using the 6 survivors per suicide estimate, it is believed that the number of survivors of suicide loss in the U.S. reaches 5 million people.

Understanding Suicide

Based on the accounts of those who have attempted suicide and lived to tell about it, we know that the primary goal of a suicide is not to end life, but to end painPeople in the grips of a suicidal depression are battling an emotional agony where living becomes objectionable. Most people who die by suicide have a significant depression narrowing their problem solving skills. Corrosive thinking reduces optimism, the hope of possibility and increases feelings of helplessness. The depressive illness itself makes it virtually impossible to hold onto any semblance of pain going away. While some may argue that a person who dies by suicide has done so by their own choice, I argue that serious mental illness, in fact, limits choice. Studies of those who have survived their suicide attempt and healed from their depression report being astonished that they ever considered suicide.

Why Grieving is Different

Research has long known that suicide survivors move through very distinctive bereavement issues. Family and friends are prone to feeling significant bewilderment about the suicide. Why did this happen? How did I not see this coming? Overwhelming guilt about what they should have done more of or less of —become daily, haunting thoughts. Survivors of suicide loss often feel self-blame as if somehow they were responsible for their loved one’s suicide. Many also experience anger and rage against their loved one for abandoning or rejecting them—or disappointment that somehow they were not powerful enough, loved enough or special enough to prevent the suicide.

These mistaken assumptions plague survivors of suicide loss for a very long time. Many struggle for years trying to make sense of their loved one’s death—and even longer making peace—if at all—with the unanswerable questions that linger.

Society still attaches a stigma to suicide. And as such, survivors of suicide loss may encounter blame, judgment or social exclusion – while mourners of loved ones who have died from terminal illness, accident, old age or other kinds of deaths usually receive sympathy and compassion. It’s strange how we would never blame a family member for a loved one’s cancer or Alzheimer’s, but society continues to cast a shadow on a loved one’s suicide.

What also makes grieving different is that when we lose a loved one to illness, old age or an accident, we retain happy memories. We can think back on our loved one and replay fond memories, share stories with joyful nostalgia. This is not so for the suicide survivor. They questions the memories, “Where they really good?” “Maybe he wasn’t really happy in this picture?” “Why didn’t I see her emotional pain when we were on vacation?”Sometimes it becomes agonizing to connect to a memory or to share stories from the past—so survivors often divorce themselves from their loved one’s legacy.

Survivors of suicide loss not only experience these aspects of complicated grief, they are also prone to developing symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder—a direct result from their loved one’s suicide. The unspeakable sadness about the suicide becomes a circle of never ending bewilderment, pain, flashbacks and a need to numb the anguish.

Ways to Help a Survivor of Suicide Loss

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, there are many things you can do. In addition, by reaching out, you also help take stigma out of the equation.

  1. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the death. Extend your condolences, express your feelings of sorrow. Make sure you use the loved one’s name. “My heart is so sad that John died.” Many who have lost someone to suicide have a broken heart, clinically called StressCardiomyopathy, and really need your empathy, compassion and understanding to heal.
  2. Ask the survivor if and how you can help. Though they may not be ready to accept help, asking signifies that you are there—not avoiding or distancing during this tragic event. The notion of being there if needed is extremely comforting for survivors.
  3. Encourage openness. Be accepting of however survivors need to express their feelings. It may be with silence, with sadness or even anger.
  4. Be patient. Don’t set a time limit for a survivor’s grief. Complicated grief can take years to process. Moreover, don’t limit a survivor’s need to share and repeat stories, conversations or wishes. Repetition is a key factor in grief recovery.
  5. Listen. Be a compassionate listener. This means don’t look to fix things.The greatest gift you can give someone you care about who has survived a suicide loss is your time, reassurance and love.

Ways to Help Yourself if You’re a Survivor of Suicide Loss

  1. Ground yourself:  It may be very painful, but you must learn to hold tightly to the truth that you are not responsible for your loved one’s suicide in any way, shape, or form.
  2. Don’t put a limit of your grief. Grieve in your own way, on your own time frame. It will take time to find a place for your sadness and loss. It may take even more time for you to feel hope again and envision possibilities.
  3. Plan ahead. When you feel ready, assist your family in finding ways to mark your loved one’s birthday, family holidays or other milestones. Understand that new moments, experiences or events will be met with sadness, even with emotional setbacks. Preparing for how you will move through these calendar dates will help minimize traumatic reactions.
  4. Make connections. Consider joining a support group specifically designed for survivors of suicide loss. The environment can provide a mutually supportive, reassuring healing environment unlike anywhere else.
  5. Give yourself permission. To cry. To laugh. To seek professional help if you need it. Remember that you are moving through the most difficult of losses—and you can take control of the path to healing.

Citations

Feigelman, W., Gorman, B.S. & Jordan, J.R. (2009). Stigmatization and suicide bereavement. Death Studies, 33(7):591-608.

Hendin H, et al. (2000). Therapists’ reactions to patients’ suicides. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(12):2022–2027.

Jordan, J. (2001). Is suicide bereavement different? A reassessment of the literature. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 31: 91–102.

Sakinofsky I. (2007). The aftermath of suicide: Managing survivors’ bereavement.  Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 52(6):129S–136S.

Sudak, H., Maxim, K., & Carpenter, M. (2008). Suicide and stigma: A review of the literature and personal reflections. Academic Psychiatry, 32(2):136-142.

Young,  I. T. et. al. (2012). Suicide bereavement and complicated grief. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(2):177-186.

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Is this Real?

It is completely weird to say my son’s headstone is awesome, beautiful or worst of all, perfect. But it is all of those things.

To this day, I rarely use past tense words. Was, had, use to. They don’t just slide off the tongue. I actually have to think about it.

When does it change? Will it be a decision I make, or will it just happen one day and I won’t even notice?

It’s going on 8 months and it’s still not real.

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I go out to his grave at least twice a week, most weeks more than that. I change his flowers. I add things, I take things away. I am careful to leave the things his friends put on there. But I wonder when will they stop visiting him. Life goes on. At what point will I remove the things they have placed there?

For me (most days) Ben is not dead. He is just not here right now. On the days that I realize he won’t be walking through the door, I am inconsolable. I just want to be alone those days. Those days are getting further apart. Will they stop altogether one day? I hope not. Then it will be real. I never want it to be real.

A visit from Ben

 

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A couple of nights ago my nieces, Faith, Kasey and I were talking about Ben. We had been out to the cemetery because the girls wanted to see the lights at night. When we came through the door I pointed to a picture that Samantha and I had taken with Ben at my cousins wedding. He was an usher so he had to wear a suit. But he also had to wear a blue bow tie!! I was not a fan of that picture (or the suit). I thought he was too handsome to be wearing a bow tie.

Anyway, I was telling the girls how Ben always makes the picture crooked as I’m straightening it for hundredth time. I reach over and straighten another one that was crooked as well. As soon as I sit down Kasey says “Ben, tilt any picture in the room.” I didn’t really think anything about it.

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An hour or so later, the girls are sitting on the sofa watching YouTube videos and I’m in my chair watching the news. All of a sudden my daughter Samantha’s dog, Miley, jumps up and starts growling and barking! The hair on her back is standing up (Miley doesn’t live here, she is just visiting). She is barking at one of the pictures on the wall. A picture of Samantha and Ben.

I tell the girls she is barking at Ben. It’s the only thing that makes sense because the other 3 dogs weren’t making a sound. They didn’t even react. They always react! When one dog barks they all bark! EVERYTIME!

About 10 minutes after Miley settles down, Faith says, “Aunt Sherry the picture is crooked again!” Then, “So is that picture! And that picture!” Every picture in the room was crooked!! He always lets me know he is still here.

Thanks son.

The First Sign

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This is my son Ben and his beautiful girlfriend Ashton.  We lost him on Thanksgiving 2017 to suicide.  A week later, Ashton took her own life as well.  To say it was the most painful time in my life is an extreme understatement.

Ben suffered from Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder.  Ashton suffered from a broken heart and bullying.  Several kids blamed her for Ben’s death.  Those kids did not know what Ben had dealt with for most of his young life.

In the days and months since I have had many signs that Ben is with me. The first was the night after his passing.

Ben has had a Walker Coon Hound for about 8 years. While she is Ben’s dog, guess who took care of her most of the time?  Yep, good Ole Mom!  When it gets dark and all the animals start coming out of the woods behind our house she goes nuts baying at them.  So, each night I bring her inside so that she doesn’t keep the neighbors up all night.  I’ll usually take her out once or twice before I go to bed.  It’s normally a simple procedure.   Since she has an 11ft leash, I can stand on the porch and she can wander around until she finds the right spot to go potty.  Then we go straight back in and into her kennel she goes.

Since life goes on whether I like it or not she still had to be taken care of.  I brought her in as usual.  A few minutes after being in her kennel she started making a sound I had never heard before.  It sounded like whining and groaning at the same time.  I decided to take her out and see if she needed to potty.  But the minute I got the leash on, she started dragging me toward the door and down the steps we go!  She had her ears perked up and she was listening to something.  She was scanning trying to find it.  Then suddenly she put her head down and started sniffing.  She started pulling me and then her head would fly up and her ears would perk.  She just kept listening and scanning again.  I have 3 acres and we walked this whole place doing that procedure over and over again. She never found what she was looking for or what she was hearing.  After searching the front porch she gave up and went back into her kennel.

I 100% believe Ben was calling her name.  When we came back in she laid down in her kennel and cried!  She knew he was gone now.  She had never done that before and she has never done it since.

I know this was long but it is just the first of the many signs I have had. I will tell you others at another time. If you get this far God bless your heart for doing so! ❤️ 13094111_10208607232072536_4177980844889983265_n