The holiday season has come and gone once again. As always, I view it as bittersweet. The holidays bring up too many reminders of my son Paul who died just three months shy of his 28th New Year’s Eve birthday. We visited his gravesite on his 45th birthday – as we do on his death day and birthday every year.
I also view the holiday season with gratitude. Besides my continued good health, the love and support of so many family members and friends, and my ability to live a productive life, that I can even think in terms of being grateful is a miracle. However, as bad as life was after Paul died, and as much as I continue to miss him, I have found out that with such a tragedy come unexpected gifts.
Paul’s death has made me a stronger person, physically and emotionally. It was as if I accomplished getting stronger through brute force. I met and interacted with people who had been through similar experiences; I took writing classes and workshops; I went back to work outside my home with my usual verve to compete on the job and to excel in my work; I embarked on a daily exercise program. I was obsessively persistent in dealing with my grief and becoming a productive person again.
I have reinvented myself into poet and creative writer. Four months after Paul died I found that poems just came spontaneously out of my pen. Though I write prose more than poetry, poetry is my love. My poetry writing has become my companion and my savior – something I can turn to any time, any place.
I also created a memoir with the goal of helping others who have experienced a loss like mine – Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. I have a new writing career as a web journalist, and I’m working on a novel. I have been able to fulfill my life-long dream to work as a writer.
My husband and I have a stronger marriage probably by a combination of my drive to deal with the pain, suffering, and loss, and Bob’s willingness to wait until I got better. We realized early on that our grieving processes were different, so we were patient, we gave each other a lot of space, and we respected each other. We gave each other the space to grieve in our own way. Though 2016 was a bumpy one for my husband health wise, I’m confident we will still be able to travel and enjoy many diversions such as movies, theater, and opera and walks at the beach near our home.
My mission in life to erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide, in hopes of saving lives also continues. To that end I created a CD of our son Paul’s wonderful jazz piano compositions – Paul Sharples at the Piano – with all profits going to charities that share my mission. In this way, I hope to be able to perpetuate Paul’s memory and save the lives of people who suffer as he did.
Happy New Year, everyone. What are you grateful for as 2017 begins?
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