Susan’s Story, Part 1: ‘Missing Michael – A Story by Blog’

P1011034Susan lost her son Michael to a drug overdose on the 22nd January, 2010. I, for one, cannot begin to understand what someone must go through after such a loss.

However, I gained some appreciation from the Susan’s extraordinary writing in a blog she published on our online recovery community Wired In To Recovery. I was captivated and deeply moved by Susan’s writing, as were many other people in our community.

I decided it would be a good idea to edit down Susan’s writing into a more manageable size and publish it in a single document. However, I found this difficult, as there was so little I felt I should edit out.

So I thought, “Why not just cut back a little, break it up into several parts, and publish that? I can see the response of our audience to this form of Story, and always cut back later.” (I should mention that I have been talking to Susan about this process and she is quite happy for me to try whatever I wish to get her Story ‘out there’). So here we go.

‘My son has died (5th February, 2010)
I thought I would join this community as I have been searching the net for support and I wanted to share my sadness with someone who might understand.

I have had some wonderful support from Elizabeth and Sue who have both lost sons to addiction, so thank you for that. But I want to make a difference to other people’s lives, so my lovely son Michael did not die in vain. Sue x

Death certificate (6th February)
Guess what? Didn’t sleep and this morning the postman brought some more cards of condolence, which I have found very supportive. And there it was in the pile, a death certificate!

Not even a real one, but an ‘interim’ death certificate, because of ‘cause of death unknown’. Have you ever held a death certificate? It’s not real. It’s like living a bad dream and even holding this single piece of paper has made it even less real in a funny kind of way.

Is this what life is all about? A birth certificate and then a death certificate, kept in a nice little ‘keepsake’ box? Oh Michael, where are you?

Pain (later, 6th February)
You know in your head that the pain in your heart is not physical, but emotional. However, it feels so painful, like a tightness in your chest that you cannot relieve. The pain of the loss of my son is real and I do not know what to do.

Michael was loved by so many. On Saturdays, we always met for coffee even when he was begging and homeless. The looks we used to get, but he was and always will be my son. Not the junkie, the beggar, but a wonderful young man who took the wrong road.

How I would like to cuddle him now and make him warm and safe, my lovely son. Sue x

Reality (7th February)
I think that maybe reality is starting to hit me and I keep pushing it away. I have had so much support in my grief. I value the comments and real feelings that are being sent to me [on Wired In To Recovery – DC] from ex-users and their honesty is so humbling.

Tony A, in one of his blogs, wrote about, “Never being more alive as when you want to die,” and “When you become content, it can also feel cold and alien.” I can associate with these feelings – to feel is better than not feeling at all.

I know that Michael was very much alive, although to many people he looked half-dead. (Gosh, did I say that, because he is totally dead now?!) When he was sectioned, he became like a caged animal craving freedom. Living on the streets to him was more like being alive than shut away and ‘safe’.

You know, Michael and I had more in-depth conversations than anyone I knew. We talked about such deep feelings, crazy thoughts and what life was about. I will miss those conversations. Where will I get someone like that again? My lovely son, who led such a troubled life but gave me so much; not just despair, heartache and worry, but a glimpse into a different way of thinking.

Thank you for allowing me to voice my hurt and reflect on a life lost. What a legacy he has left for me. Sue x

PS. Tony, I would like to thank you for this piece from one of your blogs:

“This was leading to the irrational thought that you’re never more alive as when you want to die. In fact, the memory of the desperation I was in, when active in addiction, at least allowed me to feel something, if only agony. I still felt something.

This contentment I’d got now was so cold and alien. My addictive character doing a sneak via the side door. It’s a tricky f*****r, my addictive character. Always waiting in limbo, waiting to slide into my mind with some crazy distorted thought pattern. Waiting to trigger yet another episode of madness.” Tony A

Reflections (7th February)
I feel numb. I want to feel and shout and kick and scream, but it’s as if I can’t feel. What can I do? Who can I be angry with, when so many of the professionals say, “It was Michael’s choice.”

Family and friends who say, “You did all that a mother could”, but they themselves did nothing. Michael’s brothers and sister are beating themselves up with thoughts and reflections of, “If only?” His dad too – where were you when he needed you?

What about Michael? What is the point of this outpouring of grief? Why didn’t these people care when he was alive. At times, both Michael and I felt so alone in this battle, and there were times when I too rejected him, my son. Regrets and sadness, but what a wonderful son he was.

Don’t miss opportunities! I notice that one of the purposes of Wired In is: “Making sure that society is more understanding of and helpful towards people affected by substance use problems.” Love and hugs, Sue x

Blame (8th February)
I have been asked several times if I blame anyone for Michael’s sudden death and I have been thinking this through over the last few days. I have also been asked whether I would feel differently if he had died of cancer and not drug addiction.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I often ask myself what is the purpose of blame? It will not bring Michael back. Certainly, some aspects of his care could have been done differently and I hope the services will learn from Michael’s sudden death (There is an NHS inquiry taking place, as he died whilst in their care).

I really believe that people with dual diagnosis often fall between the services, neither a ‘true’ drug addict nor a mental health sufferer. (How am I supposed to label/word these illnesses?) Also, how ill does a person need to become and how low do they need to go? I must have heard the phrase, ‘He needs to hit rock bottom’ a thousand times. What exactly is rock bottom? What does it mean?

I do believe that people with addiction are often treated with contempt by medical services; their problem is often viewed as self-inflicted. I am hoping that this certainly would not be the case with a person suffering from cancer – after all, they did not choose to have cancer.

This is a very important point because addicts do not choose initially to become addicted. They do not initially choose to steal or to become beggars on the street, or cause so much heartache to their families and loved ones. Addiction is like a growth that can completely take over a person’s life and body, just like a cancer can.

All I know is that I loved Michael and maybe if he had cancer his quality of life might have been better, and the understanding of others might have been kinder and definitely more supportive. I am not saying that cancer is an easier illness/disease to deal with, just different. Gosh, I feel as if I am being quite controversial here and I don’t mean to offend anyone? I know some of you might think I am rambling, but please understand that these are my views and reflections.

Michael was a person with thoughts, feelings and needs, not just a drug addict or a beggar who people thought they could abuse or piss on in the streets. I understand that people judge, but not one of us knows what lies around the corner or what life has in store for us. What I do know is that each one of us is a valuable human being and in a way Michael’s death has made that even clearer to me.

Talk soon. Tomorrow I will see my son in the Chapel of Rest. Love and hugs, Sue x

Overwhelmed (9th February)
It was horrible, seeing my lovely son lying there with make-up on, blue lips, sunk in and blood all over his ear. It was dreadful!

I needed to see him, but he looked worse than when I identified his body. It was horrid! I need to go back though, as I was so very distressed. I need to go and sit alongside him, not up close.

This is dreadful! I am sorry that you are reading this, but I need to get it out of my head. I am so sorry.

Homelessness: A Mother’s Story (9th February)
When my son was born and placed in my arms for the first time, so many emotions passed through my mind. So many hopes and dreams of what could be – barely a thought was given to the emotional turmoil that was waiting in the wings!

The years passed by and I saw my son grow from a chubby, cuddly, carefree toddler into a child full of life and laughter. I watched him change over the years, unfolding before my eyes, and was delighted at the sunshine and love that he brought into my life. Little did I know of the demons and devils ready to strike and snatch my child from my safe and loving care.

I watched my son over the years and felt I had given him the best I could offer. I thought I had provided him with a safe and supportive home, values to live by, and a sense of purpose. How was I to know that hate, hurt and humiliation were just around the corner?

My son slid down that path of self-destruction, one that tore our family apart, destroyed those hopes and dreams and nearly emotionally crippled me. It slowly washed away a vibrant, popular young man into one who cared little about life itself; only where the next hit was coming from. It made him lose all sense of reality, as his mental health suffered and he was unable to cope with everyday living.

For a mother to see her son deteriorate destroys her own sense of self-worth. For a mother to be unable to offer any kind of support makes her feel useless. For a mother to have no more answers, energy or solutions to an ever-increasing problem breaks her heart. For a mother to reach the answer that the only help she can give her son is to withdraw, destroys her very soul. I was that mother!

To then see your son become no more that a filthy, ragged being begging on the streets starts to destroy all hope and belief in humanity. To dream night after night of violence, destruction and death tires you to the very core.

To jump and start when the phone rings expecting the worst and to see every bin-liner thrown out onto the street as a living being, starts to destroy part of your rational thinking. To hear your son’s laughter as a child echoing in your ears brings so much sadness that no one can comprehend, and makes everyday life a lonely and sad place.

So when you next pass a homeless person by, please remember that he might be my son and could one day be yours. My son died on the 22nd January 2010 at the age of 28. Not when he was living on the streets, but whilst he was in the care of the Mental Health Services.

Denial (11th February, 2010)
Yes, I know this is one of the most common stages of grief and I am fed up with people saying, “What you are going through is normal.”

How can losing your son at 28 years old be normal? How can the years of knowing your son was slowly killing himself, or becoming the thief and beggar he became, be normal? Yet I still loved him, I still saw his potential as he dealt with every increasing mental health problems.

Michael was and is a very special person who had great insight, but at times little control over his need for drugs. Some people will disagree with that and say it is all about choice and yes I also agree with that comment. But we are talking about such a depth of need that only someone caught up in this cycle of destruction can really understand.

I do not believe my son is dead. He is sleeping in the chapel and I want to call him on his phone or send him a Facebook message. And what is so unreal is that I can still do that. When will the truth hit me that this nightmare is no such thing but the truth? Something I cannot wake up from, but need to face. All the time I believe it is a mistake. I do not want to face the truth.

It would be so easy to blot it all out with drink, food, sleep or drugs, and I am probably using a combination of all four. But I still cannot get it out of my head that it is a mistake – how can it be true? If I don’t accept it then I don’t have to feel it. Sue x

Monday night (15th February)
I don’t know what to do. I feel a little bit in control now, but so very, very lonely. I know I have many people who love me and my partner would come rushing down if he knew how I felt. But I just want Michael. I want to hold him tight. I want to remember him as a little boy when he was scared and he looked to me to give him comfort. Where was I when he needed me?

I remember how frightened he used to be as an adult when the voices came and he felt like he had no control when he was asleep or awake. It is not a nice thing to be scared. It is not nice to have no control over what you think and feel.

I feel exhausted with everything that is going on and I do not want tonight to end because it will be Tuesday and I cannot cope with the funeral getting closer. I want Michael to be alive. I do not want to burn him. I want to chat with him and laugh and to talk about his recovery.

When he was in Bournemouth, I would chat him in the rehab lounge and it was relaxing. I felt hope. We would walk and talk and have a coffee together and look in the shops and buy a little something. Charity shops were our favourites.

Who would begin to understand how Michael was so much more than a nutter or junkie? He was a lovely person who took the wrong turn and was trying so very hard to get on the path to recovery again. He just needed protecting a little more, he needed to just build up his confidence and find other coping strategies. Why has he gone? What am I going to do?

This feeling is so real. It’s like someone has blocked your windpipe and the pain is like a burning sensation that goes to your heart, my heart. I grieve and Michael lies dead all alone in that coffin with the pretty blue lining to match his eyes – eyes that will never open again. I will never see again…

Tuesday – the night before (16th February)
All day, I have been avoiding my thoughts and feelings because I need to stay strong. Now it is the night, I need to voice them so maybe I will get some sleep. How do I voice the feelings that do not seem to be inside me? It’s as if my feelings do not exist. Where are they?

Tomorrow is Wednesday, when my son will no longer exist. I know he will exist in my memories, but his body will be gone and I will be left with ashes. Ashes of what was once a vibrant young man – my son, Michael.

Michael, why did you have to go out that night? You were only meant to be going for a walk in the hospital grounds, but you didn’t come back. You were found in the morning in the hospital grounds by someone walking their dog. What happened?

So many people cared for you, but I know they never outwardly showed it and that made you sad and very lonely. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that you are gone. Why? I can’t bear to think about tomorrow and if I go to bed, it will be here like a living nightmare. If I stay up, maybe tomorrow will not come. Maybe it was all a bad dream.

What a waste. All that Michael had been through and survived. And then in the safety of the mental health system he died. What is the sense in that? He survived (at times only just) on the streets and in homeless shelters, but not when he was ‘in care’. I just can’t get my head around it.

But as I’ve said in previous blogs, blame will not bring Michael back. Tears will not bring Michael back. Pretending it hasn’t happened or avoiding going to bed will not bring Michael back to me.

You know what? When I sit here typing the pain in my heart is real, it restricts my breathing. I have noticed that whilst I am outwardly okay, my chest is tight and I often feel sick in my tummy. Funny old thing, isn’t it, the body?

The body – yes, Michael’s body – will be gone tomorrow, but tonight it lies alone in a coffin. No one there, cold and wasting away – MY SON!

Two little words – ‘my son’ – what do they mean? Did he belong to me, my son? Or as some people might say, he was only on loan, but I wanted him forever. I know we were two separate people and children and parents go their own way and that is healthy.

When your child is an addict, it’s sometimes as if they are stuck in a time warp. Michael never seemed as if was a 28-year old man. Many people were shocked at his age and put him at years younger. I know his emotional growth may have been stunted when he was heavy into cannabis at 14, but he went through more ‘shit’ in his short life than hopefully any of us.

Michael used to say it was as if people thought they had a right to kick you, to piss on you, or to ridicule you. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have no home, no warm cosy bed, not to feel safe. But I also ask myself, where was Michael safe, on the streets or in hospital?

I am just sitting here in front of my computer screen, waiting for the inspiration to write. Why, why don’t I just write down my feelings? Because I don’t have any bloody feelings! Where are they? Why aren’t I shouting or crying or screaming or pulling my hair out? Why am I so calm and collected, I want to be emotional, but if I lose control, then what?

It seems pointless writing any more. I don’t know what to say and I don’t know what to feel. Sue x

Wednesday – the day has arrived (17th February)
It has just gone midnight and I am tired, but if I go to sleep it will be the funeral. I know it will come anyway, but somehow it does not seem right to get all snuggled up in bed. Despite all my best efforts I could not avoid Wednesday. It was bound to come sooner or later – later might have been better.

What do you do if you don’t want to believe something? You can’t bury your head in the sand, because once you pull your head out it will still be there. What do they call it – ‘the elephant in the room’ – it took me a long time to actually understand what people meant by this.

What the hell am I talking about? Not only am I very tired, but I am rambling and talking rubbish. Good job none of you can stop me (except the website moderator), so I will ramble away all night, except I am too tired.

Tired of wasting time rambling away. You know what, I am sick to death of myself. Always wanting to do better, lose weight, get fit, get organised, be a better mum and nan, remember people’s birthdays, have a tidy house. The list could go on and on and perhaps what I should be doing is forget the extra weight – blame it on the menopause. In fact, I could blame most of it on the menopause (lol).

Families, friends, relationships – that’s what I want to do more of. Nurture them, spend time with these people, sit with them, listen. Take flowers to the lady across the road who lost her husband, take the old chap to the little tea rooms round the corner. All those little things that take such a small amount of time, but make a big difference.

No one knows what’s around the corner. It is the people that are important in our lives that matter. I have spent so much time worrying about unnecessary things and now I intend to slow down and just be there for those I care about. As I am writing this, I am also thinking of the people I work with and the strangers I meet. Yes, they too are important.

I need to slow down, as my heart is aching so much. It feels heavy. I need to escape, so goodnight my friends. Sue x

The Funeral (17th February)
It’s over.

Thursday – the day after (18th February)
I have nothing to say, no feeling. Just want to sleep. Thank you my lovely friends for your words and love. Sue

My brother (20th February)
I cannot write anything just yet, but thank you for your posts. Irene, thank you for the lovely poems and thoughts. My son wrote this about his brother and was brave enough to read it at the funeral and is quite happy for me to share it on my blog.

“My Brother Michael,

It’s just a shame that we have all got together for a funeral instead of a celebration, and that there are so many people here. Yet Michael died all alone.

Mike was more than my brother. He was like a dad growing up – not a bad one at that. He was always there for me and would do anything for me.

I idolised my brother when I was growing up, like most little brothers would. I had to watch as heroin, crack and schizophrenia destroyed the once outgoing, popular brother I admired.

I know Mike at times let a lot of people down who are here, including his family. But Mike was unique in that you had to love him, which I know is the reason why so many of you are here.

The thing that upsets me the most is that he used to phone, just to sing me a song or speak crap to me and I would always say, “I am busy” and I would ring him later, and now I can’t even keep that promise.

I think people who are in this room, no matter what, should always make time for their loved ones. Michael was only 28 and I can’t even make that phone call that I had promised – all of a sudden he was gone.

It’s funny what you could remember, the good, the bad and obviously with Mike the downright crazy! And I know that me and my family have lots of amazing memories of Mike and I am sure that everyone in this room has good and crazy memories of my big brother Mike.

17 February 2010

I’m sorry (20th February)
I’m sorry, but I cannot blog. I have no feeling, no words to convey. I just miss Michael and want him home. I am so sorry. Sue x

Driving (21st February)
Today, I drove my car for the first time. It is a month tomorrow since they found my beautiful son face down in the dirt. As I was driving back from taking Paul and his family home, I remembered a time not so long ago when Michael walked to my house from Portsmouth, with ulcerated feet. And it is a long walk.

It must be at least eight miles and as I drove along that long stretch of road, I imagined his pain and his determination to get to my house and safety. Except it wasn’t like that when he arrived. I was trying the ‘tough love’ approach and although I ran his a bath and soothed his feet that looked and smelt like they had gangrene, I do not feel I was warm and inviting enough.

Michael had bites all over his back and was shivering with cold. He sat and cried on the sofa. I knew my partner Jon did not want him there and I wish I had lived on my own so I could have given him a home. But drug addiction brings many demons to your door and I’ve had my share of them.

I had to go to work the next day. I had taken so much time off supporting Michael, so I took him to the hospital and left him there. I left my son at the hospital entrance with bites all over him, ulcerated feet and no home. I just left him.

Imagine what that must have been like. I will never forgive myself for doing that, but I thought that I had to be tough. Everything else I had tried had failed and still we were going round on this merry-go-round. But, and this is a big but, Michael also had mental health problems.

I really hate myself. Why did I move? Why did I not let Michael live with me? Why did I put my partner before my son? I know deep down I could not help Michael any more, but maybe I could have – if only I had tried a little harder.

To see your son begging on the street, I can’t bear this pain. Somehow, I should have done more. I hate myself. I know I did not turn my back on my son, but if only I had done things a little differently. What is this tough love all about? I don’t know what to do. I hate myself.

I can’t write anymore. I just want to scream and hide away. I want to talk with my son. I want to walk with my son and hold his hand, but that is not possible any more. Sue x

One month later (22nd February)
Michael died exactly one month ago today, on Friday 22nd January 2010. It seems like a decade ago, but at the same time only yesterday. I felt in a terrible way yesterday and was crying so much. My partner seemed to get cross with me and said I was being irrational and threw his book across the room. He said he didn’t know what to do and I don’t want him to do anything. I don’t want anything.

I don’t know how to be. Should I cry, shout or what? I feel that now the funeral has passed I should move on, get better, get back to work.

I have found all of the comments so supporting and valid. I love the poems and writings that people have sent me and also the comments that have made me stop and reflect, and question myself. That is good, a little painful perhaps, but I need to get some kind of meaning out of all this.

I remember writing that blame serves no purpose, so why deep down do I blame, not only Michael and me, but the services that are meant to support addicts and mental health sufferers? I guess I am trying to make sense of this madness and in doing so feel I am going a little mad myself.

I am also aware that I am writing a lot of crap, but I need to somehow work this out. I just can’t seem to get any understanding. So many memories and they keep hitting me. I remember the things I didn’t do or that went wrong, instead of the many things that went right. I just wish I could have another chance, but maybe we would all have taken the same road.

I am very aware at this moment in time how easy it would be to destroy myself, but it seems wrong to laugh and to enjoy when my son is dead. But then I remember him clearly saying to me, “Don’t worry about me, mum.” Easier said than done.

What a load of rubbish I have written. I can’t seem to write logically at the moment, but where is the logic in death or this terrible legacy of addiction that destroys so many lives? I am just sitting here thinking, “What shall I do? Shall I do nothing or shall I get up or what.” I seem to be like a person who has lost her way. Maybe I will find the right path again, but until then my lovely friends. Sue x

Letting go (23rd February)
I can’t, I just can’t do it. I have just listened to Owen Allen’s solo called ‘Letting Go’ and I wish I could ask God, “Lord, I need you, come and help me out again.” I was driving home this afternoon after visiting the funeral parlour to sort out a few things and all of a sudden this overwhelming sadness swept over me. I had to pull over as I was sobbing my heart out. I do not mean to go on and on, but I do not know how to behave.

I am trying to be constructive by seeing friends, and tomorrow I am attending a meeting for parents/partners involved in addiction. I used to go two groups in Portsmouth for parents and partners and carers, but feel I can’t go any more as I offer no hope. I went for the last time to the Monday night group a few weeks ago, and tomorrow I will go for the last time to Families Anonymous.

You know, I wonder how I would have managed without this blog, as I feel so shut off from the rest of the world. You see some people looking at me with sorrow, others with despair, and also those who think I should be getting on with my life.

Actually, what is my life, as I spent so much of my emotional and physical life with Michael? Not always with him physically, but unconsciously and emotionally, and now he is gone. If I sit here and try to think of things rationally, I know that Michael is not here any longer, but it is as if I won’t believe it. I feel he will call, or I should go and see him in hospital or maybe send him a text. You know, I keep thinking what is the point? Again, rationally, I know there is a point, but what is it?

I was interested in a blog I read about choice. Rationally, I know that I have a choice to feel this crap, or maybe get on with my life. Just at this moment, it does not feel like a choice, but if there is a choice I want to feel this crap. I want to shout and scream, blame and curse. I want my son back. I want to believe he is still alive and as mad as this sounds, I will not choose to believe he is dead.

Where is my pain and anger? How can I set it free? Please help me to rationalise, help me to try and reflect on this crap I am feeling, but at the same time not feeling. Please, Sue x

The Call (25th February)
I need to talk about something, as I am meeting someone tomorrow to mend some bridges. It is nearly five weeks since Michael died. On that Friday morning, I got in to work at 07:45, as I was undertaking some supervision with one of my team. I manage a mental health project for children and families based in primary schools in the heart of a big city – in its most needy areas – and manage a team of 11 practitioners.

Every Friday, we have a referral meeting at 09:15, which I chair, followed by a staff meeting. That day, I let me team know that I was expecting a call from a GP. At 09:45, my phone buzzed and it said number unknown. So I took the call and moved into a small therapy room adjacent to the main staff office. The call went something like this:

S: “Hello Sue C……….”

L: “Hello Sue, this is L.” (L is head of an adult mental health service)

S: “Oh hello L, are you okay?” (She sounded strained)

L: “Er, no, I’m sorry but Michael is dead.”

S: “No, you’re wrong, he can’t be. He’s in hospital.”

L: “Yes, I’m sorry, but he was found dead in the grounds of the hospital at half past seven this morning.”

S: “No……………………………………………….

I can’t remember much more after that. I know that I screamed and screamed, and I cried and cried. I sat on the floor hitting myself and screaming. I was inconsolable. I was like a mad woman, wailing and shouting and screaming (this all took place in a primary school and the noise I was making must have been heard everywhere).

I wouldn’t let anyone near me. I knew that people were coming into the room, but I could hardly breathe. It was like a living nightmare. It literally felt as if my heart was breaking. Even now, as I am writing this, I can feel a pain in my chest.

Somehow, I was taken to my daughter’s house. Then my other son and step-son were there, and my partner Jon arrived back from London. I know there were other people in the house, but I was unaware whom. Two people came from the hospital to talk through what had happened, but I can hardly remember any of this. I know that I was taken home and the rest was a blur, but is becoming clearer as time goes by.

The reason I am writing this is because I know that the way I was told about Michael’s death was completely unacceptable. I work for the NHS mental health services. My son was being cared for by the NHS mental health services. I was told by an NHS manager, over the phone.

We were all involved in the same services, in the same area, with on-line diaries. It would have been easy to find out where I was, the same place I was always at on a Friday morning. Yet no one thought to come and tell me personally, face-to-face. I could have been anywhere. I might even have been driving, using a hands-free phone.

My point is that I would never tell anyone tragic news over the phone when it could have been done face-to-face. However, whilst I know that what happened was wrong, I also feel for ‘L’ who has been troubled ever since by this incident. She came to Michael’s funeral and has spoken to the chaplain who conducted the funeral (who is the NHS hospital chaplain) about the phone call. So I am well aware that she is troubled.

‘L’ and I will often cross paths in the future. She is a good practitioner. Yes, she made a big mistake, but we all have to move on. So on Tuesday, I called ‘L’ and asked if she would like to meet informally for a coffee and to maybe talk through the phone call and build some bridges.

Well everyone, we are meeting tomorrow for coffee at 09:00 and I am feeling very anxious about this, because it will be a Friday morning and I don’t know what to expect.

I know it might heal things a little for me and I hope for her too, but I am hurting. I thought by writing this down and reflecting on what happened, it might start the healing process and, perhaps more importantly, help prepare me for tomorrow. I will continue the story later. Love Sue x

Meeting (26th February)
Hello everyone. As some of you might know, I went to meet with ‘L’ this morning, the lady who told me that my son had died. In fact, the words she used were, “I’m sorry, but Michael is dead.”

Bitterness, resentment, accusation – none of these things happened. It was a warm, healing meeting. Yes, it was difficult and painful, and I think both of us were anxious. ‘L’ gave me a hug when she saw me and we sat and chatted for nearly two hours. Her honesty and humility were a credit to her depth of personality.

I felt comforted by her presence, and although we both acknowledged that the way I was told was not right or supportive, ‘L’ was able to tell me what led her to make that phone call and I was able to ask some questions.
 On reflection, I feel part of me is starting to heal and, whilst I still feel so pained by Michael’s death, I think I started to take a positive step forward this morning. A lot of what ‘L’ and I talked about will remain between the two of us.

Next week, I will be taking another step on my journey when I meet the staff who cared for Michael during his three-months stay in hospital, many of whom have been very disturbed by his death. I will reflect on what I hope to get out of the meeting. Maybe I’ll ask some questions of the staff members, not one of whom is to blame. However, I am hoping this will be a time of healing and reflection. The formal inquiry should answer the more indicting questions.

You know what? You are all a great bunch and when I win the lottery I will invite you all to a big party (Gosh, this is a funny feeling, to feel a sense of joy!). Oops, I’ve just remembered – I don’t do the lottery!

Should I be feeling this joy when Michael is no more than a tub of ashes? But then that is no longer Michael. My son was, and will always be, the loveliest of men and even at his lowest I longed to hear his voice so that I knew he was all right. Michael’s spirit will linger on and his legacy to me is hope – hope for my future. Thank you Michael, and thank you to all my Wired In friends. Love Sue x

The end of the month (28th February)
Guess what? It is the end of February and tomorrow is March. Michael died in January and for some strange reason it is as if he never existed or still exists. I can’t explain what I mean, but life goes on and people are saying, “And how are you now, Sue?

How do they expect me to be? My brother-in-law said he thought he saw me the other day and I looked so miserable. How did he expect me to look? My son was dead and I should have been laughing as happy as anything?

The end of the month and I am due to go back to work in a week. I said I would pop in and say hello to everyone this week and I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I want to do it. I just want to hide away and think about Michael.

Don’t tell me I have a choice because I know damn well I have a choice, a choice to be happy or sad, to stay ‘stuck’ or move on. Actually, at this moment in time, I want to be sad, and I want to stay stuck in my misery and feel sorry for myself. And feel sorry for Michael and to stay in the house and never return to work.

There, I’ve said it and you know what? I also feel like smashing up the computer because when I blog I feel better and I do not want to feel better just yet. Talking to a computer is okay, but it is not quite the same as face-to-face or with people who understand. Yet, I have people who understand but again I choose not to talk to them. I have and want to withdraw and hide away.

Once again, I hear the security of my bed calling my name. Maybe I won’t get up tomorrow, maybe I will hide in my house and let the bills pile up and not open the door to anyone.

I know that I am also starting to shut my partner out. He has tried so hard to make me feel better and safe but I want him to leave me alone. Sometimes, I feel it would be better to be alone, to hide, to stab myself so I can at least feel some pain instead of this kind of nothingness. I don’t know if you understand what I mean. I want to say nothing, I want to feel nothing, but I have so much to say and my feelings are overwhelming – but also nothing! Sue x

Lost control (1st March, 2010)
Guess what – had a great bit of post today. Yeah, the funeral bill! Well, life is a barrel of laughs. And yes, I do think I am depressed and going mad. Sue x

Changes (2nd March)
I am sitting here after another very difficult day with a visit from the police about Michael’s death (another story another day!), thinking about how I would like to make some changes to my life. I need and want to move on.

Many of the members of Wired In have given me so much support and inspiration, from direct challenges (I like a challenge), to inspirational poems and sayings, ideas and worries about my health, personal disclosures, reflection diaries, and so many other ideas. Tonight, I shall reflect on all of that and look at a way forward and take into account so much. So, my dear friends, who I hope to meet in the future, I will think and reflect on my journey and with your love, support and permission, I hope to use this blog to outline my plan.

One of the songs we chose for Michael’s funeral was Oasis’s ‘Masterplan’ and it seems so appropriate. Funny thinking about it really, but the last song we played at Michael’s funeral was Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ – well, the words say it all. With love and lots of hugs down the wire. Sue x

My plan (4th March)
Well, I didn’t get very far today. Spent too long crying in the doctor’s surgery, where we discussed anti-depressants and other ‘rescuing’ remedies. We decided on a few more weeks off work, and that I should talk again with my manager about a ‘phased’ return.

Anyway, back to the task-in-hand. Maybe I survived today. I had some laughter with my gorgeous grandchildren and was able to enjoy some time over a cup of tea with my daughter, who I will tell you a little about another time.

I have been reading and responding to other people’s blogs on the site and have been encouraged by their stories and struggles on this road of life. I and have also listened to Sinead’s song ‘This is to Mother You’, which someone recommended I listened to. It has been inspirational. All the lovely poems people have sent me. I intend to have a new notebook to write them in and also special songs on an album.

So, the plan? Well, I have decided to learn from my son’s example when he was in rehab. Each day, I will reflect on something that I have really enjoyed, something I have learnt about, and something I have given another person. I won’t burden you all with this every day, but I will be keeping my own notebook journey, just as Michael did.

I found inspiration from one of the members of this site who takes time every Sunday to reflect on his week. I do not know if he keeps a ‘formal’ journal, but he takes time to look at what he has achieved, what he could have done differently, and other things personal to him. Thank you for sharing this with me.

I suppose one of the biggest things I need to do is to start to eat properly and enjoy all the plentiful foods that are around, and stop abusing my body with bad food. Gosh, there is so much I need to do, but where do I begin? I know I will begin with ‘now’ (today) and just take one step. That step today has been to think about a way forward.

Tomorrow, my one step will be to eat breakfast and take a multi-vitamin tablet. That sounds so petty when so many of you are fighting addiction, and yes it is petty in many ways. However, I need to start to heal my body, to get strong both mentally and physically because I have a passion to get better so that I can move forward in my life.

I don’t want to think that Michael died and now his mum is an emotional and physical wreck (because I am at the moment). I will get up out of this place and stand straight and strong. Because, you know what? I believe I can go forward and make a difference. Maybe just to one or two people’s lives. I can also help people I meet on the street by just saying, “Hello” or opening a door for someone.

Then there is my job. I am well placed in making a difference, but it’s still early days in my recovery and then there is my passion. Yes, I am getting carried away. So tomorrow, my first step is just to get up and have breakfast and buy some daffodils. Love to you all. Oh, by the way, I did not win the lottery. Well, the money lottery anyway! Sue x’

> Part 2