It Begins, Life Without My Son

SEP. 05, 2018

By Peggy Crandell


I see my life as two separate pieces. The life I had before my son died, and the life after.

This new life is not easy. It keeps moving forward solely because I wake up in the morning and get out of bed. My feet feel like they are mounted in cement. My heart and chest are heavy. I feel nauseous as if I’m about to make a speech or go bungee jumping. These feelings never go away. They are part of this new life. 

My old life is now foreign to me. Even though I remember my son like he was just here at the house visiting, I know I will never get that life back. I am watching it drift away over the horizon.

I’ve worked my entire adult life. I have a master’s degree, goals for my career, I’m able to contribute materially to the financial support of my family—but my children are my world. Every dream for the future included them, being with them as they grew into adults. My two children were four years and nine months apart; he was older. He was so gentle, patient and caring with his sister. They fought, of course, as kids do. But as they got older, they become closer. He would brag to his friends about her and proudly hang her artwork in his apartment. He was so proud of her. 

In one instant, my dreams changed forever. His father and I lost the boy we raised to develop his own life. His sister lost her only sibling—someone who was supposed to be with her to share new life experiences. We only had him with us for 23 years.

People who haven’t lost a child try to relate to my experience. Some share what they would do and how they would feel, but they really can’t and shouldn’t try. My therapist told me that, though it’s well-intentioned, most parents truly cannot put themselves in that place mentally because it would be too unbearable. I’ve been told that losing a child is the worst tragedy anyone should have to face. I agree.

What to do? How to move on without him in my world? I spent the first three months going through his phone, his computer, his notebook, trying to find answers. I talked with his friends and coworkers, hoping to understand his suffering. These efforts offered some clarity, but they really didn’t help. The feeling of guilt just compounded. 

Everything seems so hard, and it feels like a constant fight. I wish I could leap forward in time to when I am near the end of my life and able to stay in that future time. I would have lived my life; that future place would be easier.

With the recent report release by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) covering the increase in suicide deaths, there has been an increase in media coverage on suicide prevention. ABC News chief medical correspondent, Doctor Jennifer Ashton, shared on “Good Morning America” her personal experience when her ex-husband took his life. She said the family left behind (also called “survivors of suicide”) can experience shame, guilt, anger and blame. I feel all these things. These are my daily struggles in addition to denial and longing.

But I still get out of bed every day for my daughter. I want to help her through this. Together, we sought out mental health care. Mental health directories are vast, and they default by distance from your location. You cannot sort on the category “bereavement of a child due to suicide.” The professional bios are too generic, and it is too time consuming to research.

During my first encounter with a mental health professional, they just listened and gave me a hug at the end of 45 minutes. This was nice at first but not ultimately what I needed. I then saw a therapist referred from a support group. This therapist spent the first 25 minutes talking about her billing practices so she did not have deal with insurance. 

I would ask these providers for medical materials on specific subjects. They would never follow through. Finally, I found someone who would. It was a stressful, expensive and long process. 

Because my daughter is over eighteen, it was hard to help her through the medical treatment access process and insurance due to privacy laws. It is so burdensome and foreign to someone of her age. I could see where at some point she would be tempted to just give up. It was an effort to find the right fit, but I think we’re both there now.

I also attend a support group through Survivor’s Resources that my friend connected me to about a month after my son died. Her neighbor’s son had taken his life, several years before. She called me while she was driving. She pulled off the road to look for a support group in my area. At first I hesitated as I was not ready to hear other people’s stories. But once I got myself there, they quickly became my lifeline. Going there is the one thing I do for myself each week. They are like me. People are at different stages in their grief, and those who are further along help me understand I am not "crazy" to feel the way I do at each point in time in my journey. 

I am so thankful for our brave friends who continue to be with us while we are grieving, who really want to know how we are doing, who let us talk about our son, who laugh and cry with us and who help us remember.

So now, in this new life, I write. I think of my son every minute of every day. Writing about my journey, and about him, helps me relieve the pumped-up feelings inside me. I write to honor him. I also write so perhaps those in the same situation as me know they are not alone, and there is a voice for them. 


Peggy has been married for thirty years, has a meaningful job, comfortable living, good friends and close family. Her family has been the most important part of her life. On March 10, 2018, the police informed Peggy that her son had died by suicide. He was twenty-three years old. Peggy is now working through her shattering loss. 


If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
or text “NAMI” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.


We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.


SEP, 27, 2018 04:07:17 PM
My daughter,Madison, died on July16,2018. It was totally unexpected and not drug related. She died in her sleep of cardiac arrest. The toxicology report was clean. My family and I have been totally devastated. I think I may need to go to a support group. I’m divorced and while I can talk to my ex sometimes, other times I cannot. Also, I have a son who is two years older than my daughter, but he has paranoid schizophrenia. So I’m doing all I can to help him through this too.

SEP, 26, 2018 11:25:31 PM
Fredi weinstein
I am so very sorry for the loss of your son.
I too live in the after. My son Miles overdosed on fentanyl 5/23/16. My son was bipolar finally back in treatment with 37 days clean.
support groups help, complicated grief counseling is helping me.
I feel your pain it is the worst ever. My son Miles was 29.

SEP, 26, 2018 12:21:30 PM
Nicole Fleming
I can certainly appreciate everything that everybody has mentioned and said in this post. My husband and I are currently experiencing chronic suicidal ideation with our 15-year-old who was recently diagnosed with type one diabetes also. We have every single resource a place for him everything at our disposal we’ve given to him and are trying to help him but the exhaustion of spirit hit home for me. I am absolutely exhausted I do not know how to help him and to be I just do not like to see him in so much pain and there’s nothing I can do about it to help him.
Thank you for the post it’s good to know that there’s others out there that have gone through this .

SEP, 26, 2018 12:19:11 PM
Rahma Mohamed
I can't imagine losing a son. I deeply pray for your healing to come from Allah.

SEP, 26, 2018 09:51:05 AM
Peggy, thank you for sharing, and I'm so extremely sorry for your loss. My family lost my youngest nephew in June 2017. He was only 24. I think of him every single day.

I never had children. Though he was not my son, my youngest nephew and I were quite close. He was the next closest person to me emotionally, after my husband. He and I shared in common the struggle with bipolar disorder, but unlike me, his hardest times were in his youth, while mine were as a 30-40 year old. I often drive myself to tears with "should haves", "could haves", and "if onlys". I know I shouldn't do that.

My sister, eldest nephew, and I will participate in a walk next month in our area organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It's our goal to join the many others there to do what we can to prevent others from such a tragic ending, and to support each other.

SEP, 26, 2018 07:52:42 AM
Although I haven’t lost a child to Suicide, I did lose my mother to Suicide two years ago. My life is now split into two very distinct and separate chapters. The chasm that splits the two is my mothers death. I have felt the burden of getting through each day and really relate to that feeling of searching for answers just to discover more questions. I appreciate your story and thank you for sharing.

SEP, 26, 2018 07:44:08 AM
Eva-Lynn Podietz
Peggy, thank you for your writing. My nephew, Aaron, committed suicide last October. My grandmother also committed suicide in October, almost 50 years ago. Their pain was clearly unbearable. The ache that they left behind in all of us who loved them is pretty tough, too.. What is really hard for me at this time is "Suicide Prevention month". I get so angry when I see those words. I would love to prevent suicide (and homicide) everywhere, but I think that the reasons people chose not to continue their embattled lives are unique to them and can't be addressed with a single approach. I am grateful for groups that exist to support people who've experienced the suicide of loved ones and for therapist not too frightened to talk with "survivors". I am so grateful that, during this suicide prevention month, you shared how difficult it is to be a survivor. I wish the suicide awareness/prevention publicity would include some awareness, help, and references for those who are bereft because of a close one's suicide. Not everyone understands.

SEP, 26, 2018 04:28:53 AM
Kim Britton
Thank you for sharing your experience. I lost my 24 year old son a year ago and 4 months to Suicide. I went through therapy and it was a very big help. I am sorry for your loss.

SEP, 20, 2018 03:50:23 AM
Trudi Henderson
Peggy, I am so sorry for your loss. I do know how you feel, my son committed suicide 10 days after your son on March 20th, just six months ago. I have not joined any support groups, after reading your blog I am considering it, I think it's finally time for me to get some help and talk to others who have lost a child to suicide. All the unanswered questions going through my head, and a lot of guilty feelings are taking a toll on me. I thought I could get through this on my own, I know now that I never will. I'll never get over the loss of my child but maybe somehow by talking and listening to others I could come to deal with my loss just a little easier. I guess it's time to try.

SEP, 13, 2018 05:41:38 PM
To all of you who shared the grief you fill, I feel your pain but don’t have an idea of what it is to lose a son or daughter.
My struggle is the fear of losing my 50 year old daughter. For over 30 years my family has been in a roller coaster ride.
I do have a NAMI support group, I don’t know where I would be without them. But my ups and downs have not ended, every day I thank God for watching over my daughter. But mental illness affects each one of us differently, I go from sadness to anger. At times I forget that I see and react to my daughter illness and not the daughter of long ago.
I sincerely hope that I don’t sound selfish or heartless because I have not felt your pain. I work hard at getting informed but my sadness is that my family will not join me on this heartbreaking journey.
I pray for you all.

SEP, 10, 2018 10:41:00 PM
I’m interested

SEP, 10, 2018 05:40:51 PM
Robert Biciocchi
PC... thank you for telling us about your son. Our son, also 23, died by suicide last November 24. Like you, we've benefited from some really caring survivor group support people and a small number of friends and family that knew and loved him. Your words and feelings are so real to us in every respect. His was a struggle over many years with depression and a clinical diagnosis bipolar and perhaps more. We spent hundreds of hours reading the research and science known about his condition and he had psychiatric care and therapy to help himself. This past year he was in treatment at a residential program where at the end of the days activites before dinner he was alone in his room for just minutes and carried out an educated plan to end his life. I find myself at times still having conversations in thought with him as there is the feeling of so many unfinished things. We are very grateful that we saw him at his best this past year too as he had worked so hard to beat addiction and to develop coping skills to fight his disease. But there is an exhaustion of spirit that I think occurs from such a continuous effort to fight back a darkness. As afraid of death that most people are there are some that experience a very real fear of life. This is what medical science must solve and for families to learn what our son taught us... to love unconditionally is perfect love...RLB

SEP, 09, 2018 02:29:41 PM
Peggy Crandell
Nicole, Thank you for sharing what you are going through. I believe we need to share and talk more about this unique grief. I write to articulate my feelings so people in my world to understand and perhaps be a voice for others. I have written more at I am six months into this. If you do read, start from the oldest entries.

SEP, 08, 2018 10:17:44 AM
Bonnie Cuppett
Thank you for writing snd sharing your heart.

SEP, 08, 2018 10:15:02 AM
Bonnie Cuppett
Suicide changes everything. Cancer is something to fight & try to over come. Double mass, chemo/rad and mission accomplished. My girls struggle with epilepsy & then schizophrenia, are journey's of recovery. These have brought us to new normal's. Suicide has no recovery. No option. Just a completely closed door that is forever sealed shut with no posibilities of something more. The gut punch that never heals. I/We are among the walking wounded, camouflaged by life happening. I miss him. He was such a man's man. Tough, rough, loyal, a provider, protector, quiet, wise, God fearing and so handsome. I wanted to do our later years together. This *****s

SEP, 07, 2018 09:20:48 PM
Shelly Pimper
It’s as if you read my mind and heart and wrote it all down. Word for word what we have been going through. We lost our son 4 years ago. So sorry for your loss and admission to this horrible club. Hugs to you.

SEP, 07, 2018 08:57:51 PM
Peggy: thank you for sharing. My daughter attempted suicide two years ago and survived. The day I received the call changed my life. I may not be in the same situation .. please know I can relate.

SEP, 07, 2018 06:20:31 PM
Louann Salisbury
I have suffered a great heartbreaking 19 pregnancies by miscarriages and its hard as everyday goes by. Its hard for me to live my life when I want to take and end it just to be with my babies. And I do not want to hurt anyone else.

SEP, 06, 2018 09:47:00 PM
Judy Cook
Thank you for sharing.

SEP, 05, 2018 10:30:21 PM
Nicole Vessey
Peggy: I can relate to nearly everything you've shared; it's like I wrote this blog post myself. Thank you for sharing your experiences and helping me remember I'm not alone, even though I feel like I am a good deal of the time. Hugs to you and your family.

Submit to the NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.