Mom's Letter (Pam Martin) reproduced with permission
October 26th. Today is the fifth anniversary of Chris’ passing. These past years have been full – full of grief, full of whys, full of faith, and full of change. My story is not everyone’s story, but it is my hope and prayer that sharing my thoughts today will offer some comfort and increase compassion and understanding towards those who have suffered and those who are now grieving.
The pain of losing a loved one to suicide leaves its own indelible scar on the soul. This results in a very complicated relationship with pain and suffering that must be tended to gently and deliberately. The darkness of deep grief can feel suffocating and interminable, much like the darkness likely experienced by those who die by suicide.
I have learned that this darkness can be scary and balancing these emotions with intentional self-care is essential to moving forward. The deep grief of losing a loved one to suicide permeates us at a cellular level and is not to be borne silently or shamefully or in isolation. Grief must be radically felt and radically expressed to transform into hope. Talking endlessly to friends and family about our lost loved one, screaming at the sky, or crying to God is a necessary release. There are no expectations or time frames about the grief journey. It is personal and humbling, and I suspect it will take a lifetime of attention.
I’ve come to understand that suicide is the result of a disease that is terribly misunderstood. It can rob the deceased and their families of dignity, and it can distort reality. Dying by suicide is the emotional equivalent to cancer taking a person’s life. It is complicated. While oftentimes the wounds and suffering are not as clearly perceived as someone afflicted with cancer, the response to someone dying by suicide should be as deeply compassionate, full of grace, and kind as with any tragic loss. We will never have all the answers, and, therefore, learning to let go of all the questions is part of the healing.
I am deeply grateful for all the teachers and counselors who have been by my side offering guidance, light, and understanding just when I need it. I am so thankful for my grief support group and the intimate connection we all share with those who have suffered similar losses. This bond has been so essential to my healing.
I am also eternally grateful for the wonderful family and beautiful friends who have loved and supported me during this journey. Each person in their own special way continues to help me mend the million little pieces of my broken heart. It is so important to let others help you.
I am also profoundly thankful for the eternal goodness of God as I put one step in front of the other every day. Surviving the magnitude of this loss without Him by my side – loving me unconditionally and comforting me with His abundant grace – would be unbearable. Believing always in the redeeming love of God, trusting in His word to never forsake me, and leaning on His presence has helped me move forward and develop a deeper faith.
Radical Hope Foundation was established immediately after Chris’ passing. It is the gift that keeps Chris alive and with us on a daily basis. Radical Hope has built a far-reaching wellness program that empowers young adults with skills to stay well, strengthen connections, and build resilience. It is a beautiful and lasting tribute informed by Chris’ life and death. This program will change lives, and I believe Chris is incredibly proud of what we have accomplished. I feel him with us on this journey, spreading “Radical Hope” to all, and I encourage others to discover their own ways of honoring their loved one.
Chris continues to teach me how to live a purpose-filled life defined by loving my neighbors. I now have more compassion and less judgment for those who suffer. My love for Chris has grown deeper, and a new relationship with him is blossoming, which provides comfort. I am growing, and I feel his beautiful spirit with me always.
Five years ago, I couldn’t have conceived of experiencing moments of joy or laughter, but it is now possible. Chris’ life is not defined by how it ended, and the circumstance of his death cannot become the prism through which we view his whole life. The gifts and joy that Chris brought to my life will always be celebrated and remembered. With great love, Pam