Preliminary note: Given the stigma around suicide in today’s world, I am writing this because I believe there are other parents out there like me that might relate to how I feel, maybe not entirely, as some of my thoughts may be hard for some to comprehend, but surely I am not alone.
My hope is that this can help those find peace and understanding in a situation we’d given anything to avoid, however, we find ourselves in nonetheless.
I am more than aware of the negative connotations society puts on the infamous “S word” and mental health overall, so it may be hard for some to fathom that I can without a doubt say that I harbor NO shame or embarrassment for how my child left this earth.
I was proud of him from the minute he arrived into this world almost 24 years ago. He was raised by his entire family to be an independent thinker and always aware he was in control of his own destiny.
I respected and supported his beliefs and how he did everything on his own terms while keeping within the laws and honoring the golden rule.
The unconditional love and support I always had for him and his life decisions ultimately means that I still maintain that same level of respect and support for how he chose to leave it, although I may never fully understand.
He is and will always be my son, and I will always love him unconditionally.
Since the day he chose to leave the life he had here, I’ve experienced the hushed voices, ignorant comments from some about how that could never happen to them, and many awkward conversations with so many.
I know those words and actions are not malicious in any way, but I still feel it necessary to let everyone know that my thoughts now are quite simple and direct.
I have always and will always be proud of him and supportive of his choices, even this one, because he is my son and that’s just the way we roll.
Even though he isn’t with me physically, I am confident he knows that his mom still has his back and that this will never change, even in this chapter.
I write this for Darian and all the other parents missing their amazing children all day, every day. May they know they are loved, respected, supported and protected always.
It’s been 6 months today since my entire life changed.
The world I thought I knew and became quite comfortable with over my 42 years, however chaotic it may have been at times, came to a standing halt.
In an instant, everything went from pretty great, to a life where the days come and go, coupled with a simultaneous blur and clarity I’ve experienced every moment since that day. (confusing sentence)
Life is by far the most brutal example of an oxymoron I can imagine.
I remember that Monday morning, listening to a rant I was quite accustomed to over the years – typical young adult behavior of a 23-year-old trying to “educate” his mother about how hard life was and how no one understood.
The topic in dispute changed each time, but the underlying message was always the same.
This particular morning it happened to be about an Ethernet cable and why I should care that a 50-foot cable appeared overnight and was running throughout the house.
The issue wasn’t really the cable, as that was an easy fix and we could call the cable company and have it wired to work as he needed and accommodate my aesthetic requirements.
The meaning was much deeper for him, but it was the same recurring argument we’d had the last 5-7 years, about how life was so difficult and wasn’t the utopia he dreamed of from all the idealists and historians he so admired.
I knew he was angry that morning, and that was okay because I also knew to give him his space.
I knew he’d struggled with his internal demons from childhood bullying and other personal issues.
He was always different; I called him an anomaly in the most complimentary way early on because he was an old soul, wise beyond his years and strong in his beliefs.
He was so self-aware that he didn’t think like the norm. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, but never once apologized for who he was.
After our heated discussion this particular morning, I went back to my job and had no doubt that everything would be okay once we talked it out after we both had time to breathe.
We’d done this a thousand times, bickering over trivial issues like dishes in the sink or lights left on, being 23 and the need to get school finished up and the importance of finding the path to happiness and independence. I tried to always be cognizant of the fact that he was so much like me, with a short fuse and riled up without much effort.
The key we held tight to was that afterward, we always talked calmly, hugged it out, and everything was fine after some space and reflection. It’s what we did and it always worked, or so I thought.
The conversation and situation that morning seemed no different than the countless others. Actually, it seemed far less difficult than many we’d been through.
However, that day turned out to be very different.
Less than ten hours later, I found my son dead on his bedroom floor.
I didn’t hear the gunshot. I remember a crash or a sound before noon that I brushed off as pounding his fist on his desk during his daily PC gaming.
When the evening came and the time passed for him to wake up for his night job at the grocery store that he kept while in school, I remembered that I didn’t hear him in the shower.
His dinner was packed, complete with a “have a great night at work” note on his napkin, which he repeatedly said embarrassed him, but I had seen his Facebook posts about his packed lunches and how it made the hard work nights better.
He was loved.
He knew it.
My God, he was so loved.
I remember taking a butter knife to turn the lock so I could open the door to his bedroom. I can still feel the weight in my chest and legs, as somehow I already knew what I would find on the other side before I opened the door.
It was all in slow motion, but I still remember it clearly.
I took two steps in the room and stood there screaming, frozen, no need or ability to go any further. I’m still not sure whether the screams were silent or vocal, but I can still hear them inside me.
He looked so peaceful, but I knew instantly he was gone. I didn’t have the maternal instincts to run to him that I should have, which haunts me to this day.
I only recall my friend handing me his phone to call 911 as he pushed me into my bedroom while he did the things I should’ve been doing, like checking for a pulse.
The next 4-5 hours are a lot of blurry moments with some vivid memories.
The blue lights, the questions, the phone call to my mother and her screams when I told her, the arrival of my parents and our utter disbelief and confusion, and the police and coroner telling me I needed to leave while they removed his body.
I was confused but I clearly recall stating that I was with him when he made his first trip here at birth and I’d be damned if I didn’t watch him take his final trip from here as well.
Everyone may have tried to convince me to leave, but I held firm. Darian nor I ever did much of anything we didn’t want to do.
So as they took my only child in a body bag out the front door and decided to transfer him in the neighbors’ driveway to make things “easier,” I remained steadfast and determined. I was going to be there and watch him take his final drive out of his neighborhood.
And I did just that.
I walked out of the garage and stood at the bottom of our driveway sobbing silently (I think) until the tail lights of the coroner van turned the corner and disappeared.
I will never forget that moment or regret it because I love him and no one was going to stop me from being there.
I was there for all his life adventures, and I wasn’t going to stop being there that night either.
As much heartbreak as I felt that moment, the next few days were worse. All I knew was he was at the morgue, cold, all alone, and I hated the thought every second he was there.
The next few days are very much blurred, but I’ve been told I was all business and handled things “like a champ.” I don’t recall much, but I’m sure I did because I am his mother and that is my job.
I couldn’t bury him for my own reasons, so I chose cremation and a few days later I went and picked him up in a beautiful urn and brought him right back to the safest place he’s ever known, for the second time for this next phase of our journey as mother and son.
Here I am, six months later. I find the sun continues to rise every morning.
I still have a career to maintain, and friends and family checking in has become less frequent as time goes by.
Everyone’s life goes on as it’s supposed to and mine remains stuck in a previous time.
The present is so foreign and unknown that I am learning to navigate every day like a child on training wheels.
Like Darian lived his life, I am living life on my terms as well now with no excuses to anyone. Every single day I pat his urn and tell him good morning and good night.
Sometimes I tell him he’s a jackass for leaving me all alone, but I know he finds it a term of endearment, as we shared the same warped sense of humor.
I’m sure he appreciates it.
I take him in part on a necklace around my neck to every new experience I have, hoping somehow he’s able to experience it with me in some way.
I am finally turning a corner and finding some happy moments in each day, but I miss him constantly.
His birth changed me forever.
His life changed my perspective and views thanks to his wisdom and incredible heart.
His leaving has changed me forever in ways I am still trying to figure out, but I am sure it will make me a better person.
I have been humbled by this experience, but also empowered by the strength it takes to get up every day and the overwhelming feeling of pride and love I feel for my son.
The hard fact is I didn’t choose this for him, but he made this choice and I have always and still remain strong in respecting and supporting him.
That doesn’t stop just because I don’t agree or understand this particular choice he made, as there were many that I didn’t understand over the course of his life.
The bottom line is there’s no need for awkwardness or concern over saying his name. I welcome it because I talk about him all the time, as any doting parent does.
That hasn’t changed just because of this situation.
I am proud of him and will always be proud of him.
I am his mother.
Briana Morgan is a CPA and received her Bachelors from the University of South Carolina and her MBA from Clemson University. She is the mother of one son, Darian Shadoe Shafer, who will always be her greatest achievement. She resides in Greer, South Carolina with Darian in spirit and his German Shepherd, Remi.