repose (or, “things I learned about myself on vacation”)

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“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all

Growing up the middle sister, I heard this a lot :).

Lately, I have been saying this to myself. It is odd. I have pretty much always been a “nice girl” (as an adult!)–but I feel like testing out feelings as they arise and not just shoving them down inside. I’m starting to wonder if I have been conditioned to believe certain things about being a nice person, like for example, if you’re nice, you won’t lose your son to suicide.

Most of the things I think I should probably keep to myself at this point in “my recovery”. My therapist and I were recently discussing how Isaac’s death is my rock bottom. And the story of my life is irrelevant to this post, but it is not unfair to say that I have certainly skimmed the top of the weeds on “bottom” a time or two~ but nothing– truly nothing can hold a candle to this. That may seem excruciatingly obvious, but when something perforates your tether to the spinning world, you find yourself saying cliché things like this. Not because you’ve become cliché, necessarily, (or maybe you have despite a lifetime trying to avoid them) but because suddenly, clichés actually mean something. Plus your brain just isn’t what it once was and so, here you are saying cliché things. And wondering if maybe you have a mild form of Tourette’s syndrome because, lets face it, you say really weird, unfunny things sometimes Christina, about this new reality, this bottom.

And so, I have become the quietest person I have ever been. But Tourette’s and bottom dwelling sarcasm are only half the reason… 


The other half is because I think I have spent my entire life avoiding the silence, filling up the quiet places, and always trying to ensure the comfort of everyone around me (including me?). And here, now, with the biggest elephant my living room can handle, there are no words big enough to fill up the spaces and so I am learning to let them be what they are, what they want to be, what they are meant to be….

Silence is golden. (Another cliché! I’m coming unhinged!) Silence allows a world of ands instead of buts. This is a world I needed to learn more about. Silence offers patience like an act of worship, of devotion to the space and not the tension that is feared to exist within space not filled. There is no pregnant pause, ripe with the anticipation of what comes next, in the temple of the quiet. There is simply now, this, here, endlessly if needed. Not time to think of what to say, but time to not. Time to listen. Time to be.

To everything, there is a season. (cliché, I know). I am reminded of an Albert Camus quote I have loved but never understood the full potency of until now.

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus”

With quiet, comes the refinement of observational experience, of the world within and the world with out, outside of myself, without Isaac. There was such a need to make sense of the nonsensical; and no shortage of words with which to ask the questions that remain. Only now am I just beginning to dare be able to surrender before the enormity of all that shall forever remain unanswered, bow to it humbly, place flowers at the feet of it, and then slowly, imperceptibly, someday, stand up and step away, without feeling as though I am abandoning my child or my grief.

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I have learned that cultural traditions, of which we westerners have so few, provide solace for mourners by having rules of conduct (for lack of a better phrase).  Wearing black, sitting Shiva, fasting, even parades. I have felt compass-less this past year, not sure how to conduct myself on a daily basis, wishing someone, anyone could tell me what I should do. I hear over and over “there are no shoulds”, “grief is different for everyone”, “the loss of a child is so much harder” and my favorite (a-hem), “loss by suicide is so different” . Clichés for everyone!

But here, in the quiet, I have finally found a place to rest awhile, catch my breath, stretch out in the sun, –‘retire to silence and requiesence’. It is good. I know that is not how I have always shown up for you~ whether you are treasured friend/family or dear reader rooting for me with all my words here.  I know that may make me seem remote, distant, unreachable.  Thats why I’m writing here today. Please don’t let it scare you, please don’t think you have to fill up the empty spaces or leave me alone to my solitude or silence, or shake me out of it or worry I’m wallowing, or worry, period. Also, I haven’t forgotten about you and I do still care very much! Please don’t mistake my quiet and absence for any sense of entitlement to checking out~

There but for the grace of God, go I.”~ John Bradford

I’m still here, just a little more softly. I’m not always quiet, and I’m not always sad when I’m quiet. I’m happy AND sad, I can be quiet AND loud.  I’m still writing AND I just don’t always share these days as a way to keep the stillness around me, like a cushion or a buoy. I’m also trying to say yes more AND able to say no without regret or guilt. I’m building a new bridge AND I’m hanging by a thread from the old one….

Isaac’s death has irrevocably altered me and therefore has altered some of my relationships; drawn some much nearer to me and some have quietly vanished (talk about cliché!), while still others tip toe gently and intentionally around me in the periphery, waiting (?) perhaps for a sign to re-engage. I feel keenly aware of all and yet, I am not so naive to believe I can (or want to) speak for their silences and in fact, I think I have learned a bit by observing what it truly means to steady oneself. And I am grateful. Watching loving beings in their natural habitat helps me feel more human; after the agony of grief turned me into a hungry hollow creature.

The truth is that the death of my only child from suicide is unfathomably excruciatingly painful at times and, at other times, U T T E R L Y perplexing–still. I can only imagine the horrible pain every parent feels that loses any child in any form of death. There are no mathematics in death.  Loss is loss is loss.

“And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief;” ~William Cullen Bryant

I take comfort in hearing from mothers of children who have died. How sad is that?!?! The experiences are so parallel, I keep finding myself in their stories. They are each so generous with their hard earned /heart
earned wisdom and have helped me pass the unfortunate torch of empathy, understanding & compassion to other mothers who have lost their children since Isaac passed away.  I suppose it seems apropos as the only cliché I have always been proud of was doting mama, that this gesture of mama bear compassion would live on in me.

I’m rambling now, my little bear cave of quiet is calling to me that I have said enough for now. Thank you for checking in. I am doing alright.

I love you!

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Published by: christinaryanstoltz

I write to touch the supple center of unguarded ache~ To release myself from the pressure of not knowing how to move forward from the unfathomable loss of my beloved son, my beautiful boy Isaac, to suicide, of not knowing how to release my grip on of the past, both the worshipping of it as well as the beating myself up for it, and letting go of the need to know what I could’ve done or what on earth I will do now. I write to heal.


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