Title: Change Is Coming
Format: Open Speaker Talk
©2022 Bob Cristello
My name is Bob, and my son Anthony took his own life at the age of 35 on August 16, 2017.
If you are new here, I am sorry for your loss. This is a statement of sympathy that will be offered to you. In these rooms, we learn to empathize before we offer any sympathy. I have learned to say ‘I see you and I love you’. It is a way in which we recognize each other’s pain, while respecting the journey each of us is on now. When I speak to groups now, one of the things I talk about is how sympathy is limited in it’s scope, while empathy embraces the entirety of the human experience.
Change is coming. There is no avoiding it. It is in the nature of human beings to implement change. It is the outward expression of that implementation that causes us to ask the question, ‘Why?’.
Courage, is the ability to change yourself. It is important to know what words mean, especially in a time when everyone is quickly redefining what words mean and questioning the intent behind them. You can define courage any way you want, using any dictionary. I challenge you to refute my meaning. Courage, will always contain the basic ability to change yourself.
There is a saying that some men are born to greatness, others achieve greatness while others have greatness thrust upon them. I, am not a great man. I know great men. I, am not one of them. I did have greatness thrust upon me the day my son was born and I held him in my arms. I looked into his eyes as he desperately tried to focus and felt him stop squirming as he became aware of me. I can still smell that moment, feel the soft liquid from the womb on his naked body as the nurse was speaking quietly to me in German.
Integrity is the ability to be honest with yourself. Leadership, is the ability to pick up the reigns of responsibility. Curiosity is the ability to question your own nature in relationship to the greatest job you will ever have, that of being a parent. Concern for others is what allows us to empathize and hold others to their very best, because we hold ourselves to our very best. Which leads me back to courage, which is the ability to change yourself.
I knew what all of these qualities were and what they meant. My curiosity drove me to ask ‘Why?’ my son killed himself. It drove me into the grave, into depression and to the brink of insanity. My courage to answer the question ‘What was my role in the death of my child?’ is the only thing that saved me. If courage is the ability to change yourself, then I had to accept my responsibility.
Many parents find they had no responsibility in the death of their child. This is a blessing that actually allows parents to move out of the state of shock that this trauma causes. They can move into the calmer, yet no less dangerous, waters of grief that contain their own blessings and curses. Parents, like myself, that have certainty in the knowledge of their involvement in the death of their child also can move forward into grief.
These five words, Courage, Integrity, Leadership, Curiosity and Concern, were given to me long ago during my youth. I was taught that the truth would set me free. I have found, in my personal experience, that truth is the only thing that will set me free. When I do not have the strength, I turn to God as I understand God and ask for help. I was taught to come into rooms, like this one, to talk about my experiences. I was taught, that in time, these experiences might turn to strengths. Given enough patience, faith and acceptance, these strengths might turn into hope. In time, we can share that hope with each other.
I am not going to lie to you and say this is going to be an easy journey. I weep, sometimes on my knees. There are moments I cannot breathe and I have to cope with it, think it through. There are times when I do not want to do anything but pull the covers over my head and cry myself to sleep. I have no choice in this matter. I can accept that or I can tolerate it. I have chosen acceptance as an aggressive coping action. I will not surrender to my personal need to tolerate it and punish myself over and over again. I have no ability to do this on my own, so I come here to listen and to share. I ask God, as I understand God, to help me and give me the strength to face the truth about myself so that I can have the opportunity to change. That is enough of a miracle for any person to overcome any obstacle.
I have found hope. I am on my feet and I am moving. I do not know what change will come today, tomorrow or the next day. I do know that I am now the one implementing change in my life, instead of accepting whatever changes might come and learning to tolerate it. The answers for me no longer lie in the past. The expression of my love is no longer in regretful statements to those I have hurt. It lies in the conscious act to change. Today my wife has a husband, my eight year old daughter has a father and I have reclaimed the love of my son.
I encourage you to find something in these rooms today that allows you to find some comfort and hope. Participate by leaving a like or a hug on someone’s post. No one of us ever wanted to be a member of this club, but I can think of no greater group of people to be with today. I see you and I love you.
My name is Bob, thank you for letting me share.