Cross My Heart

11/15/2016 – Coping With Suicide – Public Talk

My name is Bob Cristello and my son Anthony killed himself on August 16, 2017 at the age of 35. I make this statement to qualify who I am as a parent, why I am here and to show my credentials in a club that no one wishes to be a member of.

“Cross my Heart and Hope to die, Stick a needle in my eye”

I will let you think about that statement for a moment while I prepare my thoughts for today’s talk.

Coping With Suicide is designed to bring awareness of parents, who have lost a child to suicide, to a public facing audience. It is also designed as a program for those of us that are prepared to take the next step in a grieving process that involves healing, rebirth and outreach. I speak my shame so others do not have to and give voice to those without one, simply because I possess the skillset to do so.

I was kissing my daughter goodnight last night and I said “Promise not to stay up late and watch television”. Such a sweet little routine that we do each night but last night she peeped up and yelled “Cross My Heart Daddy!”. I found myself in tears but did not wish her to see them so I told my wife and she smiled a sad smile. “I know honey, she is just a kid”.

I am a kid too, 13 years old to be exact, because that is where I died when a male music teacher raped me and I could have simply turned to anyone along the way and said “This happened to me”. Instead I became a soldier, a performer, a teacher and a father who lost his son to suicide and I could not answer the question “Why”. It caused me to reach inward and ask the question, “What role did I play in the death of my child?”. It caused me to realize that my need to find Fathers in my life, without any ability to screen against danger, probably took my life away from me. In fact I actively sought out danger to sate the needs of my Father, Shame.

It is in the very nature of our human experience and there is nothing in our lexicon that even gives recognition to a parent who loses a child to suicide. Think about it, your wife dies you are a widower. Your parent dies you are an orphan. Your kid dies, you are a parent. Not only that, everyone wants you to get over it so they don’t have to talk about it or deal with it any longer. So, my Father Shame rears his ugly head every day. I no longer fear him, I pray you find that time in your life as well.

I think it is because of things like “Cross my heart and hope to die”.

I mean, let us look at that phrase for a moment. I promise to absolutely tell you the truth so much that I motion my hands in front of my heart, the seat of human life. If I am lying, I promise that I will hope I die to pay for such an egregious act as lying to you about something. Certainly, Dad, I will stick needles in my eye to punish myself for breaking my word to you. Is that really what I want to teach my kid? I have come to the conclusion that many things need to change, I had to start with myself. I pray you find the courage to do the same in time, just not today.

Beyond that, issues like Institutional Racism and Hatred In Social Media just heap massive amounts of problems in our society that have no place within the walls of my hallowed halls. I belong to the ultimate politically correct club because we know no boundaries. There are no colors, creeds, religions or politics within the death of a child there is only grief. Maybe if we actually started talking to each other about death, our fear of death and how we as a society treat death in general then perhaps these other issues might pale a bit in comparison. They surely do to the members of my clubs.

Not only that, someone has to start the conversation. Why should it be me? Because I am 13 years old putting on a show and I don’t know I can’t do it yet. That is right, I just don’t know any better which is something my friends also say to me all the time.

I received the greatest gift last night from someone I love very much and have not seen face to face since I was a kid. I texted her and she simply had no idea who I was. Now, I know she is going to feel horrible when she realizes who I am and she will call and feel terrible. She will because she is a human being who loves me but like most of us, she is just going through her own issues and I am not that important. In fact, when I opened my mouth to reveal my shame to the world in such a dramatic fashion, most people had no idea what I was talking about. But, that is my Father Shame for you, and I will write about him more and more as we go. That woman reached out across the years and gave me the ending to a book I have been writing that had no ending, until last night. Thank you so much for that gift and I love you.

I am just a guy, sipping on my coffee in a room somewhere. I am posting to my home group, to the public groups I belong to and to my personal timeline. This is all that is coming. I am sorry I have no pictures of my cat today, so you might want to snooze me if this topic bothers you. Please, cease and desist from your mission to tell me to stop because I cannot do that.

I am not going to solve this issue in my lifetime, but I can start the conversation. Would you like to join in?

My name is Bob, thank you for letting me share.