The Blessings Of Grief

Good Morning Faithful Reader – 11/9/2021

My name is Bob Cristello and my son Anthony took his life in August of 2017 at the age of 35. I say this to claim my seat and to renew my membership in a club that no one wishes to be a member of.

I first came to this group in February of this year. I was broken and lost, my life out of control internally while trying desperately to keep up some semblance of normalcy to the outside world. Four years ago, I figuratively stepped over the body of my child on the day I received notification. This is another thing that our members share, that moment when we discover or are told that at least one of our children have killed themselves. I am a US Army Veteran and I am always calmest in moments of crisis and inherently incapable of running out of a burning vehicle when someone is still trapped inside. I hated that skill when it came to the death of my son, but it allowed me to keep moving. Two years ago, the reality of his death hit me and I felt I was drowning, incapable of drawing another breath and on my knees.

You might wonder what this story has to do with blessings, and I honestly think when someone arrives here that they do not feel blessed at all. I know I did not. Yet, here I am on this beautiful Tuesday morning in a small town in Vermont talking on the phone to my friend Timmy and telling him how I lost a job last Friday night. A job that I publicly declared I would get up and get seven weeks ago simply because my wife and eight year old daughter needed me to get. I probably wasn’t ready for the job, but I lost it through no fault of my own. In fact I solved their problems so quickly and efficiently that they realized they needed to halt everything and make a plan to come back to the table in January of next year. I am really good at solving problems, but not my own or those of my children.

You might hear that I lost my job and think I am insane for feeling blessed, but here I am on that Tuesday morning writing a speaker post to the group that saved me and loved me when I was incapable of loving myself. That is a blessing that I would never have had if I had not found you, my brothers and sisters in grief. This morning, I was talking to a recruiter that asked me about the website I listed as part of my application process. All professional programmers have one, but the only website I own is for my writings. So, I listed it simply because I didn’t want to lie and I was halfway through a cup of black coffee and smoking an unfiltered camel and my fingers just were on auto-pilot. An hour later, I was in my timeline with a guy who I had to tell I do not want a job and it’s not about money, I want to listen to you tell me about your daughter-in-law who killed herself three weeks ago. That was a blessing, because I could reach out to one other person today and offer hope without asking for anything in return.

As part of this seven week challenge in coping with grief, I faced a great shame of sexual molestation that I had experienced in my past and I chose to share that with my High School Alumni Group, kids I had known since I was about six years old. They know what a thug I was and had no idea that I spent a year locked in a VA Hospital in our city in 1995 and no idea that I was attacked as a child by a sexual predator posing as a loving music teacher, mentor and father figure. You might ask, how is facing that and revealing that a blessing? My phone has not stopped ringing, my messenger is exploding and I am driven to action. The fact that I am driven to anything other than feeling my grief, surrendering to my grief and selfishly wanting more like a drug addict on a binge. Yes, I know that group as well and they have embraced me and loved me after 35 years of not touching cocaine and being a criminal. So, these are blessings that I cannot begin to count and they keep pouring in and I honestly do not know what to do with them sometimes.

I think about John Walsh a lot, who had a son named Adam that was killed by a sexual predator. I wondered what he would have done if he had been a criminal and a loser, and not the upstanding business man who turned his life to fighting for children of murder. Well, my son was murdered. My son murdered himself. Don’t flinch from it, don’t look away, please. That is not what your child did. I am saying that is what my child did. So, would John Walsh have stayed quiet if he had been less than what he was? I honestly don’t know, but I know I won’t stay quiet. So I have to say what I am, where I have been, what my cautionary tale is and be brutally honest to myself and the world if I hope to help one person. That is a blessing, and if you don’t see it as one yet please believe that I believe it.

As I have stated in my writings, which are also part of my seven week old journey after four years in death, are going to be made public to my timeline and no link to this group or mention of anyone here will be made. I should let you know that I have chosen to expand my reach and have converted every professional resource I have in social media including my 40K twitter timeline to bring a message of hope and recovery to members of our club. I have no idea where that will lead, but that too is a blessing.

I am grateful to all of you for being here, from the newcomer to the member who is still here the longest attempting to cope with suicide and the loss of our children. I made it this far and I have found a new purpose, energy and vision for my life and that is a blessing.

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