Good Morning Faithful Reader – 12.15.2021
My name is Bob Cristello and as most of you know my son Anthony James Cristello killed himself on August 16, 2017 at the age of 35. I say this out loud to claim my seat in a club that no one wishes to become a member of. We call this qualifying. We do it to declare ourselves to each other, to the world at large and ultimately, to ourselves.
We already know about special days. In fact, it hits us pretty early in our grieving process that there are days we just can’t even think about. The date of our child’s suicide, the date of their birth and important cultural holidays that we share. We see them coming for months, weeks and days as they approach. We dread them for we know that they hold that key that unlocks that door deep inside the spiraling depths of our overwhelming sadness. They are constant reminders of what has happened. They are also a constant reminder of everything that will never happen, because our children are gone from our lives.
While I have shared many of those days with my brothers and sisters in grief, I find myself facing a set of special days that for the last three years have sent me into a tailspin. I am speaking about December 21st, the day of my son’s birth and December 25th which is a holiday that we know as Christmas. Your special days and holidays may differ from mine, but the experiences that we go through are the same. This year, however, I feel none of the dread or anticipation of sorrow I have felt in the past. I want to try to share with you how this has come to pass for me.
We come in these rooms to share our experiences, our strength and eventually our hope. Today I have hope where just a few short months ago I had none. I was lost and broken and could not even walk across town to get to my shrink’s office without navigating via bathrooms along the route because I could not even control my own bowels. People would cross the street 50 yards away from me. My wife and 8 year old daughter looked at me with a cautionary eye. Actually, so did everyone who loved me and worried for my mental health. I was, as they say, a perfect mess. But I kept coming to these groups, clicking on hugs and hearts and eventually made my first post.
I entered into a self-imposed process of purging and inventory. I started writing and people started following my writings. In a few short months I have written a book, acquired professional quality management, built four businesses, acquired a high-paying job and actively working with my daughter in music and performing arts. I am actually someone who has been in the public eye in my youth and spent the last 30 years in a self-imposed exile from the world. When my son killed himself, I could only ask the question ‘Why?’ and was never given any answers. In a blinding moment of what I can only call inspiration I started asking myself the question ‘What was my role in the death of my son?’. Approximately 8 weeks into the process which I documented here online for all the world to see I had a moment of rebirth on November 11, 2021 that was not religious in nature, but it was truly from something outside of myself.
Others who have entered into this process, which is not something I suggest for anyone to do alone. I worked with a team of Doctors and Mental Health Professionals who volunteered their time due to the extreme nature of some of my experiences in life. When people enter into this process, they come to find that they had no culpability in the death of their child. They feel a great sense of relief and through the power of acceptance learn to move past the point of shock and enter into a period of mourning. While difficult, the mourning is actually a relief from the shock because we learn to diminish the shock and accept the reality. There are others, like myself, who realize that they hold responsibility and that is a difficult burden to bear. However, like those who have no responsibility, we can move into that place of mourning that is a relief from the place of shock we find ourselves in over and over again.
At this point we find ourselves opening up to the world and unburdening ourselves of any shame, regret or misplaced anger we have. We realize we have a mission to reach out to the other parents who are here, who will be coming through our doors at the rate of every 40 seconds around the world according to the World Health Organization. We have no name for our club, we have no meeting halls, we have no central place for literature. We only have each other and the hope that this will get better. I promise you, in time, it does.
This year, people started talking to me again. I had pushed people away for so long that they were thrilled to be back in my life. They also started talking to me about my son in a way that they had not spoken about him since before his death. These are small miracles that we must recognize and share with each other so we know that they happen. For me, I got a phone call from a childhood friend who I had known since I was six years old. I found that on the day my son was born, December 21, 1981, my friend from childhood found Jesus Christ as his personal savior. Now, that personally holds no meaning for me but to my friend it is the basis of his moral compass and who he has become as a man. Now, I no longer have to see this day as the date of my son’s birth but as the day my friend found God and changed his life. In fact, he had lived the entirety of my son’s life as a devout Christian. This is something I can celebrate now and in doing so, celebrate the birth of my son who is still very much alive to me at this very moment in time. Probably more alive for me than he was when he was here on earth.
I feel the pain, of course I do. I will never get over the death of my son. I honestly don’t think we are supposed to. I can, today, feel my grief without losing my battle with the covers or with YouTube. I can, today, get up and walk in the world. I can be a father, a husband and a friend. Because I can do this, I know with certainty that you can do it as well.
It will come in time and I know we hate to hear these things. We want something fixed now. We want the ambulance to show up and the Doctors to fix it. There is nothing on this earth that will help us and, like the soldier that I am, I must adapt and overcome. I must turn to a power that is greater than I am and ask for help. This is what I do, every day. I do it quietly and I say thank you before I go to bed at night. I do not give it a name, attempt to explain it to others or make anyone believe what I believe. I simply ask that they believe that I believe it. In time, perhaps, you will come to believe it for yourself as well.
Be gentle on yourselves and do not rush into the process of fixing anythying or following my path. I did what I did in public for very specific reasons and did it with the help of medical and mental health professionals. What you can do is come here and read. Click on a few hugs or take a chance and click the heart button to tell someone you loved what they said. Perhaps, reach out to one person and send a private message. Just say hi, I read your post, thank you.
I pray that you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season. I am sure that the road ahead is a difficult one but I know I am not walking it alone. Each and every one of you walks it with me and I, in turn, walk with you on your journey.
I see you and I love you.
My name is Bob, thank you for letting me share.