I Lost My Son; I Wanted My Grandmother

Carrie Thompson
6 min readMar 20, 2020
Sarah Jane and Ben, age 4

When we lose someone important to us, time and distance have their way of scabbing over the gaping wound of grief and making it less raw. Still, the emptiness and longing never go away. It becomes a memory of pain, an old injury that bothers us when it’s cold or damp, or we’re tired, but it no longer demands immediate attention.

My beloved son Benjamin died recently, in July, at the age of 23, by suicide. The loss shattered my world in ways too many to count.

Now, months later, I’m learning to live with the emptiness, but my grief is ever-present. It waits, a patient tiger lurking at the edges of the calm I project to the world until something triggers a memory of Ben, and it attacks. I recently found his lacrosse gear, and the tiger dragged me into the brush, struggling in its claws. By some miracle, I escaped and regained control.

But as if that isn’t enough, I have found myself grieving all over again for other people I’ve loved who’ve died, who are long, long gone. It’s as if my son’s loss has somehow multiplied and ripped open old wounds I thought were long-healed.

My grandmother Sarah Jane died in 2007. She was a woman of strength and grace. When shit went wrong, she handled it, sometimes with humor and sometimes with tears, but always with love. A thrifty, crafty, creative Yankee woman, Sarah Jane had an enduring influence on my life: she taught me to love words and reading, and Jane Austen and Shakespeare, and play Scrabble.

She also spent countless hours trying to teach me to knit and sew, then laughingly gave up and did the knitting and sewing for me. A crafty sort, I am not. Sarah Jane encouraged me in all things; she was one of my chief cheerleaders and the source of much wise counsel.

She was my grandmother, and I adored her.

Before Ben died, I would think of her, but briefly, in fleeting moments, such as when I looked at the quilt on my bed with the carefully curated colors made just for me. I still feel her when I grab my one remaining, matching pair of hand-made, double-knit woolen mittens (they still keep my hands warmer, even when wet, than any modern “technologically superior” material). Full disclosure: I have several single mittens, all left-hands. I can’t part with any of them because…

Carrie Thompson

A mother, a wife, a high school English teacher, and a suicide loss survivor on a quest for understanding and healing.