My husband and I were sitting in a police car when we got the news my son Charles, 20, died by suicide in 2015. That’s the moment I left my former self on a shelf somewhere in the past and this new self, a person I didn’t want to be, had to find a way forward.

My first thought was, “How could I be such a bad mother that my son would kill himself? Didn’t he know we loved him? How could I have missed his monumental pain?”

My son struggled with the physical pain of substance withdrawal and the emotional pain of a deep depressive episode when he took his own life.  What’s more, he hid his pain behind the mask of a clown. It took a long time before I recognized his death wasn’t about or because of me.

The drugs and alcohol he used to numb feelings of suicide ultimately drove him toward that end. While I didn’t know about his thoughts of suicide, his journal of rap music revealed his struggle, and I now understand his pain.  I included his rap lyrics in my memoir, Diary of a Broken Mind.

People look at me now after I give a keynote speech and say, “You are so strong,” thinking I am just naturally that way. But I was very intentional about my grief recovery and worked at it. Here’s how……