Grief After Suicide


An adolescent psychiatric RN shares “Heavy Damage,” a poem about managing grief after losing a loved one to suicide.

jayzynism/Adobe Stock

jayzynism/Adobe Stock


My poem was inspired by the grief I am experiencing after the loss of my youngest son to suicide. Grief is common to all, but I never knew that grief existed on such a scale as this. Only after 2 years am I able to begin addressing it. I am grateful and honored to be in the care of my psychiatrist, Melanie Conway, MD, who is helping me navigate this devastation. Cruelly enough, I was a psychiatric RN working in an acute care psychiatric hospital for adolescents when this tragedy occurred.

James Garrett Kulik, August 25, 1999-December 3, 2019. Photo by Robbi M. Kulik.

James Garrett Kulik, August 25, 1999-December 3, 2019. Photo by Robbi M. Kulik.

The sculpture, “Melancholy” by Albert Gyorgy, was a great inspiration to me, as well. I did not know of its existence until someone asked me how I was feeling shortly after losing my son. My answer was: “like there’s a 14-inch hole through the middle of me.” When I saw this sculpture for the first time, I was speechless.

I used the phrase, “God sees around the bend,” with my sons as they were growing up, hoping that the knowledge of this would be of comfort to them as it is to me. It was a pleasant happening that my poem ended with this phrase.

I am an adolescent psychiatric RN who is currently in school to obtain my master’s degree in psychiatric/mental health nursing. With this education and accreditation, I will continue to work with adolescents in psychiatric crisis in my own practice. I have used and will continue to use Psychiatric TimesTM as a resource in my profession, as I have gained many insights from it in my personal and professional life.

“Heavy Damage”

I’m scared to take the pressure off

this mortal wound I bear

I work and live one-handed now

Because my other one stays there

Really, I’m not working—nor living

but only growing older

With my other hand and arm

I’m carrying grief’s boulder

The world spun on without slowing that day

They should have noticed at least

Like a merry-go-round I tried slowing it down

and was violently dragged to my knees

I’m rooted to a spot

my worst nightmares never wandered

I feel a chill and looking down

I find in panicked horror

My body bare I was standing helpless

And naked to all passing by

Vulnerable now to accompany my pain

And both of my hands occupied

I tenderly lowered my greatest sorrow

For the task I would next carry out

With no little struggle I covered myself

With the garments all scattered about

While lowered humbly to the earth

I sought another way

To help me better carry on

And chose from the array

An article of sturdy cloth

In which to sling the stone

When given to me

it was said I’d carry it alone

I’d have to find my way ahead

while bearing it with me

With just one arm I took it up

and held it tenderly

Bearing well my stone of grief

means everything to me

It represents one I adore

who chose eternity

Having put on enough to cover my skin

from the cold and from the heat

I now lifted the edge of my hand from my heart

to see if it would still bleed

My hand was covered in blood

and my heart was broken and sore

But I noticed a scar beginning to form
that I had not noticed before

So focused on taking another breath

and waking up each day

I couldn’t see beauty anywhere

and I almost forgot how to pray

With no little determination

I struggled up from my knees

I noticed how strong I had become

since the Day that Shattered Me

I know I am forever changed

by the weight I feel in my soul

I’ll always wish I hadn’t been chosen

to play this particular role

But if under the same circumstances

I could elect another to bear

This Greatest Sorrow in my place

I would refuse to share

So lucky I am to have had what I did

So sorry I haven’t it now

The most beautiful of memories

With sadness too, somehow

Are extracted and steeped into an elixir

compounded by Life just for me

No option given to take or refuse

No warning did I receive

I could not avoid this tragedy

nor rewrite the bitter end

I can only live to show the world

God sees around the bend.

Ms Kulik is an adolescent psychiatric RN who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in psychiatric/mental health nursing.

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