Against the Odds: Overcoming Adversity

momandmeSometimes a single experience or event can completely alter the outcome of your life. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had experience as a child that unquestionably completely changed my life. Thirty years ago today my mother committed suicide. I was just shy of turning 12 years old and my world was turned upside down.

My recollections of the specifics of July 15, 1986 are somewhat vague, but I do remember that it was a usual summer day. I remember riding my bike home from the local public swimming pool, along with my sister and cousin, only to arrive to my father who had an extremely somber look on his face. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I could tell it was something critical. Holding back his emotions the best he could, my father explained to us what had happened and we all broke down crying. The last thing I remember of that day is that I decided to take a long walk alone in the woods. The emotions that went through my head included sadness, fear, anger, and remorse. I had so many questions, many of which will never be answered.

For many years my mother’s death split my family apart and the slightest mention of my mother and her death started everyone crying. For me, the topic was taboo. I didn’t like to talk about it. Members of my family tried to point fingers and blame someone for what happened. There was a lot of anger and bitterness. Mainly though, everyone was very sad and the grieving period lasted a long time. My mother was an important part of her family, particularly when she was growing up. She was the oldest of five children and often served as a “second mother” and role model to her siblings. I remember her being thoughtful, loving, witty, and extremely intelligent. She was also a wonderful cook!

Growing up, I don’t think too many people outside of my family knew about what had happened. If they did, it wasn’t really brought up. In the 80’s, things were not as open as they are today. I sometimes felt that people would judge me if they knew what had happened, so I didn’t speak of it. I kept so much inside. I was never offered any type of counseling after this traumatic event and essentially coped with things on my own. As an adolescent, this was an extremely difficult task. In fact, the trauma disturbed me for a very long time and made an impact on the choices I made and how I dealt with different situations. After attending my very first counseling session just last November, I realized what a huge mistake I had been making by not seeing someone much earlier. I was carrying a huge amount of weight on my shoulders for nearly 30 years! I previously thought to myself that I would be a weak person if I sought out help. The truth is that everyone has moments when they are down however we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it and seek help from others, if necessary.

In my last blog post I discussed my internal mental drive to attempt to rise to “the top” of my profession. It may seem a bit strange, but I owe a majority of my professional drive to the loss of my mother. From the time she died, I vowed that I would be different. I asserted that I would be successful and overcome the odds that were then placed against me. (I didn’t as many of the musical opportunities growing up that my fellow colleagues had.)

In high school I worked to keep up my grades while holding a part time job and participating in some extra curricular activities like the Mentor Mannheim Orchestra. I practiced (not enough), and really wanted to take private lessons, which I did start when I was nearly 14. My father supported me, but there wasn’t really too much of a demand to hold high academic standards or be successful in school. I just made sure I was going to school, being prepared, doing my homework, etc. because I wanted to. I was never a straight A student, but did what I had to do. When I made up my mind to pursue music, again my father supported me, but the reality of actually making it happen was up to me.

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.”
― Steve Maraboli, from “Life, the Truth, and Being Free”

The loss of my mother has stirred many emotions and caused lots of different behaviors over the years. I experienced anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, loneliness, shame, resentment, and depression. However, on the positive side, I feel that I have been able to make the best out of the cards I have been dealt. I was forced to be more courageous, outgoing, dedicated, caring, and, most of all, grateful for what I have. I am extremely appreciative of the experiences I have been afforded.

“Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.”

I often wonder how much different would my life be if my mother were alive. How would I have turned out? Who would I be? Would I have a family? What would I be doing? My guess is that if my mother were alive, I would not have made the same life for myself. So, in many ways, I owe my mother more than I realize. While I wish that she were here today, (particularly to see my amazing boys!) I am thankful for my life. I’m always looking forward to the future, because best is still yet to come!

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop” – Dieter F. Achtdorf

In closing, I would just like to say that it is crucial to cherish the time you have with your loved ones. Quality time can’t be taken for granted because our time is limited. There are never guarantees. Always make relationships with family and friends your first priority. And if life throws you for a loop and things aren’t right, talk to a friend or seek counseling as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to discuss your feelings and definitely don’t hold your feelings inside.

“Life is so ironic. It takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.”

RIP, Mom, and thank you.

8 Replies to “Against the Odds: Overcoming Adversity”

  1. Charles,
    You are an amazing person and I am so sorry you had to go through this all by yourself for so long. I hope you have a really good counselor that you trust. I hope you also know how well-respected and liked you are in our profession. Your boys are adorable and you will be such a stellar role model for them. My hunch is that writing this blog really helped you.
    Peace my friend.

  2. Oh, Chuck. You are an amazing person with a beautiful family and I think your Mom would be so proud of the person you have become. Even with everything you were going through back then, you were such a good friend and an even better person. I’m so glad that you are receiving counseling and that it is helping you. I’ll be thinking of you on your journey to healing.

  3. Charles,
    This took my breath away . Thank you for sharing. You have amazing strength.

  4. Hello Charles,
    That was a beautiful expression of your feelings. I am so happy that you have been able to sort out your feelings in such a positive way. I always felt like you were silently driven by the tragedy of your Mom’s loss. You turned out to be a wonderful young man that the whole family is so proud of.
    Your Mom, my sister, was a wonderful, beautiful person. You have nothing to be ashamed of. We know now a lot more about suicide now than we did at that time. it is not a sign of weakness but a condition that overcomes even the strongest and most unlikely people.
    I think this is a great honor to your Mom, to be able to express how important she was in your life in a positive way.
    I admire your courage and openness.
    Uncle Lou

  5. Chuck, thanks for posting this. All of us have lost someone we love, though not always so tragically. Wed all be surprised at how much suicide touches families. The courage that it takes to seek counseling and raise a strong family, and drive a career forward, after losing a parent to suicide, must be immense. I always admired your teaching style, and have appreciated your keeping in touch with dome of us here, in Vegas. Thank you for being vulnerable, and courageous, in sharing this. – Kay

  6. Dear Chuck,
    As a mom I know how much your mom must have loved you! As a child, I too have had to deal with my father’s suicide. As a woman, I know how hard it is when we get depressed and overwhelmed and get so low that it seems the only solution. I never went for help until I was older. I always saw counseling as a cop out for not being able to “buck up”. I know now that it isn’t. You will continue to wonder about your mom but please rest assured, she is looking down on you and smiling from ear to ear because you make her so proud. It is my faith that tells me that you will be together again in heaven. I too was a teacher for over 30 years and will probably never know how many lives my love has touched. Sending you hugs!!!

  7. Mr.Laux,

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. There’s a lot to be taken from life’s experiences and challenges, and your positive outlook sends a deep message that we all should look for the silver lining through our trials and tribulations. The fact that you continue to inspire so many around you is a testament to what a positive influence you are on everyone, despite such a long struggle of emotions. You inspired me growing up and because you shared your story, I’m inspired to be a more positive influence on those around me too!

    Lots of Love,
    Vicki Schreiber
    (former student Lied MS)

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