I am not a mother yet, but I hope to be one some day. A VERY GOOD ONE. Because I will be mother to precious gifts given to me. I shall not let any harm come in their way, I shall shield them from all sorrows, I shall give them all the joys life can promise.
But, the outpours of Desiree’s heart in I Still Believe have made me realize these precious gifts will not be mine to own… they are, and always will be, His.
I Still Believe has shown me a glimpse of what motherhood entails—the indescribable jubilations, the inexplicable anguishes, and the final letting go of the precious. This book has taught me to love fully, have faith unconditionally, and to hope tirelessly. A mother cannot be perfect, a mother cannot save her child from every pain and trial…but a mother can understand, a mother can accept, a mother can let go, a mother can hope, and above all, only a mother can “still believe.”
Ryan, as I envision through Desiree’s locutions, had a gentle heart, the kindest soul, and the most tender demeanor. He parted from us sooner than we would have liked. His illness took him away from us; an illness many among us do not understand, do not want to understand, do not dare acknowledge.
It takes great courage, great love, great faith, for a mother to expose her grief to the world…only with the hope that some child with mental illness is acknowledged, some mother knows she is not alone, some family understands. A mother cannot be perfect…but what an ode to motherhood, what an act of love, what a dedication to a cause, wherein a mother, Desiree, has taken it upon herself to not let Ryan’s parting render meaningless, even though every mention of her precious child is sure to tug at her heartstrings.
I wish Desiree, who has also been like a mother to me, great luck in this endeavor. You inspire me. -Soumia, June 2011
Many of us can only imagine the myriad of emotions associated with losing a child to suicide. In "I Still Believe", Desiree Woodland walks the reader through the anguish, disbelief, anger, sadness, denial and crippling grief she experienced when her son Ryan took his life in 2006. She also writes of rediscovering joy, hope and acceptance as she and her family rebuild their lives through faith on their spiritual journey of healing. Through excerpts from journals Ryan kept prior to his death, we are given insight into the inner workings of a schizophrenic mind and how heartbreaking the disease can be for both the individual and their family. We learn of the determination of a mother to find effective treatments for her son, and how sometimes despite tireless effort, those treatments remain elusive. The author shares some of her own journal entries chronicling Ryan's childhood, his death and how she managed through her faith to find the strength to forgive herself and go on after the loss of her beloved son. Inspirational quotes from several authors are interspersed throughout the book along with scripture, original poetry by the author, reading suggestions and mention of support services available to survivors of suicide. In reading this book, you will feel every emotion. As you finish the book you will leave with increased compassion for families faced with mental illness, and be inspired by the power of faith as demonstrated by this remarkable family. -NAMI Website, April 2011
Filled with faith and a mother's love, this tragic story of mental illness and suicide is heartbreaking as well as life-affirming. Desiree tackles questions that so many of us wrestle with, whether or not we have dealt with grief of this magnitude. After the death of her son, she struggled to reconcile the pain she and her family experienced with the belief in a God who is good and who has a perfect plan for our lives. She states that our God is "A God Who is sovereign over the earth that He created, but the earth through sin has fallen, is subject to decay and is pierced with sorrow... all to give us the opportunity to make a free choice whether to serve him or not. The law of the universe is a cycle of life, death, and regeneration. Move with the rhythm of the Creator, not fearing when pain and sorrow come."
She tells the story of her son's life, interspersed with his journal entries as well as her's, and beautiful poems written by a grieving, searching, and faithful mother. She describes what she has learned about mental illness and suicide, the work of grief, and the powerful bonds of memory and family. I admire the author for her honesty, her ability to articulate her feelings, and for her strength to confront haunting questions and come out with a stronger belief in God than ever before. This book is a remarkable testament to the grace of God and His healing power in the midst of great pain. The fact that Desiree can say she still believes that God is good, after the tragedy that struck her family, affirms my faith and gives me hope for the future in this imperfect world. -Holly, March 2011
I Still Believe is a tribute to Ryan's memory. The pages are filled with a mother's fight to keep her faith in a God who would allow her precious child to take his own life. Desiree Woodland reaches deep into her soul and shares her grief and doubt. It is easy to believe when your family is untouched by tragedy. It is easy to pray when your prayers are answered. The challenge came for Mrs. Woodland when her only son began to drift away from his sanity, as his dreams and goals faded to a desperate battle that only he could fight, a battle that he ultimately lost. The force field of mental illness seemed impenetrable to a mother's love but sheer as rain for God's mighty power because of a mother's love.
What faith and courage she must have to be able to position words on the page that are so eloquent, thoughtful and brutally honest for other mothers who face the challenge of dealing with mental illness and the loss of a child. That Desiree Woodland was able to put aside her unimaginable grief to share her journey with others is a sheer blessing.
I have to admit that I had to close the book a time or two because I could not see the words through the veil of tears. At first I thought the tears were for you and then I realized that they were for both of us, members of the sisterhood of motherhood. My membership in the sisterhood makes me vulnerable to the pain and anguish of your world. I recognize without experiencing your loss that your heart was shattered into a million pieces and as it mends there are pieces that are no longer of this earth and it will never be whole again. I want to take away your pain, help you mend your broken heart; give you a piece of mine, anything to help you through this tragedy. For one terrifying millisecond my heart stopped and the realization, but for the grace of God, penetrated my repose. You are my hero and your book is my call to duty. -Donna, March 2011
My good friend Desiree Woodland has written an eloquent and heart-wrenching book called I Still Believe. Desi wrote the book on the occasion of her son Ryan's tragic suicide at the age of 24.
Desi's articulate descriptions of her grief make for a painful and challenging read. Her conclusions about God, faith, and the mystery of suffering are well worth the challenge. -Fernando, March 2011