Monday, September 10, 2012

Suicide Awareness Day

The day is nearing its end, but today is Suicide Awareness Day.  I really struggled with whether or not I should post this blog today.  I ultimately decided one perspective may change a life, so here goes.

In 1995 I met a person who, for a time, would fill a place in my heart as one of my best friends.  She already had kids, but I wasn't even married yet.  I spent a LOT of time with this growing family, often taking on childcare, giving advice, and getting to know the kids as well as I knew the parents.  When I had my son, the first two years of his life, his care when I was at work fell to this woman.  Our kids, especially mine and her youngest, were effectively raised as cousins.  A truly fabulous thing happened with her then ten year old son and mine.  As the youngest in his clan, you'd think her son would welcome the opportunity of a younger boy in the house for the opportunity to spread a little good natured torturing around.  Not so.  He loved my son absolutely and totally.  I will never forget how he let my son, then a two year old, wander into his room, where NO ONE was allowed.  He would hand Cubby a video game controller that wasn't hooked to a game and let him sit right next to him while he played.  Cubby thought he was the bomb!  I can't count the number of times I had to wait for the school bus, because even if I got off early from work and could have gone home, it would have ruined both boys' days if they didn't get a chance to see each other.

As things happen, the loving boy grew into a teenager.  He was often sullen, as teens are, but he was also equally smiling and enjoying the company of those around him.  He had issues beyond the norm that were both organic and environmental in nature, but he was such a loving child, so many of those issues seemed to take a backseat to those around him.  It wasn't until a horrible morning in March just a few years ago that those issues overcame him, and he took his own life.  He didn't leave a note, so we'll never really know what was going on inside his head.  Later, it was found that he'd looked at sites on the internet that talked about ways to commit suicide.  There was a journal found, but it equally spoke of future goals and snippets of songs and poetry as it did fatigue of living this life day in and day out for a shy kid who hadn't quite found his niche in life.

Those left behind?  For each person there is a different emotion, depending upon the day, the hour, the minute.  For some, there was anger, shock, denial, avoidance, a feeling of being unmoored on a choppy sea.  I watched his family devolve in ways that stretched, frayed, and sometimes broke their relationships with each other and me.  They lost so much more than just one person.  I've seen the pain in their eyes and the void there too when there are no more tears the body can give, but the heart is still sobbing.  I've felt the anger myself.  I'm angry that at five my son idolized this boy, but at 11 Cubby can barely remember him, despite talking openly about him all these years and a picture still plastered on my fridge.  I'm angry that I had to talk to my son about guns and never to play around with them, then tell him why I was so adamant about it.  I'm sad too.  Sad that I'm the one talking with Cubby about superheroes and going to The Dark Knight Rises with him, when I know he would have schooled Cubby on all things superhero and probably would have seen the movie with him.  God knows I'm worried too.  While they may not have shared DNA, I look at the similarities I see--a love of superheroes, camoflauge clothing, graphic arts, a sensitivity that can't be taught--and I think "please, God, not my son too."

Because it isn't right for parents to bury their children.  When the cause is something as preventable as suicide, it feels even more wrong. 

For parents, check in on your kid.  I don't care if you think your kid will hate you, if they SAY they hate you, check in on them. Snoop like you're the freaking CIA.  I used to believe in privacy for teens, but I don't anymore.  Raid their rooms, and if you find a scrap of evidence you think they're hurting themselves or planning to, make them talk to someone.  If they won't talk to you, find someone they will, THAT DAY.  Especially be on the look out if they give away their things, seem to be settling old scores by talking things out all of a sudden.  If they've been in a constant bad mood and are suddenly happy, be cautious.  That can often be when they've made a decision to harm themselves.  If someone close to them has committed suicide recently, that often sort of gives permission to those who are contemplating it to also do the deed.

This young man lived in a home where he could have gone to any number of people and voiced his concerns and fears, and anyone would have listened.  Sometimes, they just don't come to you.  They just don't.

For those who suffer with the thoughts in your head, please, please, please, contact someone.  ANYONE.  I know you don't believe it, but there are people in your life who love you beyond measure, so much they can't put it into words.  It's just that living the routine of life has made them forget to stop and tell you that you are worth more than the moon and stars and oxygen combined.  I promise, it WILL get better.  If you think it can't get better at home, find some place you are safe and work on "better" there.  Call a hotline, talk to a friend, clergyman, teacher, someone who will listen.  Tell them it's important, because it is.  YOU are.

1-800-273-TALK (8255) is the number of the 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Call them if you need to.  Be known for the courage it took to call, not for your last act.


  1. Donna, You would be amazed at how many teenagers between the ages of 12-16 are cutting and having regular suicidal thoughts. I too have been forced to be the CIA and I'm glad I did. I found out things about my son that I had no idea were going on in his head even though he was in our presence the majority of the time. My son is too, somewhat of a loner, trying to find his niche. If I had not intervened and snooped like you say, I would have never known where he was heading. We immediately got him into a good youth group at church that provided him with something to grasp. Soon after he confessed God saved him. Since then, he has been mentally confident and feeling good about himself. He is even beginning to explore professions and schooling. It's been a slow process, but a successful process. He still complains that no one elses parents are so "on top" of everything, and I just tell him they must not care as much as we do - these parents he's referring to have children that are cutting on a daily basis and posting facebook videos about how they have been sexually abused - it's tragic. I spoke to the head counselor at school and highly suggested some support groups for these kids - they have no idea how widespread it is. As John tells me, the preppie group drinks and does drugs, and the other group tends to be cutters and problem kids. It's hard today for kids like my son to find a spot socially. I am slightly proud of John though today, because I frequently finding him trying to counsel other kids and to stop them from doing things to hurt themselves. He is anti-drugs and drinking, so he is always the one at the party who dumps the liquor then leaves. As a parent I just want to lock him in the house until he's 18, it's that bad.

    Your story is very sad and I am sorry it happened to someone you cared about. I can see how a family could be torn to shreads after a childs suicide, it probably would have happened to me. You are right, the key is to stay on top of what your child is doing. My cousin also sent me somoe extremely helpful books, "The 5 Love Languages" and some other readings - apparently we were speaking at our son all wrong. Just a few changes in dialogue really opened up our communication. I'm sure you'll be fine with your son, just stay on top of it and keep your eyes open.

    Sorry to ramble, very touching and recently relatable post.

  2. Al,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Too often, mental illness is seen as a horrible defect in people. As a country, well, I like the word community better, we've got to look at it as just another thing we need to address, like chicken pox.

    I worry so much about things, because it's just as difficult for boys as it is for girls out there. My son is one to pick up the wounded as his friends. He's always the champion of the underdog. He doesn't care if someone is different, only if that person has the same interests. That makes him a good person, but not popular among his peers, and that sucks. I can see my son being like yours.

    What we do is try to keep him in different groups so he has different sets of friends. School, church, scouts, each has a different set of friends he interacts with. That way, I figure, he isn't bound to what one group mentality thinks or does. Plus, that's more people to talk to if need be.

    Stay strong, it's not easy being a parent.