MY SON COMPLETED SUICIDE BUT I'M NOT ASHAMED OF HIMMay 17, 2000 Write an essay on this topic.
On July 6, 2000, it will be four years since my son Jason completed suicide. I am not writing this asking for your words of encouragement nor for the purpose of trying to elicit sympathy from you. My goal is to inform you of how suicide can affect the survivors, how to cope with your loss, and perhaps to help you look at those around you with a different eye.
Jason was 18 when he chose to take his life. The true reasons have never been revealed but from past history we assume it is associated with Bi-Polar Disorder.
As with all suicides, the survivors are left in a turmoil of confusion, pain and doubt. Because suicide seemed to run in the paternal side of our family, after Jason's death I spoke to several doctors to see if there might be an actual physical cause for this devastating problem. On their recommendations, I had my other two sons tested and did find they were also Bi-Polar.
Ok, I thought, this is kind of a positive thing. Something to build grounds on, a reason? Also, it is a disease and it can be treated, if the patient is willing. I figured there had been three suicides in this family and perhaps it was time for me to do something about it.
I pleaded with my oldest son Mark, but he is so opposed to medicines of any kind, even Aspirin, that he has elected to do nothing about his illness. Granted, he does not seem as affected as the others were, but you wonder about the underlying emotions that are not surfacing.
Next I approached my middle son Troy. He was 26, married and had three children. His purpose for living was entirely different than Mark's. Not to diminish Mark's will to live, just as an example. It took me a year, but I finally convinced Troy to get the medication necessary to help even out his mood swings.
Not only is he the more sensitive of the two, but he also seemed the most effected by his father's and his brother's deaths. Being practically a physical twin to his younger brother didn't help either. Unknown to me at the time, he was also having martial problems, something that would escalate a year later. Fortunately, he was on the medicine when this occurred.
I had never heard of Bi-Polar Disorder until after Jason died. Since then it seems to the cause celeb' everywhere. This is good for me because I can get my hands on even more information. In hindsight, I can now reflect on Jason and see his mood swings, things I dismissed at the time as teenage angst.
If you have a friend or loved one that seems to be flying from mood to mood - unbearable anger one minute, loveable teddy bear the next, suggest they look into Bi-Polar. They often have days of mellow moods then will suddenly become unable to control their anger. They often appear listless, restless, unable to sleep, poor appetite - all signs for many illnesses. Please do not overlook this hidden killer. Many times people do not even realize just how out of control their lives are becoming. An outsider, a friend, a family member - interact with tough love! Sure, they may be angry with you at first, but this could be a life saving step you are both making.
Often times we view these people as outsiders. Not following the norm, if they don't follow our rules then we don't want them to play on our league. They are not responsible for their problem but they are responsible for getting the help to survive with it. It is a chemical imbalance in their body - just like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. Neither they or your should feel ashamed of their affliction because it is an affliction. It is not something, like drugs or alcohol, that they elected to do - they were born with it.
Obtaining this information greatly helped me finally not accept but come to terms with my sons' death. Until I learned of the devastation of this disease, I feared I had failed him somehow. I felt that perhaps I could have stopped his suicide or that I could have given him more love. Finally I realize I gave him everything I could. He was killed by a disease, even though he was the perpetrator of his death. Perhaps I could have stopped him one time, two times, three times - eventually he would have accomplished his goal, simply because he had no choice.
I am not ashamed of Jason and what he did. That is another chore you have when associated with suicide. People tend to shy away from you for many reasons:
1) if it is your child, they are unable to express their grief. They know what they want to say but not how to say it without sounding trite and common place. They do not want to offend you by saying the wrong thing, so therefore, they simply say nothing, leaving you feeling helpless and alone.
2) if it is your spouse, they often look at you as if YOU did something wrong. Perhaps it was something you said or did that caused your spouse to end their life. Again, helpless to say the one thing that does not offend, they do not approach you. You begin to feel that perhaps you did do something after all. More loneliness.
3) if it is a family member - mother, father, aunt, etc. - they seem easier to talk to you. After all, you have been removed from the direct family tie for some time and therefore, not directly responsible.
4) the stigma of suicide remains for a long time. Never able to speak directly to you about the cause of the person's death, people often skirt around the issue - often referred to as "IT". As in, ‘How are you dealing with IT?', ‘Why do you suppose they did IT?', etc. Even in this enlightened day and age, suicide is still an issue whispered behind closed doors. Seldom does anyone directly approach the subject, seldom do they even say the word out loud, but generally speak in a normal tone until they finally broach that word then say it softly.
As a survivor of suicide, I often speak to people about how I feel regarding this illness, for I feel that suicide is an illness as well. The year after Jason's death, I spoke to an assembly of students at his school. It was a very disturbing experience. Many of the children (they are still children even at 18) did not know Jason directly but knew of him. Many had considered suicide or knew someone that did or someone that had attempted suicide. There were many questions at the end, something I was grateful for because that meant at least some of them were listening!
Do I believe I helped anyone by telling them Jason's story and how it affected me and my family? Frankly, yes I do. There certainly had to be at least one person in that audience that changed either their life or the life of someone they knew because of my story. That is all I asked for in the end. At the end of the meeting, several students came to me wanting to talk further. I made arrangements with the school, the counselors, and their families to meet with each one individually and talk to them as much as they wanted. Four years later, I am still fast friends with a half dozen of these children and grateful I was able to give them some insight.
That was yet another way for me to cope with the loss of Jason. Was I self-centered? At the time, completely. I wanted everyone I knew, and people I didn't know, to suffer with me. I didn't think it was fair that other people and their lives were continuing to go on while mine seemed to stop. I forced myself and my feelings on everyone I met until eventually I realized I had to find peace within myself. Fortunately, I was able to finally find that peace.
If you know someone that has suffered a loss through suicide - or any death, call them today. Even if the loss was some time ago, the offered hand is always welcomed. In fact, survivors of any death are often so overwhelmed by friends, family and well wishers at the beginning, then find 6 months, a year, two years later - that is when then need the interaction. Your mind and body have sorted through all the moods and despair and pain and you are suddenly able to think again, you want to talk - now there is no one available. Never be afraid to be a friend.
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