Over the last 18 months since Hannah’s suicide, I’ve dedicated my life to empowering youth. Most of this has been spent in research and education. I’ve become certified in modalities that are proven to save lives. I’ve identified therapies and medical procedures that have given people hope and turned away suicide. I’ve been blessed to surround myself with highly proficient professionals who care deeply about the well being of our youth. I’ve shared all these things with my family. My son, Chase, is on the board of Live Hannah’s Hope. Yet, yesterday, we admitted him to the hospital psychiatric unit due to suicidal thoughts. This morning I find myself questioning whether or not I have any business, any right to be writing this blog or to be involved in youth prevention. Shame is rearing it’s ugly head. If I couldn’t help my son, then what right do I have being involved in anyone’s life? I am a failure.
Shame is ugly. It’s mean. It’s painful. Shame enjoys trapping people in a dark box all alone.
Yet, my ego has no place here. If I don’t help, then I should take a back seat. If I really care, I have to question.
Reality is the antithesis to shame.
My son has been dealt a difficult hand in life. It started well before Hannah’s suicide. We’ve been aware of his challenges and despite our interventions, he’s chosen to do it his way. That’s life’s greatest gift – agency, the freedom to choose. Yet, to a mother, it can seem like the greatest challenge to overcome.
Fighting realty is a losing battle.
My inner mama bear makes a grisly look like a spider monkey. No one can accuse me of not trying. Is trying to control really the answer? I’ve offered Chase every opportunity to grow including an open invitation to explore my growth, my healing, my journey. He’s chosen his path. Haven’t we all done the same regardless of the impending pain? Haven’t we all made and make mistakes? I think so.
So, let’s get back to yesterday. Chase called at 4:30 am. CHASE CALLED! Success! He didn’t want to die. He wanted the pain to stop! I don’t know how many of you have ever experienced suicidal thoughts. The last thing most of us want to do is tell someone! It takes an enormous, gargantuan desire to live to reach out past the shame of, ‘I’m crazy because I can’t stop these thoughts of wanting to kill myself.’ Did I make Chase do this? No. Chase chose to live. I simply gave him a safe place to call. Should I be ashamed of this? NO! Is this failure? NO! It’s SUCCESS!
What about those whose children, loved ones, didn’t reach out right before completing suicide? Does that mean they’re a failure? NO! Suicide is a complicated issue that we tippy-toe around because of the shame and criticism so freely attached to it. There’s been millions spent in research in the name of prevention and yet, no one can offer a concrete procedure to end all suicide. As a mother of a daughter who didn’t reach out at that final moment, I know this to be true, she was a warrior. She fought to live. She was not a quitter in any aspect of her life. She hated to lose with a passion. She cared deeply about people. She was exhausted. She didn’t believe it would ever change. Her thoughts tormented her. She didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. At that time, no one had answers for her brain damage caused by a concussion – no medical treatment that gave refuge to her continuous, pounding, unrelenting, torturous negative thoughts. She did what she always did – won. She took the very last step she knew of to end her pain – suicide. She was impatient. She wanted the insanity to end. My answers weren’t enough. I offered them but they weren’t enough. That’s reality. If I had had answers, and they worked, and if she accepted them, she might still be here. There is no right and wrong in that equation – just choice. In Hannah’s case, her brain was so damaged that whether or not she had the ability of rational choice isn’t clear. I’d have to say she didn’t. So, if your loved one didn’t reach out, investigate reality and you may find a compassionate answer.
Now, Chase has options. I will not shame him. He’s not bad. He’s not broken. He’s traversing difficult paths. He’s fighting. He’s courageous.
HE ASKED FOR HELP!
I will love him. I will support him as he finds his answers. Is this something to be ashamed of? I just chucked to myself. Of course it’s not.
It’s a new year. In the name of compassion, let’s commit to:
It’s time to put stigma where it belongs and start embracing acts of support and love for those who struggle in closets, cardboard boxes, and all other lonely places.
In love and truth,