It’s been 17 years since my firstborn child died by suicide, two weeks before his 31st birthday. I asked the “why” questions for a long time until I was tired of shouting to the sky and hearing only howling wind in return. What still echoes in my mind are the unanswered questions. Within the realm of possibilities, what if my son disliked himself? What if he was fearful of more broken relationships or fearful of the future? I am talking about “what ifs” not facts, and I can come up with a long list of “what ifs.” Maybe you can, too. Some grievers may have more facts than I have which makes me wonder: Do more answers lower the intensity of grief? Did your child leave a note? Does it help?
The reason I wonder aloud if my son disliked himself is because I grew up with feelings of low self-esteem. I don’t know why I lacked confidence. Maybe I had older sister envy. To me, she had it all: looks, figure, steady boyfriend. Some girls grow up self-assured. Poised. Assertive. I wasn’t one of them.
When I look back at the early years of mothering, mostly I remember being exhausted from caring for two lively little boys. What did I instill in them? Did I teach them the all-important attributes? Did I have the wisdom to see beyond the present to what they might become? Looking back, it’s easy to doubt.
Self-reflection answers some of my questions when I examine them closely. I know that I did not cause my child’s death. Neither did you. That is a fact that may be hard to swallow, but it’s true. Sure. I could have been a better mother. If I had had the wisdom then that I have now, no doubt I would have shared it with my children. I know I wanted the best for them. We all did.
It makes my heart ache to look back at my firstborn’s life because I think he suffered from low self-esteem, too. Maybe he had little brother envy. He was not athletic like his brother. He was shy. He didn’t have girlfriends like his brother. These negatives don’t add up to positives. I don’t think my firstborn could see that he was beautiful, inside and out.
I’m going to open my heart up a bit more and reveal a painful truth. My son had made attempts twice before. Both times he was in the company of others. Looking back it signals to me that he really didn’t want to die, but was crying out for help. For one of those times he was home and I quickly took him to the ER. Somehow I never allowed myself to think that he might actually complete suicide one day. I refused to let myself think that it was possible until the day I got an email that made my heart nearly stop. He wrote that his girlfriend had broken off their relationship and he wanted to kill himself. He lived too far away for me to speed to his side. We were in contact later, and he reassured me that his email was written in the heat of the moment and he regretted sending it. He said he was okay. My mind wanted to believe him, but it was running wild with worry. Surely he wouldn’t follow through with his threat, would he?
Later when we had time together he talked and I listened. He cried and I cried. I rubbed his back and we hugged. I told him that if it were possible I’d die to save him. He nodded. Could he hear me? Did it make a difference? He was seeing two therapists so I trusted that they would work out some of his issues with him. Sadly, I trusted too much.
That was then. This is now. Time marches on but cannot change the truth. My child felt too much pain to live. He did not believe in himself. I now think that he was a troubled teen. His issues followed him into adulthood. The last girl was the last straw. She tore him down and maybe he believed her. Maybe he believed that he would never be happily married with children, a future he craved. The darkness closed in. The negative voice of the enemy beat a steady drum in his brain, and to my sorrow, he took a permanent way out.
I share that my child made attempts because maybe your child or another loved one did, too. No matter the details it hurts our hearts that they completed. We miss them more than we can say, but we won’t always miss them. I live in hope of the Grand Reunion when my son will swoop me up in his arms. We will laugh at the sheer joy of seeing each other again. I know you have a picture of your reunion, too. Let’s not lose Hope, but cling to it, letting it carry us forward to that wonderful day.
We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
Verses shared from The Message (MSG)
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