Anything Goes, Life in General, Missing You, Motherhood, Suicide Awareness/Prevention

Life Moments #29 – Living with Loss, but Making Progress

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Darren J. Wallace 1/11/01 – 7/17/18

Darren has been gone 3.5 months – May 17 will forever be a day etched into my memory for two reasons:

  • My niece was born in 2002 and
  • Darren took his life.

It’s funny how dates will stick in our minds, but other stuff seem to drift out even when we need to remember it. At least, that’s how my memory works.

Anyway, he’s been gone 3.5 months. The first day of school came and went. It’s already been almost 2 weeks since school started! Where does the time go?

With all but one of the kids in school, I have much more time to think, to stay busy, or not stay busy. I choose to try to stay busy so I won’t focus so much on what happened as it is a heartache that will never heal. But, I do need to learn to live with it, unfortunately. Not something I want, but something I need.

I continue to talk about Darren because he’s my son and no matter if he’s with us or not, he will always be my son. Plus, I don’t find it so easy to not ever talk about him. My big fear with that is that he will be forgotten and I just can’t allow that. In my home, we will always remember him. I understand he’s not here and he never will be again, but he was. He made a difference in our lives and for that reason, he will be remembered. In fact, when people act as if he didn’t exist, my heart breaks a little more.

I will say, though, that the days are getting a little easier. I still cry at night and during the day. I still tear up at a memory or a thought. The tears are not constant anymore, but my breathe catches at the mention of his name sometimes. I visit his grave multiple times a week. A few of his friends keep in contact with me with their memories and talk about their own sadness over losing Darren.

Really, my goal now is to keep him alive in my heart and to help others who may be contemplating suicide. However, I want to focus not only on helping keep others alive, but also to change the way people think about pain (all sorts) so they never reach that point.

September is Suicide Prevention month. As we draw closer and closer to September, I ask you to remember the lives that have been lost to suicide as well as take a stand against suicide by reaching out to others who may be in a dark place. You can prevent suicide! We all can! We don’t need a degree in psychology, social work or mental health. Here are five ways you can do your part to prevent suicide:

  • First and foremost, be a friend. Always. Be kind.
  • Get educated about suicide: warning signs, causes
  • Show compassion
  • Talk about it! Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Rather than hide from it, confront it. Take away the stigma.
  • Take threats seriously, Always. This is crucial!

For me, my involvement begins with the Out of the Darkness walk in my area taking place on September 14. However, the walks occur around the country in the month of September. Find one close to you and take part in it.

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Anything Goes, Life in General, Missing You, Motherhood, Suicide Awareness/Prevention

Suicide – Every Life Matters

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Suicide can and does wreak havoc on families across the nation much more than is realized. The only suicides we hear on national news are the suicides of entertainers as if their lives and families are the only lives affected by suicide. On local news, we hear nothing of suicides.

Why not?

Many fear that speaking of suicide may glorify it thus generate more suicides.

Sadly, ignoring the issue does nothing to help.

All lives matter. My son’s life mattered. He mattered to me. To his father. To his siblings. To aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and friends.

When we take a crisis – such as suicide – and only pay attention or promote awareness when its an entertainer (movies, music, sports, etc) we do the lives of every-day citizens and society as a whole a great disservice.

Every life matters.

It wasn’t long ago when my son took his life. In fact, I am very much still trying to get past the shock and disbelief. My friends and family have been supportive. I haven’t faced any rude comments, but I have dealt with change of subject when the topic of my son’s death comes up. I understand that people are uncomfortable with the subject or,  possibly, tired of hearing about it. I understand. I do not judge or condemn. I just go on doing what I do.

Since I lost my son, I’ve learned a few things as I stumble through my grief.

  • I do not want to glorify my son’s death, but I do want people to understand the emotional pain that got him to the point of no return. Emotional pain can be caused by any number of circumstances, but from what I’ve read, it often arises from depression or other mental illness.
  • My son didn’t take his life to hurt me or anyone else. He was not trying to cause anybody any pain. He took his life to end his own pain because he didn’t know any other way. In that state of hopelessness the individual does not – cannot – think past his/her emotional frame of mind. This is where suicide awareness, mental illness, depression awareness plays such an important role. Feelings are normal and society needs to get educated that strength is in talking about these issues rather than hiding the issues.
  • I am now THAT person. THAT person who has lost someone. THAT person whose child took his life. THAT person forever affected by suicide. THAT person who will use that tragic loss to spread awareness – to help others. THAT person who will always talk and never forget about my son and who hopes you talk about and never forget him either. His life made a difference.
  • How one person experiences grief is completely different than the next. Grief is personal and it is a necessary part of the healing process.
  • We all walk a similar path: uphill battles and downhill coasts. We stumble and we fall, but our paths have different circumstances and trials to stress and/or rejoice over. We all carry burdens no one else knows about. When we cross paths with another just remember, he/she has a story, too.
  • Before I ever had personal experience with suicide, my attitude was a common one: “how selfish of this person to do that, cause that kind of pain, to people who loved him/her. It is only through this tragic loss and witnessing my son’s pain that I realized: Suicide is not selfish nor was the individual. The person who takes his/her life believes suicide to be the only way out.

Again, society needs education rather than condemnation concerning what strength is in relation to emotions and mental illness.

Become a society in which people can show “presumed” weaknesses without fear of judgement.

My son once said ‘I don’t talk about my feelings because I don’t want to be some emotional freak show or give ammunition to use against me later.’

Feelings are normal. Everyone has them. It’s all in how we handle our feelings that makes the difference. Never shame someone for their feelings. Never shame them for voicing their feelings.

Why is that what we are teaching our children, our teenagers? Why are we teaching our teens to keep it all bottled inside when most adults can’t handle it? Why do we expect more from our youth than we expect from our adult selves?

#SuicideAwareness #SuicidePrevention #SaveaLifebyBeingaFriend

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Anything Goes, Life in General, Missing You, Motherhood, Suicide Awareness/Prevention

Life Moments #18 – One More Day

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This is one of my favorite pictures of you and your baby sister. I remember this day like it was yesterday…I remember all the days like they were yesterday. Anywhooo….you came in after school and lounged on the furniture for a bit. It was very seldom that you were without socks, but for some reason, you didn’t have socks on at this time. You picked her up from me and proceeded to lay down on the floor with her. I remember you saying all the time that she didn’t like you because she fussed when you held her, but you held her anyway. You loved her so much.

And we miss you so much. I think about you constantly throughout the day. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I smile. Sometimes I laugh. But you are always in my mind.

I have so many different things running through my head about you, about suicide, about how what has happened to us can help others, about your siblings and their stories, about Dylan and Heaven…..about everything. Speaking of your siblings and their stories, they have such good stories. I encouraged them to go to a suicide loss support group and we went this evening. I only spectated as it was a children’s support group. To start the group they introduced themselves and you. Throughout the hour, the told stories of you and how this loss has impacted their lives. They mostly told stories of your tough truck. They goofed off by telling some silly stories. And they enjoyed telling the stories. They laughed at the antics you guys pulled together. They had the leader of the group giggling.

Oh, how they loved you, love you still. I will never get the image out of my head of the moment that we told them of your death. They miss you terribly. I want you to know, Darren, that you impacted their life while you were here. They looked forward to seeing you all the time. They missed you so much when you weren’t with us and the stories that get them through their days now involve so much of you. Those last two months before you took your life left a mark on them as well. Now they hold every memory with you so dear to their heart.

Oh buddy, how different life is without you!

We just continue to move forward, or at least try, one day at a time.

Today was just one more day.

Another day without you.

Another day thinking of you.

Another day wondering why.

One more day………

Let’s raise Suicide Awareness in hopes of preventing other families from going through this same heartache, preventing others from believing suicide is the only way out.

 

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Anything Goes, Life in General, Motherhood, Suicide Awareness/Prevention

Life Moments #17 – Living with Loss

Suicide is on the rise across the nation. As a society, we must pull together to educate adults and our youth when it comes to mental illness, depression and other medical issues that can lead to suicide. Education starts in our homes, in the schools, in our churches and youth activities.

We can start by showing what suicide looks like from the perspective of a suicide loss survivor.

Anything Goes, Life in General, Motherhood, Suicide Awareness/Prevention

I am NOT Crazy!

My friend posted the story below to me this morning. The story comes from the Blog

The Life I Didn’t Choose @ https://thelifeididntchoose.com

My friend posted it to me in form of support. I am lucky to have met her and her daughter. She was not someone I knew, but her daughter and my son were friends. When my son died, they contacted me and attended his wake and funeral. I have only met them those two times, but we have talked frequently via text and FB messaging. My son made an impact on their life and now they are making an impact on mine. ♥♥♥♥

It was just over a year after Dominic’s accident and a friend forwarded an article about odd behaviors of those who were “stuck’ in grief.  Along with the forward was a little tag, “Reminds me of you.”

It hurt my feelings.

And it was inappropriate.

Because not only had I not participated in any of the listed behaviors (most of which anyone would deem odd and some that were actually harmful) but as far as I could tell, I was doing pretty good, considering.

Considering I went to bed one night with four children alive and well and woke in the wee hours of the next day to the news that one was dead.

No warning.  No good-byes.

Just gone.

In the months since that day I had gotten up each morning and taken care of necessary tasks.  I was not abusing alcohol, drugs or food.  I was still exercising when I could.

And I was engaged with my family -working with them to put the pieces of our shattered lives and hearts back together again.

Yes, I cried.  A lot.  No, I didn’t like to be around crowds.  I stayed at home much more than before. I struggled with anxiety when anything out of the ordinary happened.  I found small talk hard to follow and forgot things (still do). And I was not participating in many “extra” activities.

I slept with Dominic’s pillows………To continue this story, click the link below.

via I am NOT Crazy!

After reading her story, I can definitely say, I understand where she’s coming from because I am there myself.

I can say your child’s death is not something you ‘get over.’

I am there, in her spot, and will be for the rest of my life.

And like her, I don’t wish this heartache, the loss on anyone. In fact, I hope that my story can help others.

***FYI, I am uncertain how her child passed away. She does not say in her story. Suicide is my son’s story.

Anything Goes, Life in General, Motherhood, Suicide Awareness/Prevention

Suicide: Facing the Facts

22405754_10210525861967178_1941262998951808257_n As a parent who has lost a child to suicide, my mind often reels with questions….

About. Everything. To. Do. With. His. Suicide.

Also, as a parent, I like to think that I knew everything about him, about all of my children. I am fooled into thinking that they tell me all about their lives, leaving nothing out.

The sad truth is: children, especially those in adolescence, do not tell their parents ever half of what is in their minds. I think back to my adolescent years and I cringe at all the things I kept from my parents because now I have an idea of what my children keep from me. So, what leads an adolescent to keep secrets from parents?

Again, thinking back on my own adolescent years, I kept secrets because:

  • low self-esteem
  • believing I wouldn’t be accepted as I was
  • not trusting the adults that my life would go right
  • not wanting to hurt the people that I loved
  • fear of repercussions
  • feeling alone and unheard.

These are feelings and thoughts that I can remember about my own adolescence.

Now, do all teen and young adults fell and think this way? I couldn’t tell you that. I suppose at some point they do because they are trying to figure out who they are outside of their parents. I am inclined to believe some of these feelings/thoughts are true of most teens and young adults, but I also believe whether these feelings are true of all young people depends on their home life, where they are raised, how they are raised, and other contributing factors.

Okay, so then I look at my son’s suicide. I keep asking myself why. I suppose why is the biggest question parents and loved ones face when an individual takes that route. While I may never know the exact why, if it can be pinpointed to any one thing or not, I can learn something from his death that will hopefully strengthen my the relationships with my other children.

Not a consolation by any means, but……I feel guilty for even thinking these thoughts, but letting something good from his death is on the road to healing….or so I’ve been told.

My question now, is:

Can suicide be prevented?

Non-profit organizations such as American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and International Association for Suicide Prevention believe through research, education, and bringing awareness, society can get a reign on suicide.

Current suicide statistics

According to the AFSP (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/), suicides statistics in the US are as follows:

  • the 10th leading cause of death in the US
  • 44, 965 people die by suicide each year
  • for every suicide, 25 attempt

According to North Dakota Department of Health (http://www.ndhealth.gov/suicideprevention/?id=57), suicide statistics in ND are as follows:

  • the ninth leading cause of death overall
  • second leading cause of death between ages 15 and 24
  • North Dakota’s suicide rate is higher than the national average

No, facts and statistics aren’t any fun to most people. I, myself, hate reading stats and figures because they make no sense to me. I can see the numbers, but that’s really all it is: numbers.

My question is: how do we help lessen the numbers? How do we make those figures smaller, almost non-existent?

The answer: pay attention. Pay attention to your children, your loved ones. Pay attention to their behaviors, routines, words, and actions. Pay attention closely because then even the slightest change will be noticed.

According to ND Suicide Prevention Program (http://www.ndhealth.gov/suicideprevention/?id=57), the following information can be helpful:

  1. Most people exhibit warning signs: words, actions, and behaviors
  2. Ask direct questions if suicide becomes a concern
  3. Offer help to anyone who exhibits suicidal signs.
  4. Most suicide attempters and victims don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain, their confusion so intervention, even forced, is always worthwhile.
  5. Long-term care is necessary for those considering suicide, but knowing the warning signs and immediate intervention can save lives.
  6. Take every suicide mention or behavior seriously — this one I cannot stress enough. In my son’s case, his mentions were not taken seriously by his father and father’s girlfriend, his own girlfriend or an employee of the juvenile court system.

Of course, knowing risk factors of suicide can be helpful as well. According to the AFSP (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/), these factors include:

  • mental health conditions
  • serious physical health
  • traumatic brain injury
  • access to lethal means (guns, drugs, etc.)
  • prolonged stress: harassment, bullying, relationship problems, unemplyment
  • stressful life events: divorce, rejection, financial crisis, loss
  • previous suicide attempts
  • family history of suicide and
  •  childhood abuse, neglect or trauma

So, again,

Can suicide be prevented?

I believe my son’s could have and if his could have, then anyone else’s can be as well.

And again, I cannot stress enough:

Pay attention to your loved ones. If you think you do it sufficiently already, then double your efforts.