May 13th is the day I dread. But May 12th is the day that haunts me.
It’s the last day I saw my son alive. The last day I talked to him, and he to me.
When I speak in schools on suicide awareness & intervention I close my talk with the following question because, based on emails I have from school counselors, I know for certain there is at least one student there listening who has considered taking their own life. I say to them:
“If today were May 12th, 2013, and my son was sitting next to you in this assembly, what would I want the speaker to have said?”
O God, if only I could go back to May 12th….
If only I had stayed with him. If only I had somehow gotten him to tell me how he was really feeling. If only I had walked into his room a few minutes before…
If only…, if only…, if only…
This “if only” mental incarceration kept me in a state of shock for eight months after Jordan’s death. It was psychologically exhausting, I could barely make it through an entire day without having to lie down due to the “in the danger-red-zone rpm’s” at which my mind was speeding, trying futilely to un-do my son’s death. For the first time in my life I discovered how a person can go insane.
Finally, after eight months, utterly broken and in despair, I realized I was unable to bring my son back.
Psychologists rightly call grief associated with suicide “complicated grief.”
I could write a book on this topic alone (and I think Michelle and I are finally getting to a place where we can seriously consider doing so), but I will make this post brief. (We all know what it means when a preacher says “let me make this brief: we’re all in for another 30 minutes. 🙂 But I promise.)
I once heard a speaker on this topic say, “Suicide is 100% preventable.” I strongly and respectfully disagree. It’s impossible to protect someone from themselves. Not only is this statement, in my opinion, false, it shackles people like me with crippling guilt and shame. If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide never buy into that line. Because it’s simply not true.
As I’ve written in previous blogs, when a person takes their own life they are, at that moment, unable to connect with the logical part of their brain. In short, their brain is broken. To be clear, what I mean by “broken” is that their brain is suffering from a severe and debilitating chemical imbalance. Synapse and neurons are misfiring. They are, in the literal meaning of the phrase, no longer “in their right mind.” ( I’m sure there are exceptions, but based on my study, this is the rule.)
People ask sometimes, “Why didn’t Jordan say something? What was he thinking?” My response: “He wasn’t thinking. His brain was broken.”
99% of people who attempt to take their own life don’t want to die – they just want the pain to stop.
They’re plan plays out like a twisted and convoluted movie script. I am asked, “Why don’t they just say something??” I reply, “Their brain being in the process of breaking, they don’t know how to talk about it. Moreover, believing they’re doing what’s best, they don’t want us to get in the way of their developing plan to end their pain – and remove, once and for all, what they’ve, over time, convinced themselves is a back-breaking burden to us. “They will no longer have to worry about me,” they think to themselves.
On May 13, 2013, my son was in so much pain he just wanted to go to sleep. His brain being broken, he was unable to connect his shattered logic with the life-changing devastation this would have on his family and friends.
In early May, when Jordan told me, “Dad, I feel like I’m slipping” (our code phrase for when he and I felt like our medicine was not working), we immediately got him to the doctor and into counseling.
He told us it was helping. Had he communicated anything differently we would have never left his side and taken more drastic measures. But, better days seemed to lie ahead. On May 10th he talked about how excited he was about his and his friends’ upcoming wacky camping trip.
I share this today, in part, because writing is therapeutic for me. (As I write I, in essence, am counseling myself). But also to remind those who’ve walked this painful path you were an amazing parent/child/sibling/friend.
Your loved one’s suicide had absolutely nothing to do with your inability to prevent it.
Regardless of what satan may be whispering in your ear, it wasn’t your fault.
Here is the biblical truth:
Because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb your/my loved one is more alive than they ever were on this fallen planet. Further, they would never want to return for, being in the very presence of Jesus, they are this very moment experiencing a level of joy that lies far beyond mere human comprehension.
Love to you all, Nick