If you are new to my Blog, please click here to read about my son Caleb: https://www.ajourneyforcaleb.org/caleb
You Don’t Want To Be Me
I’m writing to you from the deepest, darkest pit a human could ever be in. The pit of despair, devastation and the never-ending-daydreaming over what could have been, otherwise known as, life as a bereaved parent. The most unfair consequence of being human and living in a fallen world is having to bury my child. What is a parent’s number one goal? Without question, it’s to keep our children alive!! Like it does, fear always hovers in the back of my mind, fear that something terrible will happen and I’d have to live without them. With no warning at all, that “something terrible” happened to me when my son died very suddenly by suicide at the age of 17.
As parents we do everything in our power to keep our children well and safe! We feed them to keep them healthy, buckle them in car seats to keep them safe in the vehicle, we hold their hand when crossing the street and we teach them about stranger danger. When they’re older we teach them to drive and how to live safely and responsibly on their own. We have GPS trackers on their cell phones so we can always know where they are or how fast they were driving. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that we have no control over what happens to our children and when. They die of disease, terminal illness, freak accidents, car accidents, suicide, murder and overdoses, to name a few. My children are mine, but they are first and foremost, His. I dedicated Caleb back to God when he was 6 weeks old, meaning I entrusted him back to God’s care and protection, but I didn’t think I’d ever have to “put my money where my mouth is,” so to speak.
Caleb showed no warning signs or indicators that he would ever end his life. Anyone who knew him will tell you that he’s the last person they would ever think would die by suicide. In our desperation for answers to his death, we searched high and low, we talked to friends and his phone was investigated. He left nothing behind that tells us he wanted to die. Caleb was a Christian. He gave his heart to Jesus and was baptized as a young boy, he lived for and loved the Lord with all his heart and shared his faith with anyone who would listen. While Caleb received and lived in salvation offered by Jesus, that fact does not always prevent a loss of direction or hope. Like you and me, Caleb lived in a broken and deceptive world. When he was at his lowest point and alone, the enemy lied to him and manipulated him into believing dying would solve everything. It solved nothing! The aftermath of the choice he made is trauma, unexplainable grief and brokenness that will remain for the rest of my life. I believe if Caleb had been taught what to do, how to respond and who to reach out to when the life ending thoughts entered his mind, he would not have died. Suicide is preventable, however, I’m not in denial. I know and understand that a parent, teacher, counselor or friend can openly and regularly talk to a child/teen/student about why suicide is not the answer and they can, and do, still follow through with the action to end their life. The conversations will not save every kid, but you’ll never know if you never have them.
Ads for the suicide prevention/crisis hotline in our kids’ social media accounts is not enough, and it never has been. Our kids need to be reached through school, home and work. How? The adults in their life need to get the conversation going. I was the mom of a happy 17 year old boy who is dead because he didn’t “fit the bill” as someone who would ever take his life. Take my word for it, there is no bill! Every parent needs to start the conversation at home by asking their child, “Do you or have you ever had thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life?” “Have you thought of or created a plan to end your life?” “Do you think we would be better off without you?” Don’t just ask once, keep the conversation relevant, consistent, open and non-judgmental.
If you’re reading this and your child died by suicide after previous attempts, counseling and conversations to prevent the tragedy, I stand with you in your pain, devastation and grief. Our paths to how we got here may not look the same, but I want you to know I acknowledge the efforts you must have made to save your child. My heart and love are with you and I’m so sorry for the heartache you must have endured before the death, and after.
It is my hope and prayer that by sharing Caleb’s story and my journey of surviving his suicide, the conversation of this devastating action becomes socially tolerable and unobjectionable. This silent epidemic that everyone knows is there but no-one wants to talk about, must become as loud of a conversation as the Coronavirus Pandemic! In the community where I live, I have seen the conversation move a bit in the right direction since Caleb died. Our local school district now has a Director of Social and Emotional Learning and schools are recognizing suicide prevention week, hanging up more posters to bring awareness and making the topic of conversation a bit louder than it was a few years ago. Teachers and counselors are sharing, teaching and giving resources to students about what to do, who to call and what to look out for. Even still, there’s this assumption that suicide only happens in “certain families” or to “certain types of people,” well, mine and thousands of other families can confirm that that assumption is absolutely unjustifiable. Young people are dying by suicide because they believe it’s an answer to their problems and pain when they can’t see how their circumstances could possibly work out. I am not an expert, but I do have some skin in the game! I’ve had 2 years and 31 days of unrelenting, agonizing replay of my son’s last day of life running through my mind and I can’t sit idle by and not share his story with the hope of saving lives. I have to allow God to use my grief journey for good. I have to believe that there is a purpose for my pain and that Caleb and I can still do some good in the world together!
I never once asked my Caleb, my firstborn child, my only son if he had thoughts of harming himself or thoughts that we’d be better off without him. Would it have made a difference and saved his life? I’ll never know…
If you have children/teens/young adults in your life or know someone that might need to read Caleb’s story, please share this post with them. If you do, you might be saving a life! If you’d like to hear me share the story of what happened to Caleb, you can listen to Episodes 19 & 49 on the “Always Andy’s Mom” Podcast and Episodes 111 & 112 on the “While We’re Waiting – Hope After Child Loss Podcast”, which you can find by clicking here:
A Story of Beauty from Ashes Part 1 and Part 2: