It was as if a train had run him down ~ that’s how my husband and I described our son’s death to one another. We had just spent a week-end with him. He had been despondent over his work situation and recent romantic break-up, but he and I had talked a lot, as we had for weeks, about these setbacks in life, not unusual in young adulthood. Over the preceding month, I had suggested several times that he see a therapist, and had even found some names for him, but he had alternated between a willingness to seek help and a cheerful insistence that he was fine. And then he was gone. As if a train had run him down.
Occasionally we would hear about suicide prevention work, but we could not imagine its relevance. How can you prevent something you have no idea looms ahead? Even as we began to piece the puzzle together over the next couple of years, as we found journals and notes, talked to his girlfriend, and came to understand that he had suffered from undiagnosed and untreated depression, perhaps for years, we still did not think in terms of suicide as something preventable.
We may have even bought into that oft-repeated and erroneous statement, made several times to us (and frequently by people who should have known better) that if someone wants to end his life, you cannot stop him. It was a shocking and sorrow-inducing statement, intended to be supportive but, in fact, conveying the horrific possibility that someone you loved more than seemed possible had reached a point of such interior torture that he had moved beyond recovery. Not exactly comforting news, is it?
And so we plodded through our guilt-racked lives, knowing that we had failed our beloved child and yet also believing that he had sunk into a downward spiral from which there could have been no return.
(To be continued)
Image: Josh, out west on a trip with college friends.