Monday, February 24, 2014

May My Sweet Boy Rest in Peace -- A Parent Surviving Suicide

As you may know, my son, Ben, recently committed suicide. On February 22, 2014, Ben parked his bicycle at the Glenwood Bridge, climbed a ten-foot fence, and jumped to his death. I am experiencing a shifting kaleidoscope of numerous thoughts, memories, and feelings. Essentially, I am strong; I will survive.

While this is horrifying, shocking, and saddening news, I am not surprised. I have been concerned about this possibility for several years. Ben had autism, and developed mental illness in late adolescence, which made his daily existence a struggle. One of my many feelings is relief that my son is finally at peace.

After Ben finished high school, he developed an eating disorder, severe depression, worsening anxiety, and increasingly frequent suicidal thoughts. Ben spent months in and out of the Johnson Unit, a local psychiatric facility. After struggling to keep Ben safe while his self-destructive behaviors, including cutting and bingeing, increased, I made the difficult decision to let him be cared for by a 24-hour supervised foster home, selected by Lane County Department of Disabled Services, where he would be closely monitored. Ben moved out of my home in December 2011.

The strength that is carrying me through the death of my beloved boy was developed over two decades of taking care of such a challenging child, mostly single-handed. The letting go that is now essential, began over two years ago. The worst-case scenario of suicide that just happened, was already worried over hundreds of times in my mind over many years. Somehow, my past struggles with Ben have eased my healing upon his fatal choice.

Ben was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and began taking psychiatric medications in November 2011. Before my son's 19th birthday, I had already begun letting go of all the hopes and dreams I'd had for my intelligent, caring, dynamic son's future. It all fell away as his inner turmoil intensified. There were many ups and downs during the two years leading up to his death. I continued to love and care for my child through a suicide attempt in the Summer of 2012. While I was deeply frightened for Ben, I was also letting him go, knowing I was already doing all I could. Yes, Ben received psychological counseling, medication management, eating disorder treatment, tons of staff support at his foster home, crisis intervention as needed, extended family support, and my enduring love. Ben's death is therefore terrible, but not surprising.

Ben was loved not only by myself, but also by his sister, Sequoia, his former step-dad, Rob, his grandparents, Max and Marcia, Glenn, Jim, Al, Aimee, his extended family, his support team, his friends, my friends, his former teachers and classmates, and, clearly, the entire community.

Ben will be remembered for his sweetness, his loving kindness, his intelligent mind, his sense of humor, his childlike innocence, and his generous heart. Ben loved riding his bicycle, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, video games, card games, skiing, hanging out with his friends, and wheeling and dealing on Ebay and Craigslist. Speaking as the one person who spent just about every single day with him over 19 years of his too-short life, I remember everything: his birth, his childhood, the feel of his hair, his smile. He was loved. Many others remember Ben with love as well. He will never be forgotten.

Thank you!!! to everyone for the tremendous outpouring of support. I have been reading your messages and comments from my healing cocoon at home. I love you all. Please understand that I cannot talk to you right now. I will emerge from my shell in due time. Meanwhile, many kind people have asked what they can do to help. Here are some ways:

1. Please respect my introverted need to withdraw, in order to process my grief and heal. I need privacy. I will emerge in time. Thank you.

2. If you see me, just hug me. Loving touch heals.

3. Please do not ask me "why" this happened. I have told you all I know.

4. There is a hole in the pit of my stomach. While it is not hunger, I do need to eat. I can barely feed myself on a good day. Anandam Al Perkins at Dharmalaya is coordinating meals at MealBaby Meals . Food is the gift of nourishment and appreciated.

5. Please hold back your expressions of sympathy. If you cry, I will cry harder. If you pity me, I will pity myself. If you lose it, I will really lose it! I am working VERY hard to hold it together and survive this. Of course I know that losing one's child is the worst thing that can happen, especially to suicide. I need fresh air and a smile, and time. Please affirm Life with me. Please remind me that life goes on, and that my son is now at peace. Please embrace me with your prayers and positive thoughts, and if we meet in person, with your embrace.

6. If you feel so called, please donate to the charity of your choice. Perhaps Direction Service or an autism advocacy group. Perhaps Center for Appropriate Transport, Ben's last employer.

7. I am sorry but I cannot bring myself to arrange a funeral at this time. Ben's body will be cremated. Perhaps there will be a memorial service in the future. I will let you know.

8. Finally, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I will need support over the coming months, since healing of this magnitude does not happen overnight. Your kindness is appreciated now; it will be even more appreciated in the coming weeks and months.

Blessings and Namaste for you all. Your beautiful kindness is deeply appreciated. Luna