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


Brett said...

Of course my dear. All my respect.
What do you eat? What don't you?

Anonymous said...

Luna ~ I have lost so many young men in my life to suicide. I know they are at peace. They have communicated with me. All is well . . .

In love & light,


Pamela Wible said...

Accidentally published that last comment as anonymous. This is Pamela Wible. When/if you feel the strength and interest I am more than happy to meet with you if you feel my experiences would be helpful. XOXO


Anonymous said...

Love and light surround you.


Larry said...

While I never met Ben, I felt like I knew him through our conversations. I can not imagine the emotions you are experiencing right now. Healing takes time and is very personal experience.

Luna,I shall remain here with my heart and hands extended - be it for a hug or to help lift your spirits up when you are ready to re-emerge.

"I sat in my desolation
Withdrawn from all around,
Feeling my life was a ruin, a failure.
I was empty inside with the utter collapse of my being.
I did not care anymore for living or dying.
I was alone in my distress and desolation.
But as I sat sadly on the ground,
The sun reached out his hand to me and touched my face. And so my healing began." - Marjorie Pizer

Jennifer Shaffer said...


My husband and I have been friends with Jim for years. I have not met you, but have heard a lot of wonderful things about you. I just wanted to pass on some prayers and hugs to you and your family.

Mike and Jennifer Sweeten

Jenn said...

Sending light, love and healing energy to you and your family.

May your warm memories of Ben bring you comfort during this difficult time.

Jennifer Chastain

Sura said...

I do not know you, but I thank you for your eloquent words and for the example of you being clear and expressing what you need as support - we have so little framework around what to do around death and you express so well I think what many people need as mourners.

I can also relate to your words as someone with bi-polar disorder. I am 40 and was diagnosed at 16. It is not an easy road but it is my path and one of my greatest teachers. I hope that we will learn as a society to let go of stigma and fear - these things make the struggle much more difficult. You being willing to speak out and share your pain so sincerely and openly helps in this battle. My heart goes out to you and to Ben, along with many prayers for peace and comfort for both of you. A hug to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Luna for for honesty and beautiful works. I look forward to the next time we see eachother.Peace, Randy Birzer

Peter Mitchem said...

Hey Anita,
I Knew Ben Very Much He Was My Best Friend I am In Shock But Believe Me Anita He Doesnt Have To Be Depressed Or Bullied Where He Is At Theres No Judgement He Is Loved For Who He Is! I Used To Ride The Bus With Ben He Is A Great Kid He Told Me He Loved You Very Much You Raised Him Well Anita And For That I Thank You Its Not Easy Being A Mother To A Child With Disabiities But You Did All You Can To raise Him He Loved You Very Much Things Happen For A Reason Sometimes We Dont Know Why Things Happen But Maybe God Needed Ben In Heaven For A Reason Im 21 Too And Ive Lost My Son Too He Had Heart Problems So I Understand Its Hard But You Will Be Ok Its Ok To Cry And Grieve My Prayers And My Heart Go To You One Day Me And Ben Had A Conversation About Super Heroes He Said These Words Ill Never Forget I Believe I Have To Share With You I Asked Him Whi His Hero Was He Said This And I Quote "My Hero Is My Mom Because Se Puts Up With No Matter What. I Would Do Anything For Her:)"
My Prayers And Love
Peter Lawson Mitchem

Luna Anita Perkins said...

Many thanks for your kind words and thoughts. Ben was deeply loved and will be missed by many. I feel grateful for all the caring, loving people who have taken the time to send a message, a meal, a comment, a "like," a prayer, or a call -- Thank you for the tremendous outpouring of kindness! I am healing bit by bit after a week of intense mourning, and grief comes in waves. We are planning to return to work and school Monday if possible, and continue moving forward with Life. If you see us, please smile, act as "normal" as you can, and focus on the Positive, NOT on the pain, the sorrow, or the past. Again, THANK YOU and LOVE!

lee woo said...

You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. See the link below for more info.


Kris said...

Dearest Anita,
A fellow yoga teacher, my spirit was led here as I wanted to meditate upon Prajnaparadha, in particular to understand my daughter's ravaged mind and body from Crohn's disease. Enjoying your writing of 2008, I looked to see where you are today. Oh my.
Knowing the right steps to take, which you clearly do, only lessens the pain and cannot erase or reverse it; but it will be better, and your understanding that it is the individual who owns the healing of self will ease the way.
Be the bamboo, because the vigor and beauty of life force is so amazing. Walk in nature, in spring, to let the cycles and growth embrace you. Read Gibran's "Your Children" then stop thinking, good yogi that you are. Do some good-- plant a tree, clean up trash, make a tiny difference.
My mother told a sister-in-law that her mantra to get out of despondency after a disaster was "Drag the body, the mind will follow." One foot in front of the other. And so the sister took a belly dancing class. Yoga is your blessing-- movement heals.
Don't dread the memorial service-- it is the celebration of Ben that is needed, to be able to laugh during the tears and to put the badly dealt cards of grief on the table among the players is a good step in the cycle.
You opened a view into a potential existence that enlightened and helped me grow, and for that I thank you. Surely you know and feel the universe of good thoughts and wishes that come your way in support. Namaste.
Kristine Atkinson, Winchester MA

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