Losing a loved one can be a difficult experience, but the grieving process is made much more difficult when the person you’ve lost committed suicide. Suicide is the cause of death in teen far too often. In fact, it is actually the second leading cause of death in children between the age 12 and 18, and that age range is starting to include children that are even younger. Sadly, when a teen decides that taking their own life is a better alternative than living in this world for a longer period of time, they may end their suffering, but it is only the beginning of the suffering of their parents, siblings, family members, and friends who care about them. Coping with the loss of a child who commits suicide is one of the most difficult experiences that a parent will ever face, and getting through the grief takes time. One of the best ways to help yourself understand what you are going through is to talk to or hear the stories of others who have gone through similar tragedies. The thing that I have not mentioned yet in this interview is that I have lost someone that I loved because they committed suicide. I know how difficult it is to lose a child, so I decided to answer some questions that other parents in the same situation have asked so that there is a place for grieving parents to go to help them heal.
Interviewer: Who did you lose?
Natasha: Sadly, I lost my baby boy to suicide a few years ago. He was my only son, so as I’m sure you can imagine, it was quite a shock when my husband and I found out what had happened. At the time of his death, Matt was only 16 years old.
Interviewer: What happened to your son?
Natasha: When we first found out that our son had passed from this world, we did not know that it was a suicide. He had been out with friends that night, and he was really late coming home. His curfew was 11 pm, and it was not until about 12:30 in the morning when we heard a car pull in the driveway. We thought that it was our son because he had left that night in his car. Matty had gotten his driver’s license about six months earlier, so he had been driving himself to school, to soccer practice, and to hang out with his friends. It was not until we saw the flashing red and blue lights that we realized that it was not Matt who pulled into the driveway, and suddenly, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that something had happened to my baby. The officers explained that there was an accident, and I felt my whole world collapse. They informed us that Matt was dead. They didn’t want us to see the scene, but after they removed my son from the scene we were able to see the car. Based on the damage that we saw, we knew there was no possible way that he could have survived the impact. The friends that Matty went out with that night gave statements to the police, and apparently, they were racing when they realized that a bump in the pavement would give them some air. Matt decided that he wanted to use the bump to get enough air to propel the car over the edge of the cliff on the side of the road. According to his friends, he had been talking about ways that he could end his life all night, and this gave him a chance to go out in style is what he told them. They tried to talk him out of it, but he still got in the car and went as fast as he could until he reached the bump in the road. At that point, his car became airborne, and he lost control. The car hit a tree traveling at more than 90 miles per hour. The medical examiners said that there was no chance that he could have walked away from the accident.
Interviewer: Did he leave you any type of communication?
Natasha: Our son never left a note for us regarding his intent, but we did find a video recording of him on his phone. It was basically a journal entry type recording where he was simply recording his thoughts. At first, he spoke about his day and what happened with his soccer game that day, but then the things that he was saying became a bit darker than they were. He spoke about a few of his teammates and how they embarrassed him during the game. Then, his look became cold and he began to tear up, saying: “ I wonder if they’ll miss me when I’m gone.” I wanted to hold my son at that point, but it was no longer an option. There was also another recording that he set up in his car moments before he died. He looked into the camera and said :“Mom, Dad, I love You. I’ll see you later. Tell Vic that I love her too.” He kept the video recording as he started picking up speed in his car, and thankfully when the car hit the tree, the phone was dislodged so that you could no longer see him.
Interviewer: Do you know why he was having suicidal thoughts?
Natasha: As his video stated, some of the members on his soccer team had been giving him a hard time because he was not performing as well as he typically did during the games. It was simply a bout of bad luck, but they were really digging into him, telling him that if he did not pull it together that they would no longer consider him part of the team. This bullying happened on the field during practice, but it also extended into the classes that they had together as well as on Facebook. This meant that the mean things that they were saying to him came home with him, so instead of coming home to a safe place, he was being hassled on Facebook while he was doing his homework. He kept the fact that he was being bullied to himself, and over time, it began to weigh too much on him. If only he has spoken up, he might still be around to talk about it.
Interviewer: Do you wish there was something that you could have done differently while he was alive?
Natasha: I’m not sure if there was anything that I could have said or done that would have kept him alive. He felt the need to hide what was going on in his life, and if we had only known the extent of the bullying and the effect that it was having on him emotionally, maybe we could have addressed the issue before he resorted to such drastic measures. I wish that we could go back in time and discuss the things that were bothering him. In that video that he made, he was crying, so he was obviously feeling overwhelmed by what was going on in his life. There is always more than one way to handle things that don’t go your way in life. For such a young child to feel that there was no other way out, I can’t imagine what he was thinking, but maybe opening up to someone could have saved him.
Interviewer: What were the first few days without your son like?
Natasha: They were horrible. To tell you the truth, those first few days are not much more than a haze in my memory. I had just found out that my son was no longer with us, and I had to deal with his loss, make funeral arrangements, and inform those who loved him that he was no longer with us. The hardest part was telling his little sister that he was now in heaven. At first, I felt completely numb. I had no idea how to handle my son’s suicide. A mother is supposed to leave this world before her children, not the other way around, so it was something that I never, ever considered could happen. He was not ill, so the last thing that I expected was to have to bury my Matty. I barely remember eating or doing anything the first day, but then I heard my baby girl crying in her room, and I realized that this was just as hard on her as it was on me. Matt was her world; she turned to him for everything, and she could no longer do that. Once I realized how much she needed me during that time, I tried my hardest to be strong for her. It wasn’t always easy to do, but when I struggled, my husband was always there to wrap me in his arms. He was the only one who knew what I was going through, so I turned to him to help me get out of bed in the morning. We made the funeral arrangements together, and we held each other tightly as we said goodbye to our little boy.
Interviewer: How did you cope during that period of time?
Natasha: Coping was difficult. In fact, I’d say that I never really coped with his death during that period of time. I knew that he was gone, but I simply tried my best to remain busy so that I did not break down in front of my daughter. One of the things that helped me during that time was having family and friends nearby. They did not really understand how I felt, but their love and support helped us get through it together. I would often go into his room and smell his clothes. I know that it sounds weird, but the smell of him is something that made me feel closer to him. I knew that he was gone, but sometimes when I walked into his room, I would forget for a brief second because his room still smelled like him. Losing Matty was the worst experience of my life, and during that time, one of the things that helped me the most was talking to a counselor. We went to family counseling so that we could all discuss our loss as a family. It helped us to know how each other was feeling so that we did not pull away from each other during that time. It also helped us to understand how Vicky was feeling about the loss of her brother. Each one of us also went to individual counseling as well to help us with our grief. I realized that I was blaming myself for Matt’s death, but the counselor helped me to understand that it was not my parenting that caused him to make that decision. It was the rash thought process of a teenager who was feeling overwhelmed because of something that happened at that point and time in his life. Instead of looking at the big picture and realizing that the bullying was a minor aspect of his life that would eventually end, he focused on the pain and the hurt that it was causing him. Instead of talking to someone, he bottled it up until he felt that suicide was the only solution to his issues.
Interviewer: Is it still difficult now?
Natasha: Of course, it is; Matt’s death will always be something that is difficult to deal with. It has been about five years since he left us, and every day I wonder what he would have been doing if he was still here. I wonder what type of man he would have grown up to be, the type of wife he would have chosen for himself, and whether he would have kids at this point in his life or not. He always wanted to be a doctor growing up. He wanted to save other people, make a mark on the world, and improve it for the better. If he realized that he was more important in this world, maybe he would be preparing to graduate college and begin his first year of medical school today. I don’t know what his future held, and now I will never know. I will never see him as a grown man, and that pulls at my heart every day. I miss sitting with him in the morning before school as he ate his Apple Jacks. I miss watching him play soccer and riding his bike in the yard with his sister. He was the apple of my eye, my first born child, and my only son, which means that losing him is something that I still deal with daily. Of course, it is better than it was five years ago, but I always wonder what life would have been like with him here with us.
Interviewer: What gives you comfort now?
Natasha: Comfort is something that can be difficult to find sometimes. I can honestly say that each day does get a little better, but it takes time. You are always going to miss your loved one, and the loss of my son has left a hole in my heart that can never be refilled. That being said, I need to find ways of coping with the loss so that I can live my life. One of the things that keeps me going is talking to others who have had similar experiences. It helps me to know that I am not alone and that the grief will lessen as time passes. Another way that I cope today is by remembering my son. I like to look at pictures that I have of him. Sometimes, I sit in his room and look at album after album, associating the image in each picture with the memories of the day. I love to show my daughter pictures of her brother. We tell her stories about him during his life so that she can remember his personality. She was only 10 when we lost him, so even though she does know exactly who Matt is, she only remembers a few years with him. She has actually had the hardest time coping with losing Matt; in fact, she still talks about him like he is only away at soccer camp.
Interviewer: What is your favorite memory of your son?
Natasha: Since I am his mother, the first thing that always pops into my mind when someone asks me that question is his birth. He was my first child, and seeing his little face for the first time is something that I will never forget. Outside of that, I have a million memories of my son that I cherish. His kindergarten graduation is one that sticks out in my mind because he was so proud of himself. He had on the cutest little shirt and tie, and he looked adorable in his blue cap and gown. At this age, Matt was not the tallest kid in his class, which meant that the gown that they gave him to wear for graduation was a little bit longer on him than the other kids. As he walked up the stairs when they called his name, the corner of the gown slid under his foot. When he put his weight on his foot, he stepped on the gown and fell face first onto the stage. As soon as he fell, Matty jumped right back up and looked out into the audience at me and yelled: “I’m ok Mommy.” It was the highlight of the graduation and a moment that I often look back on with tears in my eyes. Another memory that I love is one that includes both of my children together. It has a special place in my heart because their time together was so short. It is a memory of a family vacation that we took together. Matt was about 10 at the time and Vicky was about four. My husband and I had just finished unpacking our things, and we were about to bundle up to head out to the slopes. It was the first time that we had ever taken the kids skiing, and they were very excited to try it out. We decided that our first day at the resort would be dedicated to snow tubing because it was a more relaxed experience. We rode down the slope the first time together, but the second time, the number of people in line did not allow for the four of us to go down together. My husband and Matt went down first, then we went next. As soon as we got down to the bottom of the hill, there was a pile of snowballs waiting for us. The look on Matt’s face as he pelted his sister was a look of pure joy and a memory that I will never forget.
Interviewer: Does telling your story help?
Natasha: Absolutely, it gives me the chance to remember my son with fondness. Bullying is something that is becoming more aggressive in our children’s schools, and since the world is more connected than it was in the past, the bullying that the kids experience at school can actually go home with them. My son committed suicide to get away from the pain, but if he only talked to someone, he might still be alive to share his feelings. I share my story because talking about my son gives my comfort, but I also share it to spread the word about bullying and the effect that it can have on our children. Like I explained at the beginning of this interview, suicide is the number two cause of death in teens. The question that we need to ask ourselves is: “why? Why do our kids feel that their future is hopeless?” If you have lost a child to suicide, know that you are not alone. If you are able to discuss your situation, you may be able to help others cope with their loss. If we support one another, coping is so much easier. If you are able to share your story, maybe we can lower the amount of teenage suicides that occur in the future.