By Guest Blogger Gina McCarn
I became a mother again when we welcomed two more children into our family through foster care. You can read about our journey here.
We welcomed Antony home only a few days after he had been discharged from the hospital. Uninhibited, we also welcomed the journey of suicide prevention into our family.
Fast forward 2 ½ years later to May 16, 2020. He cried out, “Mom, please come.” I walked in and experienced a mother’s worst nightmare. My beautiful son had declared for the 3rd time that his life was worthless.
I am especially transparent when it comes to the topic of suicide prevention. Antony offers his story with the desire to encourage other teenagers. Suicide ideation entered his life long before we met him. Amidst a tumultuous childhood and plenty of uncertainty, he found self harm as a way to cope with being alone and perpetually in emotional pain.
I am open to sharing this story because I desire to offer hope to any other mom who is also in this battle. This is not your fault and you are a new kind of hero. I see you and I know how many times you have blamed yourself. I know you have repeatedly contemplated what you could have done differently. I am going to guess that this is also something you are facing secretly without the support of others. The word suicide automatically makes conversations uncomfortable. You have friends and family who want to offer support while secretly they are thankful this is not their kid. You are confident that you are the only one you know who has a child that is now on suicide watch. The truth is you are not alone.
A few days after Antony returned home from being hospitalized for suicidal ideation, I reached out to our church to attempt to connect with another mom who might be willing to talk or offer wisdom. In our very large church, there was only one mom I was given to contact. I quickly realized that there were moms in church struggling with this issue but all of them wished to remain anonymous. When I called the hospital and the myriad of organizations in the “bring your child home from a mental hospital” packet, there were no support groups or networks or training for moms. The CDC reported in August that the second leading cause of death among 14-18 year olds in our state of Georgia is suicide, yet I seemed to be the only mom who has a child who has survived a suicide attempt or ideation.
While I could share hours of thoughts on this subject, I feel most compelled to encourage other moms. Just like you, I was quickly thrown into a world of appointments and I learned mental health vocabulary at lightning speed. I became a quick read on diagnosis, symptoms, treatment plans, safety sweeps, medications, therapies and safety plans. My husband, Phil, and I did find a parent training and were sent home with stacks of papers. It felt a little bit like being sent home from the hospital with a baby for the first time. I often look back on that and wonder why anyone would think we were capable of parenting because we knew how to install a carseat. Here I was bringing home a child and felt like his life support. My main job was to be a peaceful presence when everything inside of me was panicked by that one wrong move that could seemingly make me the difference between life and death for my son. I also have four other children that need my attention and care.
There is hope in this story. The concern of suicide does not have to define you or your family. As parents, we should not be facing this alone behind closed doors. Suicide is not a cause, it’s an outcome. Suicide prevention didn’t arrive in your family overnight. It likely started with a thought pattern in a very small dark place in your teen’s life. It might be something your child has considered for months or years. It’s possible it only crosses their mind occasionally. Perhaps your child attempted suicide in an impulsive moment never having considered the option before.
I do not believe that my son doesn’t want to live. I know he wants to live and he has many dreams of his incredibly bright future. As his parents, we can offer support and love him unconditionally. As his mom, I choose to not see him as the accumulation of pain and challenges that he is facing. I see him as a child of God who needs me to see hope in a future where he is thriving.
He equally needs me to be okay and comfortable with the subject of suicide in order for him to have self-assurance that he can recover and flourish. He needs me to be a peaceful presence and confident in trusting that he will be okay. We will be okay because we choose to fight through the hard to get to the healing.
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