My Son Said He Wants to Kill Himself

I wish that I knew exactly what to do. I wish I had all the right answers, could do all the right things. Even after everything, after losing a husband to suicide, after surviving and pushing forward to keep living with my two sons, I feel lost and clueless.

My oldest is regularly seeing a psychologist. He has depression and anxiety. These leak into his whole life and affect him a lot. On top of all of this, he grieves heavily over his father.

His family history doesn’t help, either. On his father’s side, there’s alcoholism, depression, dementia, heavy drug abuse, and more.

Many people can probably relate. Mental health is poorly understood, stigmatized, and almost never treated well in the United States. People don’t typically go in for mental check ups. Even those who clearly need some help may shy away because of the fear of how they’ll look. Or worse, they have health insurance that doesn’t really cover those services. Or even worse than that…there are no helpful services nearby.

A few visits ago, the psychologist reassured me that he was not immediate danger but that he had admitted thinking about how to kill himself. The plan was juvenile and not thought out. An attempt was never tried. But my heart was pierced by an ice cold dagger. I just nodded stoically but I felt like rushing out of the room to find my son, reassure myself he was still there, still waiting to go home and have dinner.

I feel like I’m failing my son. I fear that despite trying my hardest, I won’t be able to protect my son the way I should. I’m afraid that I’ll get that phone call one day or find a loved one again.

I lost my husband to suicide. My biggest fear is losing one of our children to that same monster.

Before and After

There’s a hard line in my life, a clear distinction between events.  There is before the suicide and there is after the suicide.  

Before, I was a sailor, same as my husband.  I was a military wife and a military member navigating through the hard parts of military life and marriage.  We had two little boys: one barely a toddler, the other a preschooler.

It was difficult and not without fights.  If I’m to be honest, there was even resentment towards the end.  I had reenlisted for a few extra years at the urging of my husband.  I found that I did not do well separated from my children.  He, on the other hand, found it to be a necessity, fearing my departure from the Navy to be our financial downfall.

Time apart, long hours, and fatigue made for many days and nights of fighting.

Still, there were many more days that were full of laughter, of dreams, of hopes, and happiness.  We bought a starter home and were excited about how we were transforming it to match our personalities.

I assume we were like most military marriages.  There’s a lot of conflict but also a lot of good.

After, I was a widow.  I was the person that found my husband’s body.  I found out what a single gunshot to the temple would do to a person.  I found out that when faced with this scene, there was more disbelief than action.

I crawled into the car and called out his name.  I shook his arm.  The scene didn’t register.  The blood didn’t make sense.  I called 9-1-1 and thought, I need an ambulance. And then I corrected my thinking.  Not an ambulance.  He was already dead.

I was suddenly a single mother.  I did leave the Navy with an honorable discharge to raise my children with some stability.  They are my biggest concern and there are so many issues that stem from that day, for me, for them.

In the beginning, I wanted to go back to the way it was.  I didn’t want to be a single mother.  I didn’t want to be a widow.  I didn’t want this life.  But, of course, that’s not the way life works.  There is no “back to normal.”  There is only a new normal, a new way of doing things.

Many people cut their lives into blocks this way when big events transpire.  For me, there is before the suicide and then there is after.  For me, there is the person I was before, and the person I am now.

It’s very difficult to create a new normal.  However, it’s possible.  It takes a lot of intent, grieving, and working through everything that has happened.  Healing does eventually start.