Losing a Child through Suicide and Finding Life is Eternal
Welcome to “Healing From Within.” I am your host Sheryl Glick Reiki Master Energy practitioner, medium author of A New Life Awaits Spirit Guided Insights to Support Global Awakening which shares a metaphysical view of the duality of energetic and physical life and ways to understand the challenging fast moving changes of present times as we seek to know who we are, balance ourselves and planet to reach an awareness of higher consciousness and eternal soul life. We are not having a political, social, religious or economic problem simply a separation from our spiritual connectedness to Universal life forces. I am most happy to welcome Margaret Thompson author of Finding Color in Darkness a story of the devastating results of her son John Fish’s mental health disorder and the loss of her son by suicide.
As listeners of “Healing From Within” are well aware, my guests and I share intimate stories and insights into the deeper part of our remembering that we are spiritual beings having a physical life and are much more than our physical bodies. That awareness allows us to know that we possess wisdom that encourages us to dream, learn and seek joy and happiness, beyond all the challenges a physical world presents to us. Self-investigation and suffering sometimes leads to understanding our emotions and if we have enough time in this life to truly appreciate life no matter what difficulties and sadness we endured.
In today’s episode of ‘Healing From Within” Margaret shares a truthful account of how hard it is to live with a child that has a mental challenge. In John’s case Bi-polar disorder and up and down battle with sorrow and pain was a sadness for her and her beloved son. She also shares quite a bit of information on how to help your child and where to go to find professional help because we must ask Spirit and those in our life to assist in dealing with this daunting illness chosen by a soul to help them evolve perhaps at a higher and faster level of ascension.
When asking Margaret to think back to a moment of John’s childhood that was most reflective of his sensitivities for I feel the soul comes into this life with a plan and destiny and some have greater challenges than other souls but their challenges lead to the refinement of their soul energy and greater love Margaret tells us of their deep loving connection. Margaret writes, “As a child, John was very attached to me and loved to snuggle and hold my hand. As he grew older, he would often introduce me to new music. I worked in the MTV News department shortly after graduating from college, and at a local radio station as an intern during college, so we shared a passion for music, particularly alternative music. We did art projects together, cooked together, and watched shows and movies together. When John was in middle school, he got me hooked on Grey’s Anatomy and would insist I sit next to him on the couch and watch it with him every Sunday night. We were so close. I would, however, soon lose that deep connection to him.”
Margaret tells us something of your family life and how you noticed that John was suffering from Depression. Margaret wrote, “Depression is the invisible illness. I had always believed that happiness was a choice, and that a positive attitude, coupled with a healthy diet, proper exercise, a regular schedule and enough sleep, could cure any emotional pain. Now, however, I replay my son’s words in my head, “You wouldn’t understand.” I didn’t then, but I do now, as I lower my head in shame, for my ignorance of the enormous and unbearable pain John was suffering. I tried to understand, as many parents do, but it seemed such an abstract concept to comprehend. Abstract, until I discovered my son’s lifeless body in a closet, less than an hour after we had returned home from dinner. Now, I know all too well the real pain of emotional agony. The tightness in my chest makes it hard to breathe as I relive these moments while recalling the various events leading up to and following John’s death.”
“Clinical depression is a medical illness. Neurotransmitters in the brain do not function properly. Severe and chronic mental illness can be terminal. I did finally understand, a few months before John died, during his darkest and final battle with depression, just how much he was suffering. I tried to offer help, but he had already shut down. He had been in his third, and final, partial hospitalization program. It was extended from three to six weeks. He was supposed to see a therapist when he completed the program. I researched therapists and other programs, but John would utter nonsensical things and was unresponsive. I felt completely helpless as I observed him lying in a fetal position on the couch. Earlier in the summer he had seemed so happy. Well, at times happy, at other times he was somewhere else. I think he knew it was a matter of time. But he did try. He tried to go into a private facility in September. They had no beds, and the alternative was admitting himself to a public hospital. He had done that in April of 2013. It was a nightmare. They lock you up and try to medicate you into a stupor. John refused to take prescription medication. I applaud him for that, but it is an individual choice to make. He chose to live his life while being present, even though it meant experiencing great pain, but he also experienced incredible joy and profound insights. The highs and lows of being bipolar.”
Many young men have challenges and problems during their teenage years when so much is expected of them and their brains are not fully developed till around the age of 25 and sometimes this leads to making poor choices. Can you tell us what happened when John was expelled in his freshman year of high school and what you later discovered was a better approach to young offenders?
Margaret tells the story of what happened to John, a good student and loving soul who because of his illness and lack of mental maturity made a bad choice. She writes, “Somebody had informed the Vice Principal that John was found to have several packets of marijuana and a small knife, and John was very compliant when they brought him in for questioning in December of his freshman year of high school, John was expelled.
Sheryl feels as if she was a Special Education in the NYC schools with students ranging from 12 to 15 who had many emotional and health problems that could and should have been handled differently. John could have been suspended for a short time and put under the care of a competent therapist and other people to overlook his progress.
Since that time Margaret reports that there has been much progress to deal more compassionately with young offenders. In 2007, it was commonly understood that young offenders need restorative responses to the bad choices they make, as the brain is rapidly developing between the ages of 14 and 19, and the part of the brain that processes risks is compromised through this process. Therefore, adolescent offenders should not be treated with harsh disciplinary measures, unless of course there is violence involved, but the circumstances always need to be considered. Numerous studies have proven that those who were suspended, or expelled from schools, are at greater risk of falling behind. Studies have also shown that students at risk who are either expelled or suspended become further isolated, often leading to devastating emotional consequences, such as becoming dependent upon substances, alcohol, or turning to crime or self-harm. Young people need to know that others believe in them, especially those at risk.
We can and must determine when a young person is at risk.
“At risk” can be defined by many factors. Family dynamics, traumatic situations, assaults, mental health, poverty, emotional neglect, abuse (physical and emotional), etc., all put children at risk. By suspending, or worse, expelling, these adolescents, we are sending a message that they are unfit to live among us. They are too young to be given this message, and they often act out to get much needed attention. While completing a Master of Education program, I was told that behind every bad behavior there is a reason, and it is up to us, as teachers, to find out what that reason is, so that we can respond accordingly, and with compassion.
Many parents of a child who has a mental health problem may blame themselves. Sheryl tells us that no one is to blame. We are born with a certain life plan, challenges we will encounter and relationships we may work on.
Margaret reflects on John’s time in school after being expelled and where he had certain good and bad experiences.
Margaret writes, “Those feelings of terror slowly changed as I saw John flourish into a brilliant, and thoroughly engaged young man. His young teachers adored him, and he them. He became the ideal student and role model. What I didn’t realize, back then, was that John was gay. He had a huge crush on one of the students who cherished his friendship but was not interested in a romantic relationship. This connection, however, sustained John and allowed him to thrive. John did not wish to return to the public school the following year as he was on track to complete high school in three years, advancing at an accelerated pace, made possible by the one-to-one teaching and summer school. He also did not wish to be the subject of gossip upon returning to his former school. And of course, there was his interest in a fellow student. The following year was this student’s last year. At his graduation, one student was collecting all the awards. The Headmaster commented to me that John would, no doubt, be the one getting the awards at his graduation the following year. If only that had been true, but, after the departure of John’s friend, John’s bipolar disorder (which is heightened during the turbulent teen years) caused him to crash and burn.
Margaret tells us about a suicide film Margaret has watched and what she learned from it and writes, “Last night I watched a film on Netflix, “My Suicide.” Researching the topic of suicide has helped me to better comprehend John’s torment. It is not light reading, but it is therapeutic. The film, I decided, would be another perspective for me to compile in my quest to understand what was going on inside of John’s mind; how was it that he was in so much pain that the only way out for him was to end his life?
The film is a quirky tale of a lonely 17-year-old boy who decides to make a film about his impending suicide for a film class. After the main character states the content of his film he is sent away to an institution, followed by therapy. There is speculation made about suicide and what leads a person to have suicidal thoughts. The characters contemplating suicide in the film blame their parents for either ignoring them, or for emotionally suffocating them. There are certainly many teens who dislike, and may even hate, their parents, but from my research, although these situations may well contribute to a person’s suicidal thoughts, that alone is not a clear indication that someone might become suicidal. There are humorous parts in the film about the mental health care system. It shouldn’t be comical, but it is, because the practice is broken down to a formula that is ineffective for many people. A one-size-fits all approach to mental illness, using medication and talk therapy, is dated, and not always helpful in the long term. Of course, some people have episodes of depression, or mild depression, and this type of therapy may be well suited to their needs. There are, however, many horror stories of people, particularly teenagers, whose minds are still in development, becoming more depressed after being put on medication, and who then take their lives as a result. When my ex-husband was put on medication for bipolar disorder, he became suicidal and was hospitalized. His doctor explained that it takes time to get the serotonin levels properly adjusted, and to find the right match for each patient. Many will say it’s like playing Russian Roulette. William Styron, author of Sophie’s Choice, wrote about his near suicide in Darkness Visible. He too was put on a medication, too high of a dose he later discovered, which increased his suicidal thoughts, but he had to wait two weeks to begin another drug. These are powerful drugs that can be harmful, even deadly.
Thomas Joiner, author of Why People Die by Suicide, writes that a feeling of disconnection, of ineffectiveness, and perceiving oneself to be a burden on others, are factors that, when combined with severe and chronic depression, can lead a person to contemplate, or perhaps complete, suicide. Therefore, making someone feel connected and effective, are key elements to helping someone overcome suicidal ideology.
John was bright, gifted and an old soul and Margaret writes something of his unique sensitivity. “While attending various colleges over the years, however, John became distracted by the turbulence of his emotions. His grades reflected his mindset; they were very much up and down, earning him A’s and C’s in the same subjects. Despite his emotional ups and downs, he was incredibly knowledgeable about life in general. He truly was an old soul, but this added to his pain as he was keenly aware of suffering around the world. He always wanted to help people. John was adored by the children at Star House, the home for abused children where John volunteered. He brought them Legos, played games with them, and engaged them in conversation. The director of Star house wrote a letter commending John for his compassion for these young children. After leaving Full Sail, John volunteered at the Crombie Street Shelter in Salem to help underprivileged children with math homework and technology. He also volunteered at the Open Door Pantry in Gloucester. He loved helping others, and he cared deeply for those who struggled, both here and abroad.
Many people think they have an idea what type of person might commit suicide but could be totally wrong. Margaret says she also made assumptions about what type person might attempt suicide but then realized there was much more to know.
Margaret writes, “Before John’s death I had somewhat assumed that a person who died by suicide was someone who was an outcast, a loner, and was someone who did not connect well with others. While that may well be how a person feels on the inside, on the outside, they are often very popular. I have come to recognize a common thread in the suicides of the offspring of people I have met on an online support group. Our sons and daughters were typically people who were wise beyond their years, empathetic, kind, witty, intellectually curious, and seemed to embrace and enjoy new adventures, and life in general. They were often deeply loved, comical, and creative. That was their public persona but, behind closed doors, out of sight from others, they wept. They did not want others to know their pain. Many went to great lengths to hide their torment, so as not to burden others. Perhaps their ability to experience emotions so deeply caused them to feel tremendous pain, but they also knew immense joy. That is the definition of bipolar disorder, great highs and deep lows.
Sheryl says It is also the gift of sensitive healers who are empathic and intuitive at a high level and can sense people’s discomfort their emotions and often their pain and dysfunction but healers and mediums like myself learn to know that much of what they are feeling are not their own feelings illness or sorrow. They are picking up the energy thoughts and physical sensations of others and can help these people to validate and heal many of these problems.
Margaret gives some quotes from some famous people who have committed suicide over the last few years.
Robin Williams’ friends: “He was always happy. Everyone adored him.” Kate Spade’s Dad: “I just talked to her an hour before and she was planning a trip. She was just like her brand – happy, cheerful and full of color.”
Anthony Bourdain’s best friend: “He loved his life and had this extraordinary ability to just connect with people.”
So, let me say this really loud so the people in the back of the room can hear me…SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO CHECK ON THOSE WHO SEEM THE STRONGEST. 1-800-273-TALK
Margaret might like readers of Finding Color in the Darkness to take away with them after reading your book what she wrote, “Although I have realized that I must forgive myself, the consequences of my inaction will forever haunt me. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I most likely could not have changed the outcome, but I would be more at peace with myself, knowing that I had tried to do everything within my power to save my son.
There was a publicity spot that appeared on a Facebook site, Living with Hope After Suicide Loss, in which a teenage girl is fixing her scarf around her bald-head in the mirror. Her mother, standing behind her, says, in a raised voice, “You’re not the only one with problems, you know?” The next scene shows the girl lying on her bed, while her father screams at her, “I’m tired of you and your pity parties!” The tagline reads something like, “We wouldn’t treat someone with cancer this way. It’s time we treat those suffering from mental illness with the same care and compassion.” The point I like to make is that not all battles are fought on the field; many are fought within.
Depression is an invisible illness. We may never know the struggles others might have, but we can always be kind, choose our words carefully, and respond with love and compassion, to any circumstance.”
We thank Margaret Thompson, author of Finding Color in the Darkness for bringing light and awareness to a painful sadness for many parents living with a mentally challenged child and finding the courage to learn to speak out and help others dealing with the same situation. If truth be told I doubt that any family is not touched by members who experience some level of mental health issues.
In summarizing today’s episode of Healing From Within Margaret has shared life with a sensitive son who marched to his own rhythm, intelligent and gifted he was unable to sustain the pressures and issues of an outside world mindset that is often insensitive to the most severely challenged of our population. Having dealt with this situation in my own family I know how hard it is to be unable to help this child’s sister, mother or father deal with something that causes them so much pain and makes their choices so limited.. We can in the end only love them and try to support their journey knowing that they are growing in soul awareness even though it may seem at times a hopeless or wasted life. Indeed it is the soul journey they have to experience and in the end will be free to live in eternal life
To understand how best to look at what seems like a tragedy read what Margaret wrote,
“I wrote the following response to an angry mother who posted on the Facebook support group, that her daughter had been selfish and cowardly:
I cannot be angry with my son John, because he suffered so much, off and on, throughout the years. I caught the end of a report on National Public Radio about suicide. The speaker said that a person with suicidal ideology slips into a state of madness and develops a distorted sense of self and others before taking their life. It is neither a selfish act, nor a cowardly one. It is a desperate act, to end the unbearable pain. People with severe depression who contemplate suicide can barely form words, let alone thoughts, in their final days. They do truly believe that others will be better off without them. The world around them is a blur. My greatest torment is knowing how much pain my son was in. As his mother, I wanted nothing more than for him to be happy, but bipolar disease is a horrible beast, and IT took him away from me. He would never have done this to hurt me, in his right mind. His beloved dog, who he called “my baby girl,” was near him when he hanged himself upstairs last November. I’ve struggled with posttraumatic stress, and enormous grief, but have a great therapist, and have learned to accept my new life, both the moments of profound joy (knowing that life can be tragically cut short), as well as accepting the profound sorrow. I take nothing for granted, and I do take comfort in knowing that my son no longer suffers.
Please try to forgive your daughter. You will be forever stuck in your pain if you do not. People sometimes implicate others in their suicide, but it is only in the state of paranoia and madness that is brought on by severe depression. I can’t speak for those who complete suicide under the age of 20. Young minds are not yet developed, and decisions can be made without the ability to understand the consequences. Teens who have been bullied are at greater risk of suicide. For those who make it into the adult world, if they are mentally healthy, they can usually overcome most of life’s problems. When the problem is within, however, the obstacles many of us face may become intolerable. In most cases of suicide, the person who completes suicide struggled with mental illness, off and on, from an early age.”
Margaret and I would have you remember yourself as a spiritual being of love who at the present time is having a physical experience which offers us the chance to self-investigate this short physical life to find beyond the suffering and challenges a way to when it is our time to find the way back home to eternal life.