My mom is honestly the most inspiring person I know. Of course everyone says that about their own mom on Mother's Day, but this is the reason why she inspires me...
Mother's Day and Suicide
By Emily Boller
When I was a kid I remember elusively hearing about a farmer that hanged himself in his barn on a nearby farm, and another farmer in the neighborhood who shot himself. And for the majority of my childhood I rode the school bus past both farms, every morning and every afternoon; and passing by them always gave me a creepy feeling.
And a good friend of mine never celebrated Thanksgiving when she was a kid, because that was the day an uncle had hanged himself in the family homestead barn. To deny and hide the event, the adults carried on with work as any other day of the year. No Thanksgiving gatherings or traditions with family or friends were ever established from that day onward because of it. They never even mentioned his name or paused to remember his memory. To this day, she still doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, and she’s older than me.
I can almost bet that mental illness had something to do with those farmers taking their lives. Suicide is a rational decision to an irrational mind; torment takes over the mind and death is imminent to relieve the pain. Maybe it was a bad year for crops, and there would be no hay in the barn or money in the bank for the winter months ahead; and an oppressive cloud of hopelessness and despair had settled over their minds. Maybe the mental illness was rooted simply in a nutritional deficiency or continual lack of sleep from helping with middle-of-the-night births of new livestock.
In sharp contrast, just a few weeks ago, on April 5, 2013, evangelical pastor and author of "The Purpose Driven Life", Rick Warren, lost his 27-year-old son to suicide. Warren immediately sent a note to his 22,000 member church (the note went viral) stating that due to his son’s life-long battle with depression, in a moment of despair, he took his life.
Even though I’m ten months ahead of the mother, Kay Warren’s healing journey, I would like to sit down with her this Mother’s Day and discuss our sons, our pains, our triumphs, and our questions. I know we would cry. We would laugh. We would perhaps have long periods of reflective silence. But I also know that we would feel absolutely no shame; and with both boys, we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt there were no tabooed tickets to hell for them.
I love what Valerie Porr, author of "Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder, a Family Guide for Healing and Change" said about Rick and Kay Warren, "They tried so hard to help him, the whole family tried so hard and yet they hit the brick wall of the illness."
“They hit the brick wall of the illness.” That describes it perfectly. Bingo.
And that’s exactly what happened to Daniel and our family too. We worked so hard to help him. We tried so hard, yet hit the brick wall.
So even though this Mother’s Day I cherish the memories of Daniel’s birth, infancy, childhood, teen, and short-lived, young adult years; just like I do all of my children; I recognize the fact that Daniel and our family hit a brick wall with the illness, and there was nothing more we could do. And there is no shame in that fact.
Daniel went straight into the arms of Jesus that night; he was not alone.
I will never understand the mysteries of God.
And I will never understand the ways of God.
But I do know that God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.
Many mothers (and families) are wading through the aftermath of mental illness today.
They are piecing their lives back together in the midst of the pain.
I don’t like pain. None of us do. We were created to avoid it; otherwise we wouldn't have nerve endings that scream, “Ouch!” when our fingers touch a hot stove.
But since Daniel’s suicide I’ve learned to embrace the pain; to not stuff the tears when they need to flow. I’ve learned to release the guilt of what I may have done to have caused it or worse yet, to have prevented it. I’ve learned to say that Daniel hanged himself instead of saying, “He passed away.” (As if he peacefully passed away in his sleep).
And I’ve learned to refuse to be the victim of the mental illness that took his life. It may have caused insurmountable anguish to me and my family, but I refuse to let it dictate and ruin my life, or my family's life. I will continue to daily choose to be all that God has created me to be. It may mean taking baby-steps instead of sprinting many times, but I will continue to be faithful to the purposes of my life.
So how does the mother of a child who commits suicide celebrate Mother’s Day?
By choosing to reflect on the goodness of God and things that are worthy of praise; and by refusing to throw-in-the-towel and quit. That’s sounds way too super spiritual, but there is no other way if I’m going to not only survive, but successfully thrive in the days, months, and years ahead.
I know that walking through the valley of the shadow of death will not automatically end on the one year anniversary of Daniel’s death. The journey will be for a lifetime ahead. However, I must continually put the negative stuff of the past behind me and strive for what lays ahead. It’s hard work. It takes much mental focus. And some days go better than others, but there is no other way out of the quagmire.
Ask any mother of a child that died by suicide.
May 12, 2013
- Emily Boller
I love you mom and I'm so glad that God placed me in your care and in this family. I'm so proud of you.
This is the last family picture that was taken of my whole family almost 2 years ago at my sister's wedding. My brother Daniel is on the far right.