Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Motive for Suicide - Not Wanting to be a Burden?

It is almost 2 years since Josh's decision to leave us - can it be that long already?  It doesn't seem possible.  I've picked up some survivor of suicide books to re-read; ones with chapters that addressed feelings farther down the grief journey than where I was at that time of the initial reading. 

One book, Take the Dimness of My Soul Away: healing after a loved one's suicide, by William Ritter is a series of sermons that the author gave at different points after his son's death.  In the last one, given nine years later, he recounts his feelings upon reviewing the film The Hours for a church event.  Having never seen the movie, it is now in my Netflix queue.  The subject matter is suicide.  And how the reason that one of the characters takes her life is that she doesn't want to continue to "spoil" her husband's life any longer.   He then recounts how several have come to him as their pastor with the same motive for their own suicidal thoughts: 
" of the things that always surfaces is their belief that, in choosing death, they will be doing the world a favor....their family a favor...their friends a favor.  Sometimes they will be quite specific about the ways in which their departure will make someone else's life easier.  Those remaining will now have more time, more money, less worry, or less fury.  They really believe that.  Because if they didn't, they couldn't end their lives.  Or wouldn't."
Did Josh feel this way?  I have to believe he did.  Because at this time of his death, due to a very stupid mistake, he was facing unbearable consequences which not only affected him, but us as well.  And I think the mountain of guilt, anxiety, fear and frustration was too much.  He was disappointed in himself and knew we were as well.  What I feel guilty about now, almost two years later is that I am not sure that we made it crystal clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is was the action we were disappointed in, and not him.  He as a person.  His being.  

Why am I thinking of this now?  Because Jack Dale, the Superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools in a response to the Board of Supervisors has effectively said that FCPS does not have a Zero Tolerance policy and that linking Josh's death to the disciplinary process "for the purpose of furthering a falsehood is unconscionable and a blow to those who have already suffered great pain and loss." 

Tim and I could not believe this.  How can he say there is no Zero Tolerance policy in FCPS?  How dare he say this!  And who is he to talk about a "blow to those who have already suffered great pain and loss"?  Is he talking about us?  How would he know?  Since that awful day, when the Hearing Office knew we were not coming because Josh had killed himself, we have heard nothing.  There was no phone call or letter of condolence  Silence.  Nothing from the Superintendent's office or any other office at FCPS.  Nothing from our elected School Board member either.   This to us, is "unconscionable".  I suppose they thought it would be an admission of guilt and were afraid of opening themselves up to liability and litigation, which was the furthest thing on our mind at the time.

I believe they are linked.  How can I not think that when our son took his life the day before our second time to the Hearing Office?  I have re-read our experience with that office, posted within a week after his death and there is absolutely nothing I would change.  It is what happened.  And our questions remain the same.

There is a parent advocacy group that is asking questions and wants reform.  For our kids...every one of them.  I have read the comments on the recent Post article about this topic and while many understand this policy is hurting rather than helping our kids, there are others who don't.  Who find this to be another example of parents not accepting full responsibility for their own and/or their kids' actions; instead, pointing the finger elsewhere.  The honest truth is that "pre-Josh", I probably would have agreed.  Until it happened to us.  Until our son was caught up in the horrible, humiliating, degrading suspension/expulsion process.  Where he was considered guilty from the get-go.  There was no due process and nothing remotely fair or compassionate about it.  (Other comments about the Superintendent's response on TOP radio and on the RedAppleMom blog.)

What is "unconscionable" is that Superintendent Dale is not taking the steps to review this policy, whatever he chooses to call it, to determine if it is working.  Is it helping our kids?   It is also "unconscionable" that FCPS, despite repeated requests by parents for statistics regarding this policy, refuses to release what should be public information.

Back to the book.....

What does this pastor say to those who confess their desire to leave?
I do not tell them I know what "wanting to leave" feels like.  But I do tell them I know what it feels like to be left.  That my life hasn't been better since Bill left.  That it's been worse.  For a long time....worse.  Years of worse.  Then I say, "Look, I can't promise that things are going to turn around for you, turn up for you, or get better for you.  I think they are.  But if you can't see that, I can't force you to wear my glasses.  All I can say to you is this: When you reach the point where you can't come up with a single reason to stay alive one more day, then stay alive as a gift to somebody.  Maybe you'll tell them. Probably you won't.  But if you stay alive as a gift for one day, you may just be able to stay alive for two days.  Then who knows, maybe you can go for three."
I wish Josh could've heard these words.  Maybe it would have gotten him through that dark, dark night when he only saw one way out.


Katie said...

Sue- I read this entry last night and started to respond, but felt I needed to cool down before writing. I am so angered by the school system's response of absolute disrespect towards you and your family. At the same time, I am continually amazed by your strength and insight and ability to share your thoughts on this blog.

Driving this morning, I heard a news report on the Fairfax County Zero Tolerance Policy and Josh's story was mentioned. I truly hope that this publicity brings greater awareness to the issue and, most importantly, positive changes to help students.

Sue said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tanja said...

Anderson Family, To even try to compare our experiences with FCPS...we would end up some where near simular. However no where close. Our sons were friends. Team mates. My son valued your son. But there are people that touch our kids lives in ways we never completely understand. Who knows why an incident touches then the way it does. It just does. Is it because they under stand more of the person or incendent then we do...who honestly knows. But what I am begininng to understand is my son valued yours in ways that went beyond understanding. The fact that SLHS morned then shut it down in their faces not wanting to talk about it made my son sink deeper into missing Josh. Then a rise in rebellion agaist them. Then the feeling of guilt begin. Guilt for not being there more for him. Who knows why he just did. My son has fallen into the FCPS process...he is now finishing his senior year in miltary school! Some thing he chose on his own. A place where he is safer than FCPS. (a confict has more rights that a child that enters into the hearing office process or the changing of schools second homes to athletes. Where they do not get a fresh start!THEY WEAR A SCARLET LETTER.) He was home this weekend for a DR's visit after a 2nd shoulder surgey in less than year. I went into his room today like I did yesterday. Like I do every day. Because I am missing him more than I can say...and I noticed something on his dressor that was not there before. I was not stunned. Not shocked. But my heart went heavy. Please know that Josh was/is loved and is missed even by the most unlikely persons & he touched lives that know NO boundaries...On my sons dressor is the card from the memorial. Next to it is the deck of playing cards from Lacross at SLHS. In the back ground you can see his SLHS year books. My heart breaks for you and for the Stubins....and for my son who still carries guilt of not being move availiable for your son. Or knowing how to help a fellow football & lacrosse player who he valued. One he considered a prime athlete and valued his friendship. In an interview my sone said he missed him and was working hard to try to understand the loss. But still feels guilty for not being there for him. And my heart breaks...noting like the wreckage your heart feels...but still not whole. I want to send you the picture of my son's my son's own way of trying to come to terms with his loss. He sunk deeper trying to numb the loss and not have to feel...but on the eve of 2 years still values Josh and is seeing I pray the light at the end of the tunnel to honor Josh.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for the loss your family has expierenced. If you have not already I encourage you do send this writing I just read about your son's suicide 2 years later and Jack Dale's comments directly to Dr. Jack Dale and the school board. While I have no opinion on when a student should or should not be suspended, I think the schools need to get psychologists to work with the students to prevent suicide and work with the parents. My prayers to you and your family.