"A grief inexpressible over a loss unendurable" Charlotte Bronte
Joshua was born on January 16, 1992. The youngest of four, he completed our family. In an act that we still do not understand, he took his own life on March 18, 2009, at the age of seventeen. This blog was created so that family and friends could remember him. Now, I think of it as a "web memorial". Built post by post, memory by memory, picture by picture, it is a place created in his honor.
In this mother's heart, the question "why" is asked every day. There were challenges that we were facing but the idea that our son would commit suicide never entered our minds. It is almost eighteen months later and I still wrack my brain, going through every detail of the last few days of his life, and cannot come up with a single sign. In spite of the issues, neither we nor his counselor thought he was depressed, much less a risk for suicide.
He had gone through a tough year but things were looking up. Due to a careless, stupid mistake made in the middle of his sophomore year, he got in trouble and was transferred to a different high school. It was a challenging transition but due to his likable personality and recognized skills on the football field, he quickly made friends. We were pleased with his progress as it appeared that he learned his lesson.
Being a teenage boy, the link between action and consequence is intermittent, at best. Maybe because things were going so well, he subconsciously let his guard down and got careless. Whatever the reason, in the days right before his death, he made another admittedly stupid decision and this time, the consequences were severe - complete expulsion from the school system. We knew he was devastated, ashamed, and disappointed in himself. We were upset too, but were working with him to figure out other solutions. We never had the chance as the day before the school board hearing, he took his life. To read about our experience with the Zero Tolerance policy, see this post.
And from that fateful day, we have never been the same.
We have learned much about Josh since his death. In the family, as the youngest, he was the beloved "baby". He had an especially close relationship with his next older sister as they were only nineteen months apart. She created a slide show in his memory.
Almost 1,500 people came to the memorial service. Our friends and family came from all over the country, but most of the attendees were kids from his two high schools. Like us, they were shell-shocked. None of his close friends, even his girlfriend at the time, saw this coming. The outpouring of love, support, comfort and prayers from everyone but especially his friends was overwhelming. I wrote a post dedicated to this group of young people as a "thank you". He was a much loved kid - more than we or he ever knew. He had everything - or so it seemed.
How could this happen? To him? To us?
This is THE unanswerable question. His note was very short - two lines and did not indicate anything of substance. Even if it did, I would probably still not understand. Perhaps he did not even know why. Maybe he just got into a deep, dark place and saw only way out.
As his mother, I cannot even begin to express the heartache, sorrow, grief, guilt and anguish that can still consume me. So this blog is also a record of my "grief journey". My thoughts, feelings, as well as actions such as how we handled the first Christmas without him and how we celebrated his eighteenth birthday, what we did for the dreaded one year death anniversary and the running of a half and full marathon to raise money for his fund. The list of books that I have been reading to help me cope.
In short, the writing on this blog has probably saved me. Helping me to face and feel the grief and then write it down.
I don't understand why suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 10 - 24 years old, and the second leading cause of death in college students, but it is. In the past 17 months, through either the media or via my own network of family and friends, I have heard of many other young people who have taken their lives. Immeasurable sadness fills my heart when I hear or read of these tragedies as I know the journey facing the poor surviving family members.
Our prayer is that Josh's story might save others. We believe it has and for this, we are grateful for nothing would be worse than if his life and death were in vain.