Losing a son … how do parents cope with this situation?


Death had claimed our son, David and the resultant anguish was ours to bear. Over the past 16 years I’d shed more tears than I had my whole life. I’d grieved while my son was still alive as I’d lost him to an illness that is almost impossible to describe – paranoid schizophrenia. Most people grieve after a death but in our family, we grieved for the loss of our son’s sanity for the 16 years he tried to overcome.

Before schizophrenia, our three children had spent years of closeness, laughter and sibling secrets. During the years we lived with mental illness, his sisters shared their fears and tears, wishing they could escape the shadow hanging over them, but always drawn back to watch over, listen to and protect their older brother, who, in his healthy years, had done the same for them.

When my parents died, I lost a large part of my past but when my son died, I lost a large part of my future. I recalled my son, David’s words; the one’s he repeated over and over; “All I want is a job, someone to love, and peace of mind.’

Before leaving our house for the cemetery, my husband said; “I want you to remember that David did not take his life. He took what schizophrenia made of it. He ended his agony and I thank him for ending his suffering. I hope he has found the peace of mind he so desperately sought, the peace of mind that eluded him for so long. Now the rest of our family has to face the tragedy of our loss.”

We buried David three months before his 34th birthday. On that dull winter’s day, I spoke to my son for the last time, while in the cold still air, I heard a thousand birds sing their songs of life. All the people who loved David could finally say farewell. I saw people who had not coped with his mental illness but knew how to handle his death So many friends, neighbors and acquaintances stood shoulders touching, breath mingling into one great sigh for our loss.

The thud of earth, a marker, he’s gone and he didn’t say goodbye. In a tumble of memories, I saw David’s smile superimposed on the painful image of his anguished, tortured expression.

I love you, David.

Rest.

For all the consumers out there (a consumer is a person suffering from a mental illness.) Don’t let our story stop you from taking your meds, as many people who suffer from schizophrenia today do find the right medication and if taken on a regular basis, they are necessary. Our David was one of the patients who proved to be medication resistant, despite having tried Clozapine and Risperidone, the newest medications to hit the market then.

After David’s funeral, we had to try and absorb the enormity of what had occurred, and then, in time, had to begin the coping process. But, how does one cope with the loss of a 33-year-old son who took his life in such a violent manner?

This is what I will be blogging about from tomorrow … how our family managed to get by; how we decided to choose life …

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