Blessed to be a stay-at-home mother of a large family, I loved homeschooling my children, and never had even a fleeting thought that one of them might die by suicide. Purposeful in my parenting and relying on the values I gleaned from Scripture, I lived with great contentment, filled with gratitude for all that God had given me.
Unexpectedly on March 6, 2009, my own sixteen-year-old son, without prior threat or forewarning, abruptly took his own life. This child, Zachary, was a true gift, a beautiful treasure, and adored by our entire family. Tenderhearted and talented, his despairing choice to end his life made no sense and completely blindsided me.
The days that immediately followed Zachary’s death were shockingly sorrowful, and utterly confusing. I spent every waking moment trying to pinpoint what had been the cause of my child’s hopelessness. What was so horrible? What had he been struggling with? Surely, as parents, we had been responsible for creating much of the life he knew. Had we failed to make it worth living? Was our love not enough?
Taking one bleak day at a time, I had no clue how to pick up the pieces of my shattered life, my crushed dreams, or my trampled self-esteem. Struggling daily with the heartbreak of my own grief, I was required at the same time to meet the numerous physical needs of my large family and challenged to guide children of many ages through the tragedy of a confusing sibling loss.
Slowly putting one foot in front of the other, I somehow found the courage to incorporate the reality of Zachary’s suicide into my life, fully sensing that I would only survive grief’s pain by relying on God’s faithfulness. Stumbling though seasons of guilt, anger, depression, loneliness, and relentless guilt, I focused on the unfailing character of God, my husband’s faithful partnership, and the hopeful faces of the children before me. God’s presence lightened the darkest hours and healing came slowly with renewal of life, glimpses of peace, and promises of healing.
My book, Zachary’s Choice: Surviving My Child’s Suicide, is the result of a deeply personal journal detailing the overwhelming pain and confusing journey of that first year following my son’s death. Writing seemed to help me make sense both of Zachary’s death and of the unmistakable affect that his death would have on the rest of my life. This book offers a lifeline of hope and provides emotional CPR that survival is possible from the kinship of someone who has “been there”. My prayer is for this book to provide Christian mothers who have lost a child to suicide — and others suffering a similar loss — with the life-saving message that they are not alone.
While Zachary’s death did not get easier, I became stronger and more compassionate for it. Mindful always of my beautiful son, I purpose to use the transforming lessons of my pain to comfort and encourage all suicide survivors. Determined to thrive with passion and joy, I make my decision to live.