What happened to this son of ours, who in younger years
gathered sunshine in his golden hair and had the twinkle of mischief in
his big blue eyes, who constantly had laughter spilling out of his smiling
face, especially if he was told to be quiet? What happened to this child
of ours who literally took a broom to sweep up the mud puddles after rainy
days and who ran through life, or when walking had a bounce in every step
thereby acquiring the nick name of "Tigger" with a T, i, double ga errrr?
What could have possibly happened to this one time fifth grader who had
such a wonderful feeling of self worth that he wrote a poem for school
that said, "I am kind, All cool people like me, Supper at math, Expert
at reading, Young and cool."
Something happened to our son in the four years between
the sixth grade and the tenth. During sixth grade in his school journal
he wrote; "I would like people to think that Iím rich because Iím not that
rich and I donít have a big allowance. I mean $1.25 sucks. I mean real
bad! But I donít really care what people think about me because I like
myself and Iím just doing this for points." But then in the 10th grade
he wrote in a bio-poem that he felt "useless" and feared "the future".
What happen to this precious child of ours? This son who
made computer pictures of puppies with slippers dangling from their mouths,
and persistently slipped them underneath our bed pillows with the words
on it, "We need a dog!" Who could resist? Our heart melted, so of course
we bought a dog. A cocker named Angie, who was the only living thing in
the house with our son when he died.
Kasey was only 16 years old when he took his own life
last May 2001. We were heart broken and shocked beyond belief. He told
no one that he was feeling sad or that he was thinking of ending his own
life. Beginning with that very second when we discovered what our son had
done, the small but powerful three lettered question, "Why?!", relentlessly
echoing over and over in all of the minds of those that knew our son or
heard about his death.
Amazingly only 10 to 15% of all suicides leave a note
behind and yes, he did leave us a very short note just saying "Donít blame
anyone but me." which gave us little comfort.
Kasey was a good young man who never drank or used drugs.
He didnít believe in doing those kinds of things. There was no sudden change
in personality or appearance nor did he give any of his possessions away.
He participated in the usual things that a normal teen would participate
in during the last few days of his life. Saturday night he went bowling
with a friend. Sunday, along with his family he visited his grandparents
and went to church, after which he accompanied a church leader to visit
a homebound elderly lady. Monday he helped his family plant flowers for
the city and went out for ice cream, he fertilized our lawn. But on Tuesday
after school and dinner, while the rest of the family was away he ended
What happened to this child of ours? We could think of
some of the small pieces to this puzzle. The first thing that came to my
mind was that he was lonely since he wasnít real active socially. He was
a home body but we have a close family. Kasey was born right in the middle
of four other siblings, a younger brother and sister and an older brother
and sister so he always had someone to goof off with. Heís always had a
couple of best friends since pre school and some friends from high school
but he seemed to choose young men like himself who didnít seem to mind
spending a lot of time at their own homes. The evening he died, my daughters
were outside crying "Why Kasey why?" I sat down putting my arms around
them and said what I felt deep in my heart to be true, "He was just too
lonely." Then my oldest daughter exclaimed the one thing I think we all
felt and still feel as his family and friends, "BUT HE HAD ME! HE HAD ME!"
Approximately two months after our sonís death I started
out on a quest beginning with a prayer, asking for help in finding the
big piece to this puzzle. I wanted to learn everything I could, hoping
that I might somehow be able to wrap my brain around this thing called
"suicide" and get some understanding of what could have possibly caused
my son to want to die. I realized that something must of cause him unbearable
pain for him to have considered such an option. Death is the end result
in suicide but what suicide is really all about is PAIN! Unbearable pain
and the desire of having an end to that pain.
Later the same day that I began my search I received the
answer I had been praying for, as to the big piece of this puzzle. I had
never searched anything on the Internet before but when I typed in the
word "suicide" to begin my search, a page was opened with the listing of
many web sites, the heading of this page was titled "The #1 cause of suicide
is untreated depression."
Right away I went to a site,
that answered so many of the tortuous questions in my mind. I truly felt
like light and knowledge was being sent to me in reading this information.
Just reading the first paragraph brought me such comfort and understanding.
"Why do people kill themselves? Most of the time
people who kill themselves are very sick with depression or one of the
other types of depressive illnesses, which occur when the chemicals in
a person's brain get out of balance or become disrupted in some way. Healthy
people do not kill themselves. A person who has depression does not think
like a typical person who is feeling good. Their illness prevents them
from being able to look forward to anything. They can only think about
NOW and have lost the ability to imagine into the future. Many times they
don't realize they are suffering from a treatable illness and they feel
they can't be helped. Seeking help may not even enter their mind. They
do not think of the people around them, family or friends, because of their
illness. They are consumed with emotional, and many times, physical pain
that becomes unbearable. They don't see any way out. They feel hopeless
and helpless. They don't want to die, but it's the only way they feel their
pain will end. It is a non-rational choice. Getting depression
is involuntary - no one asks for it, just like people don't ask to get
cancer or diabetes. But, we do know that depression is a treatable illness.
That people can feel good again!" Research has shown that a combination
of antidepressant medication along with psychotherapy is the quickest,
most effective treatment.
There was a longer list of symptoms in the sites on depression
compared to the short list that I had read on suicide and our son had many
of these symptoms of depression. We just didnít know that someone who went
to school every day and did well in school could be depressed enough to
kill himself but we have since learned that there are many different types
Some of the signs that Kasey had were subtle or occurred
over a long period of time which had us assuming that he was just going
through some teenage stages. Some of our sonís symptoms were that he was
often irritable, negative and pessimistic throughout the last couple of
years, he got angry easily, his eating habits became very poor.
Personality changes- Kaseyís happened slowly
over the past few years, he changed from a smiling, happy child to a serious,
sober young man, however personality changes often occur suddenly in a
suicidal person. In photos taken of him the last year of his life he was
very solemn. We thought it was because of his braces.
Withdrawal- His withdrawal occurred slowly
also. He didnít want to call his friends and do things with them as often.
Going to scouting and other youth week night activities slowly dwindled
and he would have preferred to even stay home from family vacations.
Neglect of personal appearance- Sometimes
when I woke him up for school in the mornings he had been sleeping in his
clothes rather than changing into his pajamas before going to bed which
I thought was unusual.
Neglect of academic work- The day he died,
one week before school ended, he had two class progress reports in his
pocket one with a F on it and one with a D. This was unusual for our son.
A family history of depression and or suicide-
There is quite a bit of depression in my family line along with some suicides.
I believe this is a big factor. I have an uncle, an aunt and a Great Grandfather
on one side of my family who completed suicide.
Low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness-
In the poem that heíd written for school at least one year previously,
he stated that he felt, "useless". We would have never guessed that he
felt useless except in finding this poem.
Preoccupation with death themes in literature, music,
drawings, fascination with guns/knives- Kasey had some music
in his possession that we didnít know he had. The songs talked about life
being too hard with too many rules and they suggested ending it all. He
had some of this music playing when he did- end it all. We as his parents,
feel that the music enabled him to actually pull that trigger. Young people
donít realize how powerful music can be. Please, please, donít buy or listen
to that kind of music! Listen to something uplifting when you are feeling
In the Classroom
A few days after Kasey passed away I went to the school
to turn in his school books. A staff member at the school told me that
a student of the school who shared a class with Kasey reported that there
was a fellow class mate, "that thinks he is a spots jock" that was harassing
my son in one of his classes - the class he was getting an F in.
I thanked this faulty member for sharing that with me, even though it was
very painful for me to hear, it was the only thing that made any since
at that time. I asked not to know the name of the bully because I
didnít want to have any hate in my heart. After all, in Kaseyís suicide
note he didnít blame anyone or want us to blame anyone.
When I called the teacher of this class, she said that
the thing that she noticed that was unusual was that around the middle
of the last term, Kasey had moved from sitting in the center of the class
room to the back of the room and he didnít seem to want to participate,
even in the fun things they were doing. I feel that even though we are
sure now, having learned more about it, that Kasey was suffering from depression
before this harassment, that this could have been the last straw. My hope
is that anyone who may have been cruel to Kasey or anyone else will turn
their actions around. Most of us do make some big mistakes in life -
turn it around- be kind, stand up for those who you see being abused. Donít
let this happen to anyone else. You have the power to make or break
a persons day, self esteem or possibly a persons life.
There is Hope!
One last thing that Iíd like to mention is that in our
quest to learn more about suicide and depression is that we all have organs
in our bodies that may become ill at any time and we have at our disposal
all kinds of medications and therapies to help us recover from those illnesses.
The brain is simply another organ in our bodies that can become ill and
it too can be treated without shame or embarrassment. We live in an age
where there are wonderful medications and therapies for depression. There
is hope! There is help!
So what did happened to this child of ours, this tender
soul that we were so privileged to have in our home for 16 precious years?
He died of a chemical imbalance in his brain called depression.
Since our sonís passing, Iíve wanted to share the things
that weíve learned, hoping that it will be helpful to someone else. Losing
a loved one to suicide is incomprehensible to those who have never experienced
it. I have recently become involved in the Yellow Ribbon Suicide
Prevention Program (www.yellowribbon.org)
educating school students about suicide, depression and the prevention
of suicide. This is helping me heal.