Our Boy Brett

It is another December and this year marks the 14th year since our oldest son Brett took his life. In some respects it seems like yesterday as I can still recall our youngest son’s voice on the phone that he found his brother in our gazebo. We were in Chicago at the time visiting our daughter. I thought, “found him in our gazebo”? Why wasn’t a doctor called? Did somebody harm him? Was this a mistake? Then the realization hit that he took his own life. How could that be? We had plans to have our Hanukah Party in a few days. Did he not want to be with his family? What was so terrible in his life that he chose to end it? What could we have done that might have saved him?

We got our things together, gathered our dogs, and headed back home. Our daughter and family would leave later in the day. The eight-and- a-half hour car ride seemed endless. There was no conversation, no radio, just the sound of my crying. We were greeted when we returned home by family, friends, and dinner. Food seems to be the denominator for making things better. I didn’t want to eat, talk, or be consoled. Basically, I wanted to be left alone to process this devastating realization. He was gone and I would never hear his “Hey, Mom.” I would never feel his touch, watch him grow older, see him interact with his brother and sisters, play with his niece or nephews, have a family of his own, and he would never see us as

We grew older. Losing a child is out of sync with the universe. Parents are not supposed to see their children die before them.

Our rabbi called us and we had to make funeral arrangements. In the Jewish faith burial or cremation is not put off. The rabbi asked us if it would be all right to mention Brett’s death as being a suicide. Looking back now, I guess we were ahead of the times, as we saw no reason to keep it a secret. So plans were in place and we had his service. Relatives and friends offered condolences and their lives went back to normal. Ours became a new normal. Not having children at home, our house was deadly quiet. My husband handled his grief by working in his workshop. I handled mine playing the “what if” and the would’ve, should’ve game. Communication was very limited between us and I honestly thought about divorce. After all, how could I be married to a man that didn’t seem to care?

I found a counselor that I really admired and she helped me put how people grieve into perspective. I was on one end of the spectrum and my husband on the other. She explained that because he wasn’t grieving like me he was grieving in his own way. We found a support group that helped both of us. After attending the group for almost a year we decided to look into facilitating a group. We got trained and have been facilitating a group since.

We soon realized that it costs money to run a support group so we started a non-profit called SASS-MoKan. It stands for Suicide Awareness Survivor Support MO and KS. We have a walk yearly, a Hope for the Holidays Event and a Healing Day. Even though I know that we help many others, there are still times that I long to have our son here. I wish he could have seen his nieces and nephews grow up but most of all I wish he had not made this decision. I understand he felt hopeless and that things would not get better. He was in a deep, dank, dark hole. The only way he could see his way out was to complete suicide. We really don’t know how many times our loved ones thought about taking their life before they actually did. We have no idea how many times we said a word or gesture that kept them with us a while longer.

I so wish things would have worked out differently than they did. I remember reading a book that Iris Bolton wrote called My Son My Son and she kept saying there was a gift through her son’s death. It was hard to comprehend. What gift? I think I know now what she was talking about. I have learned tolerance, accepting life as it is, helping others, and not to sweat the small things. I know I am a better person and that is the gift Brett has given to me.