Today I want to address a question or topic that has come up a few times in conversation, "How did you not know?" Or many variations of the same question. There is somehow this perceived notion that we were oblivious to Zuka's emotional state. Were we so wrapped up in our own lives that we missed that our son was suffering? Did he hide his secret pain?
The day Zuka died I went to work from home, but maybe was at work for an hour and realized he wasn't acting okay. I called my supervisor and told her that I needed to be with him, she was familiar with his situation and encouraged me to be with my son. She was very supportive about it. I was with him, one on one, for most of the day until my husband came home and we could make some decisions about whether we were going to force him back into the hospital or try to handle things outpatient. I was in the bathroom just a couple of minutes when Zuka took his life. We were right there.
A month before Zuka took his life he was in the hospital for a medication overdose. That day I called 911 and he was taken by ambulance to the ER where we spent 8 hours, then another hospital where he was observed another 8 hours and finally got a bed in the psychiatric unit. He was discharged 48 hours later! I tried to explain to the psychiatrist that I KNEW Zuka was not in a good state of mind. Zuka being extremely intelligent, had convinced the doctors that he was fine, he was having trouble sleeping and just took some extra meds to help him sleep, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY! They believed him, they discharged him.
The two nights before he took his life he kept me awake all night talking. I would like to tell you I happily stayed up and gave him full attention but after so many hours I was exhausted. I was completely wrapped up in his emotional state. It's hard for my husband, Antonio, and I to not play the "what if" game, what if we had taken him to the hospital the minute he showed signs of having difficulty that day? What if we had done this or that differently? There is a lot of guilt involved in losing a child to suicide. You can't allow yourself to go there, you have to try to block out those thoughts and know that you did the best you could. We got him all the help we could. We did the best we knew how to do. You can do everything "right" you can be completely present, fully understand the persons mental health struggles and sometimes it's not enough. That is the painful truth.
If you are struggling with guilt over a loved one's suicide I would encourage you to seek help, reach out! There are many support groups and resources for suicide loss survivors.
You're never alone. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you are struggling emotionally or thinking about suicide