CW: This essay discusses depression and suicide. If you or someone you know needs helps now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911. You can also text CONNECT to 74174. Every life matters.Every life matters.
By Kellie Julia
“13 Reasons Why”
My son was 31 when he left, he had suffered through some illness in the past 10+ years both physically and mentally. Sadly these things combined with life’s daily struggles led him to make the decision to end his life. I feel like the spirit does live on after physical death and I like to think he can hear me when I talk to him but there isn’t much I wouldn’t give to be able to hug him one more time.
There has been so much controversy over the series “13 reasons why”. It came out within weeks of my sons death, I watched it. My daughter watched it. We talked about it together, we talked about it with friends. It didn’t focus just on suicide it touched on some pretty real and serious issues for young adults. Drug and alcohol use, peer pressure, bullying, date rape, homosexuality, mental illness, abuse, neglect, self esteem and so much more. I feel that it opens the door for parents to start important conversations with their children.
I didn’t feel like it glamourized or romanticized the main character’s suicide. Suicide is not glamorous or romantic. I saw it first hand and for me it was dark, horrifying, lonely, sad and final.
The series actually helped put some things about suicide into perspective for me. There was nothing in particular that I solely did or did not do or anything in particular that anyone else solely did or did not do to directly cause my son to end his life. He didn’t list 13 specific reasons why he did it but I know that it was an accumulation of many things over many years packaged into his body and mind and that package became just too heavy for him to carry. Am I saying “Hey everyone when life gets too hard just kill yourself” of course not. My life has not always been easy, your life has not always been easy and we are still here. But it did help me take a step towards not blaming myself for my sons death and neither should any of you.
When someone chooses to end their life abruptly it leaves their survivors with so many questions that at times can make us feel literally emotionally paralyzed. My son left no note, no tapes, no tangible answers to our questions in the physical world but I did find some solace where some people might not look for it. I saw a medium, I spoke to Corey and like the tapes in “13 reasons why” I came away with a cd of his revelations but instead of the guilt bestowed on the characters in that story I was lifted of my feelings of guilt, I was given a small amount of closure plus a surprise feeling of forgiveness towards a couple people for certain things in the past that I hadn’t been able to obtain on my own. I know some of you may think that mediums are hocus pocus but for me it was true and real.
So now on to “the face”. I have explained to some in great detail what “the face” is. “The face” is something that I have had to become familiar with over the past few months after losing my son.
The “face” I speak of is one of complete compassion and helplessness that you find in the expression of the people that care about you. They see you for the first time after the worst day of your life and your pain is their pain. The “face” is not meant to hurt you or make you feel sad it is telling you that you are loved and that the people that love you want to heal your pain but they have no idea how to do that. How can they, what could anyone do to fix you after you have suffered a loss that is unimaginable to most.
I have sometimes avoided many public places and situations for the past few months for fear of seeing this face. It made me question why does “the face” give me such a strong internal reaction? After some inner soul searching I realized that ….
#1 I am someone that does not like to see anyone sad or hurt and when people look at me with such sadness I in turn feel badly that they are sad for me, when actually I should embrace how lucky I am to have so many wonderful caring people in my life.
#2 “The face” makes what happened real and at times that is just too damn hard to deal with. But it is real and it did happen and we are still here and we have to deal with it. Death sometimes heals the suffering but wounds the living.
“Fear, and Everything Else”
First and foremost I want to tell everyone that has reached out to me, thought about me, cried for me, carried me, cooked for me, cleaned for me, breathed for me, shown up for me; a million times thank you. You took over for me at times when I was unable to do those things for myself.
I also want to apologize for the times that many of you may have tried to call, text, or message me and have not gotten a timely response. I know that it might be a little frustrating, but it is not because I do not appreciate you, love you, or want you, it is because at times I can respond and at times I can’t. But I truly have been blessed to have you continue to try to reach out to me because some of those times are when I really needed you most. You have all stood beside me, behind me and in front of me and I am forever grateful. My lack of accepting generous offers of attending events or spending time with you is not because I do not want to it is caused by FEAR!
Fear of being somewhere and seeing people who don’t really know me but know what happened and them looking upon me as “the mom whose kid killed himself”
Fear of seeing people who DO know me and me trying to be “normal” around them which is sometimes easy but other times actually hard which in turn makes me internally ask myself “am I being normal”. I have literally at times asked friends that I am with “Do I seem normal” which that in turn makes me feel CRAZY! And then I think they will think I am crazy and around and around we all go back on the emotional roller coaster in my head.
I have a fear of actually letting down my guard and “being normal”. Being comfortable and relaxed around others and having a good time. Yes I have found that this IS possible! And enjoyable! But sometimes, “BAM” a grief tornado pops up out of no where and I worry that it will suck me right in. I have realized that when this happens that I can’t focus on or enjoy what is going on around me and I am suddenly just trapped in silence. Talk about being a buzz kill when others are trying to have a good time.
Then there is fear of meeting new people and having them ask me personal questions like the dreaded “Do you have any children”. I changed opticians recently because I wanted to go somewhere no one knew me but on my way there I am pre-thinking about responses to this question, should I just say “Yes, I have an amazing daughter” and leave out my son, because on the surface it is an easier truth than explaining the recent events but then if I do answer in that manner will it make me feel that by not acknowledging that I had two children and I lost one along the way that some how I am not honoring my sons memory. BUT if I do say “Yes, I have a daughter and I had a son but he died” then back to the immediate fear of “THE FACE”! I believe this will get easier at some point, at least I really hope it does.
I have fear of having people try to comfort me with the words “They are in a better place” or “Time heals all wounds”, etc. These things are all said with good intentions, these are normal human things to say, I have said these things to others in their times of sadness and meant them. There is no wrong or right thing to say to someone that has experienced what we have but some days I find comfort in those words because they come from a place of kindness and other days I find that the right words might actually just be “That fucking sucks, I’m sorry that happened to you” or “I wish I could change it for you but I obviously can’t and that fucking sucks too!”
And due to that last fear, I oddly I have the fear of people “fearing” me because they don’t know how I will react to them or things that may come up when I am with them. Or them somehow worrying that I am not the same person I was before. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me or scared to say or do the wrong things. I am the same person I was before, just a little sad and a little broken at times but still the same person. So don’t worry about me, just be normal, normal is good.
In the past I have thought that jealousy was the worst emotion that we could have, but along the line I added regret to the list and now I’ve added fear. We are all human, no one is perfect. I do not think it is possible to live never being jealous, never having regrets or fears. We can all just try our best and fail and try again.
Kellie Julia lives in Maine with her husband Dawson, her daughter Kyli, 4 cats, and two dogs. She and her husband own East Coast CBDS, a medical marijuana caregiver business in Unity Maine. Her previous professions include Cosmetologist and Behavior Modification Specialist. But her favorite job of all has been “Mom”. Kellie’s beloved son Corey committed suicide in February of 2017. She decided to put her feelings and thoughts into words in the hope that it will help others as much as it helps her.
It was extremely courageous of you to share your feelings. They rang true to me on so many counts. And I love you for it. I pray for your peace, and am grateful for your daughter and your husband, who will go through this with you. I lost my first child 8 hours after his birth. I knew, even then, it would be so much worse if i had had years to love him, and know him. My heart aches for you. And, again, my heart hugs yours, in silence, and solidarity. xx’s
We lost our son 13 years ago from suicide. When you say the”face’ I TOTALLY understand. Erik was only 26,my heart is still torn. Some days I look in the sky and ask….Why Erik? Why?.On Aug 31 I am going to Sandy Point Maine to meet MY VERY FIRST GRANDCHILD. I know the light will shine and yes Erik will be with us too!!!!!!!