Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Barbara Swanston's Last Part of Her Letter

Terry, Son of Barbara Swanston

We continue today with Barbara Swanston's Open Letter.

Remember when we called cancer the Big C, when unwed pregnancies, domestic violence and homosexuality were not discussed? Many people are uncomfortable hearing or talking about suicide (and mental illness) and there is still stigma and misunderstanding. I believe this must change. We need to be more compassionate, kind and understanding.

Here are some facts. From Wikipedia: The majority of gun-related deaths in the United States ARE SUICIDES, with 17,352 (55.6%) of the total 31,224 firearm-related deaths in 2007 due to suicide, while 12,632 (40.5%) were homicide deaths. The World Health Organization estimates that every year, almost a million people die from suicide, one every 40 seconds. It also estimates that for every suicide, there are up to 200 attempted ones. A recent scientific study stated the British economic recession, rising unemployment and biting austerity measures may have driven more than 1,000 people in England to commit suicide since 2007. Suicide rates in Europe have increased as well since 2007.

From the Health Canada website: Twenty percent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness every year. Mental illness, by definition, has a serious impact on a person's ability to function effectively over a long period of time.

A while ago, I learned about a mural planned in Philadelphia to help raise awareness about suicide. I got in touch with the artist and he agreed to include Terry's image on the mural (he used the photo above). It is complete but I don't have any close up photos of it yet. Here is a link to the website. I am pleased that his image is part of this project. http://muralarts.org/findingthelight

Shortly after Terry died I joined an online support group called Parents of Suicide (PoS). It has been a lifeline for me and many other parents in the same situation. Sometimes it seems they are the only people who truly understand – probably they are. 

PoS is mostly an email exchange group. In every email there is a list of birth dates and memorial dates of children of our members for that month. I usually pause and read the names for that day. Last year I could not look at the August list because I could not bear to see Terence S not once but twice. I would skip over it as quickly as possible and avoid looking at the screen. It was too painful. Last August was just too painful.

It is August again (can it be 2 years already?) and there is that list again. This year, each time I see it I stop and read his name, August 21, Terence S (memorial) and August 28 Terence S (birth date). It is still very painful but I guess this is progress. 

Each name represents a human being who took his or her life in a moment of depression, despair, anger, irrationality, or whatever prompted them. Each one represents people who were impacted by that person’s sudden and most often unexpected death. People who are struggling to come to terms with the unthinkable. Some parents have lost children younger than 12 and some more than one child. Imagine!

What can you do? If you speak to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide don’t hesitate to talk about them. If you know someone who seems to be struggling with anxiety or depression, take time to listen to them. If someone you know mentions suicide, talk to them about it. Talking about suicide does not cause someone to become suicidal or increase the risk. Showing genuine concern by asking about suicide directly can be part of an immediate intervention. When you speak with me do not hesitate to mention Terry. He was a wonderful boy and young man. I need to feel he is not forgotten. Don't be afraid to speak about how he died and how he lived. My hope is that by talking about Terry’s life and his death, maybe another life can be saved.  

Elizabeth Edwards who lost her 16 year old son in a car accident said, ''If you know someone who has lost a child, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget they died. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that's a great, great gift.'

Thank you for reading this.  

With love and peace,
Barbara, Terry's mum                                   
Aug 28/80 - Aug 21/10,
Your light went out too soon!     

Thank you, Barbara, for sharing your heart here on Love Truth. Tomorrow, you'll return to begin three days of interview questions and answers for readers.

Father, thank You for helping us parents get through the most difficult grieving journey of all. We lean on Your strength and Your love. In Jesus' holy name. Amen.

Until next time . . . ask that person you know to tell you about the child they lost.   

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