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“I Lost My Second Son”: Father Writes Heartfelt Message About ЅuiсiԀе & Mепtаl Illпеѕѕ

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“So… A week ago, I said goodbye to my second kid. The first victim was swept away by an avalanche, while the second took his own life. Nathaniel had battled depression for the better part of his entire life. His age was 33 at the time. I’m not publishing this in an effort to garner sympathy; please don’t take it that way. In all honesty, I’m on the lookout for something different.

I am aware that someone who has never had to interact with a mentally ill person before may find this statement to be puzzling, but the process of mourning the loss of Nate, which I have been going through for the past two decades, is now complete for me. Because there had been so many unsuccessful attempts to get him help, so many traumatic experiences, and so many previous attempts at suicide, I had already reconciled myself to the idea that he might be suicidal.

Nate came to me one day and said, “I’m sorry, Dad. After all the harm that had been done, I’m sorry I did it,” which was after his initial bout of despair was accompanied by rebellion. I’ve created such a deep hole for myself, and I have no idea how I will ever be able to climb out of it. Even though the brooding continued, he showed contrition and endearment, which allowed us to have conversations about more meaningful topics. After that, he started dating a young lady and eventually married her. Early in the month of December, they welcomed a new little bundle of joy into the world. My son immediately seemed more hopeful, and Baby Max looked exactly like his older brother Nate.

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However, the happiness only lasted for a month. Max went to bed at the beginning of January and did not wake up again. The baby’s lips were blue when they discovered him, and there was nothing anyone could do to help him. Nate experienced his final episode of despair when the infant was just 36 days old.

Now, let me get to the heart of the matter when it comes to mental illness…

Everyone in our society would react the same way if a child was born with a hole in her heart. ‘Oh, that’s so sad!’ we’d all say. Is there anything else we can do?’ Nobody would ever wag his or her head at a child or a parent and say, ‘You must have done something wrong!’ Rather than ignorant condemnation, we would all offer sympathy. When a child is born with a chemical imbalance or a genetic predisposition to mental illness, he or she and his or her parents can expect a lifetime of shame and blame from a society that is completely unaware of the nature of the problem.

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What we must realize is that the brain is merely an organ. It may be the most complicated organ in the body, but it is still just a mass of biological stuff that, like the liver, lung, or pancreas, is susceptible to disease. The fact that our culture sympathizes with a patient with a damaged heart but scoffs at a patient with a damaged brain suggests that we have never truly advanced in our understanding of mental illness.

I must admit that I was just as guilty of this ignorance at first. I grew up in a happy home with happy parents. There was no mental illness present. There were no addictive individuals. I was completely unprepared for the traumas that would await me after marrying into an alcoholic family. My mother-in-law was also bipolar and eventually psychotic, and I never considered that any of my children might inherit a genetic predisposition. Nate was around 13 years old when the illness first manifested itself. To me, it just looked like immaturity. I tried being angry at him, but it didn’t work. I tried to reason with him but it didn’t work. We eventually brought him to [counselors], but that didn’t work either. Nothing seemed to work. It’s the worst thing in the world to watch a child spiral into emotional oblivion and be powerless to intervene. I despise being powerless. I despise it more than anything else.

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All of this was followed by friends and acquaintances wagging their heads and saying, ‘You must have done something wrong.’ I was astounded by how quickly people arrived at this conclusion. Nonetheless, I was present for my children every day. I greeted them when they got home from school, assisted them with their homework, took them to my art shows, and cheered them on at their sporting events. We built Lego spaceships, told grizzly bear stories, and went on scavenger hunts. With my guitar, I sang them to myself to sleep at night. I did everything my parents did to raise me, but the results were very different and… demoralizing.

So, if there is a lesson in all of this, it could be summed up in one word: Grace. Please don’t wag your heads if you see someone suffering from mental illness or parents doing their best to deal with a suffering child. Please don’t assume that something bad has happened. Just give them grace. It will not solve the fundamental problem, but it will demonstrate the kind of compassion and solidarity that is so often lacking in a society that simply does not understand.”

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