I was honored to be asked to share my story of our journey. I say “our” because it is not just mine, it is my children’s journey as well.
In 2012 my kids lost their dad to mental health issues. Yes, it was suicide. My family and I chose not to use this word as there are so many stigmas attached to it. When people hear that is how he passed, some are compassionate and many surprisingly are angry. We would often get comments like, “aren’t you mad?” or “that is so selfish”, I disagree.
My boys were young when this happened, 14, 11 and 5 years old. Even at these young ages they had heard the word “suicide”. I am sure I had an angel guiding me as I explained to my children what had happened. I told them “people pass away from 2 things, either your body is sick or injured like cancer or a car accident, or your brain is sick and you say and do things you wouldn’t normally do. Dad’s brain was sick. He had what was called a Mental Illness”. My boys were content with this explanation and it guided us on our journey as to how we grieve. My boys have always thought of their dad as being sick so we had no room for anger in our hearts. You wouldn’t be mad or call someone selfish for dying of a physical illness so why mental illness?
This then started a snowball effect in mine and my kids own mental health. I immediately got my boys and I into therapy. We had amazing support from amazing people to get through this. Despite all of the therapy and support from loved ones, mental health issues are still a part of us. My oldest sons suffered from depression and anxiety that began after this loss. My youngest at the very little age of five, suffered from severe separation anxiety. I could not leave the room, the house or even go to bed at night without explaining to him where I was and that I would come back and we would all be safe.
It has almost been 9 years, on our journey my boys have openly talked to their friends. Even all throughout high school, rugby and hockey, they have attended therapy and shared how it has helped them and they are not ashamed of it. As life often goes, more tragic loss came our way and because therapy and support for mental health was the norm for my boys at a very young age, they knew how to ask for help when they’ve needed it. I am so proud of my boys and what all they have gone through and how hard they have fought to keep their mental health, healthy.
I know we make people uncomfortable talking about it as openly as we do. I know I make people uncomfortable with my Facebook posts. Many people still do not want to talk about it at all. We need to work together to break this stigma and keep the conversation going. We need to educate our young people that this is NOTHING to be ashamed of, and there is a way to make it through tough times.
My children and I continue to talk no matter what. We will not talk the talk without walking the walk.