In Ireland this week with my BFF Leonie Fennell.
Leonie and I have a lot in common. If talking were an Olympic sport we would be gold medalists, if having an opinion on everything in the universe was an area of academia we would have PhDs, if drinking too much tea, smoking too many cigarettes and spending too much time on the computer were virtues we would be saints.
We also share the experience of having had a cherished child die from prescription drug induced suicide, and of devoting 90% of our lives to making sure their stories are heard in order to stop others joining our ranks.
On Saturday last week, we ran a conference in Wicklow where we shared with others what we know now that we wish we had known before our children died. The knowledge gained through years of research in the quest to answer the question ‘why.’ Critical information that we believe would have saved our children’s lives had it been provided to them and to us.
Research shows that peer support is the form of support most highly valued by those bereaved by suicide. Peers meet as equals to give each other support on a reciprocal basis. A peer is a person who is similar in fundamental ways who offers support based on shared experience. A peer is someone who has “been there, done that” and has the T Shirt to prove it. The slogan on ours could read “They killed my child. They ripped my heart out of my body. They trampled on my soul. Then they lied, covered up, defended, blamed and continued to commit the same brutalities against other families.” Of course we would need a dress that resembled a large pink tent to fit all that on so maybe our T Shirts could just bear the slogan “Betrayed.”
This week I have been in my safe place. Those of us who have shared this tragedy are a diverse group but we have some fundamental things in common. We know that surviving is not about closure, recovery or moving on but about having an ongoing relationship with our children in the absence of their physical presence. We know that platitudes like “at least he’s in a better place”, “it was her time to go” and “at least you have other children/can have another baby” at best make us feel isolated and misunderstood and at worst make us homicidal. We know that the tears shed when we talk about our children are because they are dead, not because someone said their name. We know it would take more than death to strip us of our motherhood and stop us loving our children.
In our circle, when someone says “everything happens for a reason” we are talking about psychiatric labeling and drugging, not God’s plan.
Coming to Ireland has been an amazing opportunity. Working with Leonie has been an honour, a privilege and a joy. Feeling safe and understood has been a rare blessing.
Connecting up families bereaved by suicide via CASPER or facebook or any other means is something everyone who loves and supports a person bereaved by suicide can do when they are not sure how to help someone so whose wounds are as deep as they get.