I have sat through three suicide prevention trainings now and each time I take away a little bit more. While these trainings are amazing to teach us the skills to have a real conversation with those we think are struggling, for a parent who has lost a child to suicide it has become the laundry list of all the things I didn’t do right.
These demons have been with me since the night of June 20 but to hear them spoken out loud is hard. The guilt is so heavy. I’m working on not beating myself up with all the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s but it’s a real thing.
There were so many signs along Nikolai’s journey and I dismissed many of them to just being a moody teenager. Dropping out of sports, purposely failing school, disrespecting his family and his teachers, and becoming withdrawn. This was him literally crying out for help.
This is what it looks like parents. It can also look like a million other things too. We communicate with our kids but we aren’t really present with them. We have allowed being busy to take center stage of our lives and we have stopped giving importance to the real things. It’s become more about running our kids to sports practice, homework, who is spending the night at who’s house, video games, cell phones (theirs and our own), trying to fit in dinner, late nights, last minute projects, and the list goes on.
We sought the help of teachers, counselors, and a therapist. None of it was enough. His pain ran so deep that literally he thought his only way out was to take his own life. But maybe, just maybe if I had hugged him more, sat down and really listened to him, not been so busy. When all is said and done, I will never really know. But what I wouldn’t give for another chance to do it all again knowing what I know now. That is why I believe with absolutely every piece of me that God has set my compass to helping others see the pain in others and reach out.
Therapy is definitely helping me cope with the guilt. I don’t think that will ever go away; however, recognizing that reliving every wrong step with Nikolai is not serving me is what I have to say to move forward.
Since Nikolai died by suicide on June 20, there have been three more teens in northern Oakland County that have taken their lives. We have to figure this out. Maybe we start with just being present with our kids.