I have been a counselor for over a decade and fortunately I have never had to face the horrific situation when a client’s child dies of an overdose or suicide…until now. Ellen came to me almost a year ago as she was struggling with her addicted son. He had been in and out of dozens of rehab; clean and sober for a few months here and there but in truth was a full blown addict. He had two beautiful little girls that my client was in the process of legally adopting as their birth mother as well was deep in her addiction.

We were making tremendous progress on her boundaries with her son and she was finally realizing that there wasn’t anything more she could do to help him other than tell him that she loved him, but he must live his life the way he saw fit and that his daughters were safe with her and her husband.

Her son Mick was often abusive and angry when she would refuse to send more money, give him a car or participate in his life the way he wanted her to. He was facing a number of parole violations and his infractions with the law were growing with leaps and bounds. However, Ellen was there to listen and always ended their conversation with I love you and I hope you find your way.

One week before Christmas, while we were in a counseling session my office phone rang and when the session was over I listened to the message. Ellen’s husband was incoherent and I was able to stop Ellen in the driveway and told her that Frank had called and I couldn’t understand him, but something was definitely wrong. Ellen’s first thought went to her ailing father and promised to let me know what had happened when she got home.

With her permission, this is the e-mail she sent and subsequently a very personal reflection regarding Mick and his untimely demise. Neither has been altered in anyway.

Hi Carole,

It is so awful. Mick hung himself this morning after getting in a fight with his girlfriend. He went out and found a garden hose and hung himself in the yard. We see the chapel people tomorrow in San Luis Obispo. I'm just numb. I never thought he would die this way, I always thought it would be an overdose.

Love, Ellen

Needless to say, Ellen and I spent several hours processing this horrible event. I reminded her that one does not have to have a physical drug overdose to have an emotional one. No one could help Mick unless he wanted it and an overdose of whatever sort was bound to happen.

Since I am a huge prominent of journaling, I asked Ellen to write down her thoughts a few weeks later after everything had a bit of time to settle. As you can see below, the anger and helplessness that she (and many parents) feel is overwhelming. And, often times it takes decades to dissipate.

As I drove away from my counselor’s driveway, all I could think about was my Dad had, had another stroke, not that anything was wrong with anyone else in the family. As soon as I rounded the corner of the block I knew. Parked across the street in front of our house was his friend and AA sponsor. He had come to deliver the news in person that my son was dead; he had hung himself with a garden hose that morning. He had received a call from my sons’ girlfriend of 3 months. I went numb. Never had I expected this! Drug over dose yes, but how could he take his own life? Why? Why didn’t you call me? You always called when you needed something: money, food, just to talk or help to get out of trouble. I had just talked to you and sent you money a week ago. I am angry, sad, lost, and mad, all at one time. This is such a torment for family and friends. Your step father got the call from your ex-fiancé. Now she sabotages herself out of the half-way house and violated probation. You left me to make all the phone calls to the family. Your Grandmother cried, and is still crying. Your Aunt had to have a co-worker drive her home, then she drove back and stayed a week with your Grandmother. How dare you only think of yourself? What a selfish act. Your cousin’s were devastated. When it hit the “face book” I was devastated. How dare someone else share info about my son’s death? I’m not even on Face book. Such a violation of ones privacy. You left behind your two small beautiful birth children, did you really mean to do this, or was it a cry for help that went to far? Now we’re left with the loneliness, dysfunctional grief, depression, sorrow, and declining health. The death of a child by suicide is by far the most devastating of all losses. We were not given time to say our final good-byes. I never thought that losing him would be the worst thing that ever happened to me. But nothing in my life has been so difficult. I never imagined life without him. I think of him every day and will grieve for him until the day I die.

As some of you may have read in my columns that I have a daughter in and out of recovery. A night doesn’t go by when I don’t pray for her and hope the phone won’t ring with that call that every parent dreads when there is an alcoholic/addict in their family.

“What could I have done differently?” is always the hue and cry when family members are left behind. NOTHING! There is nothing anyone can do for anyone else unless they are open to it and truly embrace it. It’s a tough road for all involved and sadly, unfortunately sometimes that loved one finds a calmer, safer haven not on this Earth.

Thank you Ellen, for your bravery and honesty in writing about this painful experience for others to read and sadly even relate to.

If I can be of service, please visit my website www.familyrecoverysolutions.com and I invite you to explore my new book Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcoholic/Addict at www.reclaimyourlifebook.com or on Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio on my website only.

About the Author

Carole Bennett M.A.

Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.

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