Moms of suicide victims give hope on Mother’s Day

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This Sunday marks the annual day where we take additional time to recognize the contributions of moms.

But Mother’s Day means different things to mothers who have lost their children to suicide.

In a special Mother’s Day edition of the 41 Files podcast , we sat down with three moms from the Kansas City area – B.J. Thomas, Jan Marrs and Slyvia Harrell – who have experienced a trauma that has brought them together in hopes to spare other moms the same experience.

Host Taylor Hemness and reporter Jordan Betts spoke to the trio as part of Betts’ ongoing coverage of the mom’s efforts to raise awareness and help other families.

If you need help or know of someone who needs help, you call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

As part of the episode, the moms wrote a letter they hope will provide an opportunity for others to seek help. Their letter, written by B.J. is printed in full below:

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I should have been doing senior pictures, prom dress shopping, planning a party for my graduate…

Losing our daughter 17 months ago has been one of the hardest things we have had to endure. The pain stretches far and wide. But I said almost immediately – I will do everything I can to be Regan’s voice and honor her. And we will do everything we can to keep other parents from having to walk this journey.

Suicide is much like a weapon of mass destruction. It isn’t simply a loss of life. It is the destruction of a world. My world. Many believe suicide is the answer because it ends the pain, the fear, the failure, or whatever may be causing darkness at the moment. But it is also the end. There is no future, no more prom or Friday night out with friends. There’s no college visits, senior pictures or graduation. There’s no dream of finding your career, getting your first apartment, meeting the love of your life… no wedding. No babies. There’s nothing. The future I had imagined for my precious second born is gone. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I had a vision of what life would be with these 2 amazing girls and all the things they would do. Instead, suicide stole a precious life and left us with indescribable pain, mountains of unanswered questions, giant pits of guilt, and an entire story left unwritten.

For all of the moms preparing for graduation, I know this is a scary and emotional time but trust me when I tell you, this is simply the end of one chapter. Your child has her entire life ahead of her… her entire story to be written. You get to stand in the wings and cheer her on the entire way. She will leave the nest, spread her wings and go experience the world. You’ve done your job and now you stand by and watch as she discovers who she is. Along the way she will undoubtedly meet some obstacles. She is bound to get knocked down, to get some bumps and bruises. That’s life, right? We learn from the challenges. Be thankful that you get to experience this next step. There are many of us who won’t get that opportunity.

This is what I want to tell your child…

When life gets hard and you think you just can’t take it anymore, I beg you — take a step back and remind yourself that this is simply one tiny moment in your life. It will be the bruise on your leg that you don’t remember what it’s from. In life, we all have times when we fall down, we all get bumps and bruises along the way. But I promise you — it will pass. The darkness doesn’t stay forever. We are guaranteed that the sun will rise tomorrow and when it does, we try again. We have to.

Many parents believe that if their child doesn’t suffer from mental illness, suicide isn’t an issue they need to be concerned with. Wrong. A recent report from the CDC stated that 54% of those that completed suicide in 2015 did not have a known mental health condition. 54%! How can that be? Easy, they had a moment where they were lost in the darkness, they forgot that the sun would rise tomorrow. It can happen to any of us, at any time. We don’t have to have a “mentally ill” label on our forehead. Before December of 2017 I would have said there was no way that statistic was accurate. But then I lost my seemingly happy, social, stressed 16 year-old daughter and it made me realize that suicide can happen to any family. Several months ago, I was speaking with a psychiatrist and she shared a statistic that helped me to better understand. She surveyed youth as young as 8 to the age of 24 that had attempted to take their life. She asked them “when did you decide you wanted to die? How long from the time you started thinking about it, until you attempted?” One year ago the average was 20 minutes. Today the average is 10.

Ten minutes to make the decision to end your life. I can’t even decide what to wear in 10 minutes, or 20. How could a person make a decision to end their life so quickly? What else could you do with 10 minutes? When the darkness comes and you feel like you just can’t go on, could you take a step back and clear your head? Could you go for a walk, play with your dog, visit a friend, or CALL YOUR MOM? And be honest…. just say “I’m having a really hard time and I just don’t think I can do it any more.” I promise you, there are people in your life who would do anything to get you through that 10 minutes.

Promise me, your parents, all of your friends right now, that when the darkness comes, you will take a step back. You’ll take a walk. Play with your dog, YOU’LL CALL YOUR MOM…. You will fight the darkness and find your light.

We recently awarded scholarships to students in the class of 2019, our daughter’s class, kids I have known since pre-school. We asked them to write an essay about how suicide has touched their life. Being Regan’s class, we knew it could be tough to read. In one of the essays, what did I find but a quote from Regan herself, something she said to one of her best friends, “You have gotten thru every single bad thing that has happened so far, don’t let this sink your ship.”

Truly perfect words to remember as you end this chapter of your life and continue to write your story. There will be storms, there will be darkness, but the sun will rise again. Don’t let one dark day sink your ship.

Each mother has established foundations that have upcoming events:

Keep the Spark Alive: On May 20, Keep the Spark Alive will hold its second annual golf outing at Blue Hills Country Club. Sign up here.
Speak Up: Speak Up will have its annual walk on September 15, 2019. Follow Speak Up on social media accounts to learn how to sign up.
Shifting Gears for Regan: For the first time, the organization will honor Regan in a charity ride and silent auction on June 22. More details are on their Facebook page.

The 41 Files podcast is released every Wednesday and covers issues important to Kansas City. Subscribe and leave a rating on Apple Podcasts , Stitcher , Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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