As a father, could I have protected him?
The death of a child is one of the most painful events that an adult can experience, I know, I went through it after the loss of my son Jason who died after a four year battle with depression.
Your children are your legacy. They are your contribution to the future, so losing one is, in a way tantamount to losing your future. Trust me, if there is any grief that you live with for the rest of your life, it is the death of your child.
Jason was a singer/songwriter who had some minor success in his late teens. As radio DJ he also had his own radio show on Bath FM. Somehow though, life for him was a burden. He tried both drugs and alcohol - longing for oblivion and to try and curtail the agony he was suffering. Eventually he became bed–ridden, unable to function and sank into deep depression. Several times he told us he wanted to die.
His GP seemed to have but one string to his bow – antidepressants and we found the NHS seriously lacking in any kind of psychiatric help. Eventually we went to The Priory in Bristol and Dr Blacker decided that ECT was the only way forward (at a cost of £25,000). Sadly Jason died in his sleep the night before treatment was due to start from a drug interaction leading to a respiratory arrest.
Early on I experienced unbearable pain and could not stop crying. I then began thinking it was all a bad dream and often caught myself looking for Jason in a crowd. When reality set in after the cremation, I started to experience feelings of guilt; consumed with thoughts that I could have somehow done something to change what happened or as a father I should have been able to protect him. Also, because the death of a child defies the expected order of life events, it was a challenge to basic existential assumptions.
Recovery from grief is not easy but for me it was facilitated by my ability to find a sense of purpose in life, to give life meaning through activities in memory of Jason. Joining the Appeal Board of Depression Alliance was one and writing my second book of poetry and verse Behind the Smile with all proceeds going to that charity was another.
One question I still ponder and that is had I been aware earlier of the Friends in Need community set up by Depression Alliance would we have seen a different outcome. I will never be able to answer that question but I have met several young people who claim it saved their life.
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