When Kids Ask About Suicide

On a late Summer morning I received a letter from a woman whom I had never heard from before. Enclosed with the letter was a newspaper clipping with a picture of my best friend, Jerusha. The article was about her life and her death. After we had parted ways when I moved, Jerusha fell into a depressive state. She had moved back home, began drinking and partying more, never settling with the right person, and depression overwhelmed her life. She thought there was no other way out and took her own life on April 9, 2001. Her mother had written the letter. She had found an old video tape of Jershua and I sharing some personal moments together and her mother wrote to let me know of Jerusha’s passing.

She wrote:

            I apologize in advance for my abruptness. It was so hard trying to track you down. Jerusha was my pride and joy. She was my light when we watched her father struggle through depression as well. I don’t care what she did in her past. All I care about is connecting with those she held close to her, and she held you close for a long time. I just want closure and the only way I can get it is by knowing who she really was and everyone in her life. I have a butterfly garden in my yard in her memory, she loved butterflies, and I would love to share it with you. If you are ever up in Minnesota, please stop by and pay your respects. It would mean a lot to me and I’m sure it would mean a lot to her too.

I sat looking at Jerusha’s picture. Then I walked over to my hope chest and spent the whole day going through old photographs we had together. I smiled at the butterfly she had tattooed on her shoulder. I missed her so much. She was a part of my life that helped hide my pain after I lost my grandfather, my daughter, my dog, and most of all, myself.  I remember one day she came into where I worked and she was dressed in this sexy black dress, ready for the clubs. It was a Friday night. She loved to dance. My husband had picked her up from her house, then they drove to pick me up together. She wanted to show off her new dress. I worked in a technology testing area, so I couldn’t open the door, but I could only watch her from beyond the windows. She modeled the dress for me, twirling and spinning and giggling like a little girl. I laughed at her through the window. She was beautiful and she would have made a wonderful mother.  I wished she could have met my children.

jerusha kesler grave

When Kids Ask About Suicide

During one of my many moves, my teens were helping me go through my Hope Chest and found Jerusha’s letter and photo. My oldest son asked me: “Why would anyone want to commit suicide?”

The question had me stumped. I couldn’t answer it. I didn’t know. I knew I had gone through depression and they had seen how distraught I was when their father was deployed and I had nobody to help me. I would sometimes curl up in a ball and cry in the bathroom and I know they heard me, but as much as I thought I was near the end, I still never wanted to take my life. I never thought that was the answer. So when my own child asked me, I was careful but candid.

“Sometimes people suffer inside so deeply that they feel they have no other way to find comfort in their pain.” I answered. “But what they don’t realize is that there is always hope. There is always some other way to solve a problem. Life just has a funny way of helping us out.”

My son looked at me. “What about Uncle Steve?” he asked. I took a deep breath. Stephen was my husband’s younger brother who became quadriplegic at the mere age of 16 from a small accident simply messing around with some friends. He was wheel-chair bound and needed help every day of his life for 17 years until his passing at the young age of 32. I could understand what my son was asking and it was so very hard to talk about.

“That’s different sweetheart.” I said. “Sometimes bad things happen to good people, but unless you are in a situation like Uncle Stephen, you can always move forward. And if you ever feel like you can’t go on anymore, just think of Uncle Stephen and how he fought until the end, even though he would have taken on all those other problems people complain about.”

My son nodded. “Well I just want to say sorry that you lost your friend mom. And I love you.”

My teens are old enough to know and personally, there is no candy coating real life issues, but that night I realized that was the first time I was just as flabbergausted about life as my son was. Taking ones own life, to me, was just as inscrutable to myself as it was to my own kids. When someone is taken from us to disease or murder or by accident, it is easier to explain, but when the person you love takes their own life, it is a most difficult question to answer.

Don’t Cry For Her Death, Celebrate Her Life

Life always seems to throw tricks and turns at us. I never know when I’ll be happy, when I’ll be sad, or when I’ll laugh again. So I tend to throw all of it in a bucket and just take what it gives me. I’ve had a lot of losses in my life, but I have more fond memories of those people than I do tears. This gives me joy to celebrate who they were and the happiness they brought to me. Many times my husband and I laugh about the funny things Jerusha and I did in the past and we will continue to share her story and her HAPPY memories with our kids.  I will visit that butterfly garden someday. Rest In Peace Jerusha.

What is a difficult question you have been asked and how did you respond?

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