Parents Of Suicide
Writings Library

Jan Jackson
March 7, 2000

First let me tell you, I loved my son with all my heart. One of the top three happiest days of my life was the day he was born. I wanted him. He was an answered prayer--a dream come true. The first five years of his life were so wonderful for me.

Ryan at five-years-old is when his story really begins. Gradually each year more and more problems arose--so subtle that they could have been called "normal" childhood behavior. The school psychologist told me Ryan was somewhat immature for his age but bright enough that instead of kindergarten he needed to be in first grade. Everyone believed his immaturity was because he was the baby of the family with two older sisters. I was blessed for the first 17 years of my now 38 year marriage in that I was a stay-at-home mom until Ryan was in the fourth grade.

I will leave out many details and skip to age 13 when he began to be so angry. It was so bad that I realized we needed help with him and we sought out psychological help. Finally we had to have him taken to a local treatment center which was "the thing to do" during that time. Our insurance would not pay for the length of treatment the doctor wanted for him, so just as Ryan was turning the corner to a place in recovery the doctor felt good about, we had to take Ryan out. All through high school he was in and out of therapy. When he was a senior he was having delusions and had to be admitted for about a week. He was having a reaction to a prescribed medication. Fact is, I will never be sure he wasn't pretending this behavior (that he may have learned during his first stay in the hospital) to avoid senior exams from which he was excused.

He was in all honors courses but always just did the bare minimum to get by. He used his grades against his dad and me. His IQ was very high. At this point it is probably appropriate to mention that he had an affair with a teacher, and I didn't mention earlier that he was sexually abused by one of his coaches in junior high.

Ryan scored high on his college entrance exams and was accepted to his father's alma mater. His college years were shaky--four years of getting kicked out and being readmitted for poor grades. The last time, if not for his father and friends who went before a panel with him, Ryan would not have graduated. He managed 2 extra grade points when he graduated with a BS in Psychology. His depression greatly increased during his college years.

After graduation he took counseling jobs with homes for emotionally disturbed teenagers. He was asked to leave from both. Then he took small jobs with security companies and courier services. He was either fired or asked to resign from all of his jobs. We never heard the real reasons why. Ryan was a master at putting the blame on others. During this time he was living at home because he had charged up several credit cards while in college. We said he could live home while getting them paid down so that he could afford a place of his own. He would go for long periods of time between jobs and write hot checks and lay in bed watching TV or playing TV games. Finally his dad had enough, they had it out, and I came home from work to find Ryan was gone.

We didn't know where he was or hear from him for three to four months until one day a bill from a vascular surgeon addressed to my son was delivered to our address. I opened it and found that it was a bill for surgery. When I called the doctor they told me he had been in a hit and run accident and nearly lost a leg and was lucky to be alive. I found him in the hospital, called him, went to wait for him while he had a second surgery on his knee. He had been working as a bouncer at a club and someone took offense at him and deliberately ran him down in the parking lot. My son's grandiose attitude and lack of tact never worked well for him.

Owners of the club had no insurance for their employees but were good to Ryan. They paid all his hospital and rehabilitation bills plus got all his things out of the pawn shop and gave him compensation money to keep him going until he could work again. He was left with a 50% disability in his leg. This of course meant his dream jobs would never come to be. By the way he spent all the money in short order. He bought several guns. He was sharing an apartment with some other young men. Ryan never used drugs or alcohol (well briefly he used alcohol in part of high school and part of college).

During this time he began to want to get back to church. We did. His faith became his strength and crutch from this point on. For a time he was a substitute teacher, then he was hired by the parole office and that is where he worked until he was asked to resign within about two years from later.

This is where my guilt comes in. This was the last straw for me. I began to see the pattern like I never had before. I counseled over and over with him about office behavior, attitude, tact, and more, more, more. He said to me, "Mother, I am a grown man, I think I can figure these things out for myself." So the last time I saw him was at his new apartment in June when I went there for a Bible study group. At this visit he had planned to tell me about his job hearing. I was angry. I didn't want to hear it. I told him, " Son, I don't want to hear any of this." "You are a grown man." "I think you can handle this."

His father and I had a vacation planned, and we went on our vacation. We did not attend his hearing. I sent him a card saying that when one door closes another always opens, but I did not feel this kindness in my heart. I felt rage. I couldn't save him and he couldn't save himself. He had missed three months of work with depression, that he finally told us about when he needed money to pay rent and bills. There is more of course that I will not get into, but the bottom line is his grandiose personality didn't believe any of the rules applied to him.

We supported Ryan through the three months he missed from work with depression, but the next time he called to ask us for money his father told him the bank was closed and that he would have to make it on his own. The other thing I heard his father say was he might have to sell everything and live under a bridge because it was time for his parents to have a life. I wouldn't answer the phone because I'm too weak and would either have given in or hurt him more with words. I had decided it was best for me to cut the apron strings and to let this be between Ryan and his father. Ryan had a one-ring signal when he called us because it wasn't long distance for us to call him. His father wouldn't respond to the signal calls. His reasoning was that if Ryan wanted to talk to him he could call him anytime during the day at the office.

Here is my gut wrencher, Ryan's thirtieth birthday was October 3. None of us called him or sent a card. We were all sick of all his tactics, we never knew what to expect from him, and we had been afraid of him for years. He was a big man and angry, depressed, desperate, lonely, hopeless. The day after his birthday, while we were at work, he brought his cats over and left them in our house. He also left his copy of our house key. When I walked in and saw the cats I expected to find Ryan dead in my bedroom. At least I expected a call from the coroner's office that evening. When neither of those happened. I relaxed and thought maybe he had gone out of town for a job interview or had had to vacate his apartment.

A couple of weeks later I got a call at work from his landlord saying Ryan was behind two months in his rent and his apartment looked abandoned but his car was still parked under the carport. I told her we had lost touch with Ryan since June and didn't know what to tell her but that his family would get together over the weekend to decide what we wanted to do. I said I would call her Monday. We sat at her kitchen table and discussed how tired we all were of all the poor choices of our son and brother. And on and on and on. There was always such tension with even mention of his name or presence.

Monday I couldn't bring myself to make the phone call to his landlord. I would call on Tuesday. I never had to make the call. Monday night at about 7:30 the doorbell rang. Two sheriff's deputies told us Ryan had been found dead in his apartment on Monday about noon by his landlords and that it looked like suicide by pistol to the head. They told us Ryan had been dead for two-three days. They asked us if Ryan was depressed because there was several medications in his bathroom for depression. We said yes, Ryan was depressed and we had been expecting this for years. Then I went to pieces.

When I think how while he was killing himself his family sat around the kitchen table talking about how disappointed we were in his choices for his life, I can't bear it. He loved us and wanted to be with us. We rejected him. I was his mother. I was his confidant. I deserted him when he needed me most. I believed his father was right about using tough love to get his attention so I was staying out of it. Nothing is ever so bad that a mother would not call her child on a milestone birthday. But I didn't. Wouldn't any parent call their suicidal child with the signals we were given? We didn't. I didn't. I can't bear to think of his last moments in total rejection, loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. These thoughts are the ones that make me wish someone would take a whip or a club to me.

This is not the story I want to tell about my son. Except for the early years it is just so hard to remember the many good times with Ryan because the bad times were so bad for so long. Once in a group therapy session, someone asked me if I had ever considered that instead of failing Ryan as a parent that maybe my love and efforts helped him turn out as good as he did. Recently I have considered that God had been calling Ryan home for years and he stayed on Earth as long as he did because of me. I loved him unconditionally and worked so hard at making his life better. My hope was that in cutting the apron strings he would be stronger.