Broken Gift: Dealing With the Death of a Mentally Ill Child

God gave us a gift. A son. Firstborn boy. In fear and trembling, we held him in our arms, to be loved, nurtured, to laugh and to cry with. Amazing.

And the gift from God grew, gave joy, but also pain we could not comprehend. Why would this gift become broken? This is my story, but perhaps the story for all who love those who are mentally unstable.

Our journey began with our oldest son, Aaron. We never envisioned the grief we would someday endure and are still dealing with in his untimely death in 2011.

A gift, yet unforeseen would be the greatest test of our lives; to seek answers about what this gift would cost us and our family.

Did I ever imagine that this intelligent, talented son would die so young, or have so much sorrow in his life? He had so much to offer. Why did that creativity turn in the wrong direction?

Yet as Aaron moved through his teenage years, things did change for him. His fascination with the human mind and how it functioned, for reasons known only to him, caused him to experiment with drugs. He told us years later that it was curiosity that started the snowball effect, until it grew into an avalanche, suffocating him.

I never envisioned myself in a world with a son having mental problems. I , in all truth, had I not experienced it, would perhaps have the attitude I see now in many others. The attitude that if one would only “straighten up, get over it, think positive,” all would be well.

Mental illness is an “ uncomfortable” malady. Family members are often embarrassed, relationships drained. The tendency is to shy away from those who seem “weird”. We tend to cover up, deny, get angry and frustrated with the one who is acting out behavior we cannot understand.

Aaron once wrote:

There comes a time in a man’s life when he begins to wonder what is real? What is man running toward? And why the hurry? I awaken a day, then a day goes by, then another, and without even lifting a hand, suddenly I find myself in trouble, and in sorrow. Is that reasoning?

I find myself needing to acquire advice, and yet my fellow man asks for a penny. When a man gets sick – does he make money? I fear to turn off the television, I have given it the opportunity to become a projection of safety. I pull my hair to unconsciously cry, my sanity is truly imbalanced. My stomach pains rage for truth and peace.

Many times, our phone would awaken us in the middle of the night, with Aaron sobbing incoherently. Those who are mentally sick can be very focused on their needs foremost. They have an extreme self-obsession, of which they seem unaware.

We, the burden bearers, are expected to always rise to the occasion, always be there, patient, loving, good listeners. But there comes a time when one must hang up the phone, cannot always listen, and not always be there. We were amateurs. We made mistakes. We enabled, not really understanding what to do.

As time went on, I painfully had to admit to myself, that I had no solid explanations, and that our son’s life could possibly always be like this. I would either have to accept this way of life for us, or grow bitter and blame God.

The son we prayed for, this precious but broken gift. Could I love my son, even when he was unlovely? Could I receive from God the strength to accept what could not be explained, and still have joy? Yes! Because God was my joy, and for so long, I thought finding solutions, getting things “fixed” in my life, would supply that joy.

How many of us with troubled loved ones focus on them so much, and lose sight of all the things to be thankful for?

God is the mender of broken vessels, not me. Whoever will can receive wholeness. If not received, then God cannot be blamed for the cracks, and shattered pieces in the outcome. We too, the ones on the sidelines, can choose to allow the Grace of God to sustain us.

For me, receiving from God the gift of our son, with all his emotional ups and downs. has formed within me compassion in a new way. When I hear of a family whose son or daughter has brought them grief, or a newscast about a crime committed, I hurt for the ones who have loved them.

I pray for them now, that they might have the peace that only God can supply, and receive with open hands, His marvelous Grace.

 

To read the story of our son in my book, BROKEN GIFTS, go to:

www.brokengifts.tateauthor.com 

www.amazon.com (search for Broken Gifts: Unwrappoing the Thoughts of a Wounded Mind)

 

 

 

Jill Smoot

More Articles Written by Jill

I am happily married to my husband, Dwight, and we are blessed with five children, six grandchildren. I am active in my church, and I have been a teacher, bible study leader, and a guest speaker at a women's conference in Oklahoma City. My topic was about children born with cleft palates, which our youngest adopted daughter was born with. I attended junior college, but only one semester. Have traveled to Ukraine three times, as I have relatives living there. Taught myself Russian, so I could converse, but it is very basic.I am an organic " farmer", on a small scale. I am a Master Gardener. I am currently doing book signings, but hope to connect with those involved with mental health. .I am looking for opportunities to share my story of our son, Aaron. to reach out to those who hurt as we still do. To come alongside of those whose lives are torn apart as ours was, and to offer the comfort and hope I found in God.

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