by Shannon Shpak
My only son Isaiah gained his wings on April 26, 2019, after he lost a long battle with depression.
I know how shocking it is to hear he chose to take his own life, and the stigma behind the word suicide is haunting, especially when I see a healthy, handsome, brilliant, smiling 19-year-old young man every time I think of him.
I am his mother.
I raised him on my own since he was born. I was just 18.
Isaiah was all I knew; he was my world. I was a mother longer than I wasn’t, and he was all I have known my entire adult life.
I received the phone call that is every parent’s nightmare. All that I can remember is, “Your son has passed.” The rest is a blur.
My heart was immediately shattered.
My son was in a nature park, and of all people, it was Father Oscar, a priest at St. James Catholic Church who found him. I learned this as he was seeking my information and telling me my son was at peace.
He found my son in his last moments after my Isaiah used a gun to end his life. The priest blessed him before he passed.
My son didn’t believe in a higher power, which is understanding considering the pain he felt from being abandoned by his father. He hurt so much while he tried so hard to feel “ok.”
The last person my son saw was a man of God. Thankfully, my son did not die alone or with any pain. He is now a true angel.
I always knew this could happen, but I never thought it would happen to us.
I have learned the hard way, but I refuse to take this as anything other than a purpose; that there were bigger plans for my son, and that he found the peace he couldn’t obtain here on earth.
There is such a stigma that suicide is a choice. It’s not.
What people fail to realize is how powerful depression, anxiety, Aspergers, OCD can be for people, especially for my son. The ugly truth of mental health doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, black or white, young or old, it does not discriminate.
Kids are dying everywhere, and people are too scared to be honest in obituaries because of the social stigma of suicide.
My son fought every single day for almost eight years, rarely showing any signs that he was struggling. He was prescribed medication, but it took years to find one where the side effects weren’t worse than his illness.
In his mind he was a burden, and he didn’t want to worry anyone, so on the outside, he smiled, laughed and joked while on the inside he was fighting a battle with his demons.
His mind told him he was worthless, useless, unneeded, a failure, broken, ugly, unwanted, not smart enough.
It was constant.
It beat him down, wore him out, especially his cravings of love from his father. Mental illness is a struggle like no other.
All he wanted was a little peace to quiet his mind, even if for just a moment.
I think it was in his last moment of not being able to quiet his mind that he made his decision, one I know wasn’t easy, but he felt it was his only way out.
No one saw it coming. His mind took over. He had no control.
Depression took my son, not suicide.
This was my son’s journey. We must educate society about mental illness.
I have heard people say suicide is a sin. I’ve had people walk away mid-sentence or say they don’t want to hear anymore when I tell them how I lost my son.
I have been judged by myself and others. I had never felt so alone as when those I thought I could count on gave me nothing but silence.
We must learn more about the brain and how to help those with mental illness because the system we have today is cracked.
I found something my son wrote that said he was tired of lying to everyone, including his doctors, by saying he was ok. A doctor can only base his diagnoses on what he is told.
Depression is invisible, although I consider it to be the same as cancer in the brain because those on the outside can’t see or feel the pain.
Today is 271 days, since I lost Isaiah, and sometimes I feel as though I am having a nightmare while I am awake. I miss him more every day, but now I am beginning to feel his peace.
I always made a point to tell him how loved, unique, kind, brave, and handsome he was. I also told him how strong he was to be fighting mental illness. I know my family and his friends told him as well, but this disease lied to him.
I watched the spark in his eyes fade.
I saw his hope disappear.
I have watched my happy smiley son turn into a sad, depressed, disjointed, and extremely anxious boy almost before my eyes.
To watch your child unable to find “his place” or to be able to “fix him” is heartbreaking. As mothers, we feel as though we must help our children and that helplessness shatters our heart.
It was a combination of him being bullied, feeling abandoned, and learning of his father having another child that triggered a noticeable change in him. It is proven in studies that absent parents can affect kids negatively.
To me, I consider that a form of child neglect.
What parents of suicide loss live through is unexplainable. If you don’t understand, consider yourself lucky. You don’t want to know our pain, guilt, and “what if’s.”
It’s an indescribable life long journey.
My last memory of my son is me holding his cold, lifeless hand at the funeral home. That is a vision no mother ever wants to see.
I decided, after months of wanting to quit, I had to live.
I became involved in a Survivors of Suicide Loss, a group run by Valerie White. It was so comforting to be surrounded by people who understood my pain.
I also started Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy [EMDR]. I truly believe it’s what helped me to live again; it’s what Isaiah would want of me.
He was sick, but he would want me to live the life he couldn’t.
I didn’t realize it, but in his way, he prepared me for this day. He made me strong, resilient, and brave. He has been by my side ever since. I feel him. He is the most courageous and the strongest person I’ve ever known, so I learned from the best.
I want Isaiah to be remembered for his generosity, his dry sense of humor, his love for jokes, his being a fantastic writer, and his passion for food. I want his positive energy to be remembered.
He gave the best tightest hugs and always protected me. He always had my back.
I want him remembered for being top of his class and for helping those who struggled. I want him to be remembered for being so kind that most people should have taken notes from.
His smile could light up a room, and he never judged anyone. He made everyone feel as though they mattered and checked on them daily.
Isaiah was an empath. His purpose was to help others. He succeeded.
He is remembered for all the great things he accomplished. I am so proud to be his mother.
I have always portrayed myself to be strong because of my son, but for a short time, I lost hope. I was broken, lost, alone, and trying to find purpose in life after losing my only child. It was then I understood the grip depression can have on you.
I thought, being at my lowest point, that to not wake up again might be the only way out, the only way for peace. I believed the only way out of my despair was suicide. I fought these feelings, and I did it for my son.
In Isaiah’s words, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this world.” I am now beginning to believe him. He was too kind, generous, loving, and too smart for this world.
Maybe he wasn’t the broken one. Perhaps it’s us who are broken for not being able to feel and see things as he felt and saw. This world is ugly and unkind.
All I know is, I miss him more every day.
He is my hero for fighting this battle for so long. He will forever be missed and never forgotten.
I know it’s impossible to end suicide, but there should be more open awareness that people with depression and mental illness need to be heard.
They need to be understood.
Perhaps, spur of the moment suicides will cease. I want the ugly truth of the suffering that is left behind to be talked about.
Isaiah had the gentlest soul. I know he never meant to inflict this pain on me or anyone else that loved him dearly.
Mental Health Awareness is as essential as math class.