Out of all the things my son should have been, a statistic is not one of them.
Understanding that I don’t get to control the narrative around his death has been really difficult for me. There is what we believe and think about how he died, and then there’s what the community believes and thinks.
On the one hand, my son was such a bright light, that many people knew him—people I don’t even really know. His death was like a rock dropped into our little pond of a town, and it’s created ripples that go well beyond just our family. But the further out those ripples go, the less it’s about the loss of him—the fact that’s he’s gone—and more about how people think he died, and why, and what that represents. His death is lumped together with the loss of others, as a “symptom” of a problem—one that frightens other parents.
Our community is loving, caring and inclusive, and trying very hard support its children. That’s an admirable and necessary thing, and I wish more communities would come together the way ours has. Yet, it’s really hard to read about programs, events, coalitions, and book readings around the topic of mental health and wellness. Not because I don’t support those things, but because in my son’s case, he HAD support from mental health professionals, his school, and his parents.
I want to scream when he’s referred to (always in aggregate) as “one of four losses” or when the programs created are talked about as “in response to a time of tremendous loss.”
Because none of these programs or readings or anything would have made any fucking difference. Sometimes, despite all the love and care and help in the world, terrible and tragic accidents happen to 10 year olds with zero impulse control or sense of finality.
Do I understand the impulse to do something? Oh, yes. Do I hope these efforts make a difference for others? Of course I do. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a knife to the heart every time my son is mentioned as a catalyst, even if it’s never by name. I rage that he’s become a statistic, representative of a problem.
Would I feel the same if he had died from cancer, or in a car crash, or something similar? I don’t know.
All I know is, I’m not ready for his death to “be meaningful” or for people to say “at least something good has come of it.” I just want him. How will anything solve that?