My 11 Year Old Wants to Die

I’ve struggled all week whether to write about this or not. My chest is tight and part of me wants to stop before I start, but I am compelled for whatever reason to share my heart and our experience. My brain is telling me that I will be judged, opinions will be formed, and comments will be forthcoming, but I must write. I much prefer writing about things that I can inject a little humour into but this is not one of those posts. It’s not short either.

This is just the raw emotion of a mom trying to make sense of her world, not a philosophical discussion or an open forum for the you should’s or you shouldn’ts out there, nor am I really focusing on grammatical correctness. If another parent reads this and can relate, then at least we know we’re not alone in this particular struggle, right?

Sitting in the emergency room at the Alberta Children’s Hospital on Monday night we sat and cried together, Mitch and I. When I picked him up after school that day he jumped in the car and immediately went into a downward spiral, yelling at me that I’d gotten him in trouble with the teacher. From there it went to the fact that his dad and I are not together, and then it went to his concern and worry about his dad’s current circumstances. As he continued down this path of sadness, he screamed things like, “Why am I in this life,” “I want out of this horrible life,” “I want to go to Heaven.” Those are only a few of the comments I recall.

I wish I could say it was the first time I’d heard those words. Back pedal a year and a half. Consider a 12 year old sitting on her then 9 year old brother while she calls her mom at work with unbridled panic in her voice, telling me he had pulled all the knives out of the drawer, had threatened to use them on himself and was currently holding a pencil to his neck. At the time it never crossed my mind to call 9-1-1. I just ran out of the office and drove as fast and as safely as I could, thinking about not only my son but also about my 2 daughters who had to endure these horrific moments. As a single parent, I was overwhelmed with how one child’s heartache and actions were affecting the entire household. Oh the emotional upheaval my children must have experienced as this all unfolded on the living room floor. I don’t really remember driving the 12 minutes it took me to get home.

After seeking help at that time, we have been on an incredible path to hope and healing with a number of great supports in place. The teachers and counselor at the kids’ school have been absolutely amazing, as have been my family and friends and I have grateful moments by the galore. It was such a relief to see my little guy go from night to day, to watch him laugh more, enjoy life more. Hope prevailed. Then last summer the tables turned as another traumatic event in our lives propelled Mitch into an emotional decline.

I had been advised by professionals who have been involved with our family previously that if he demonstrated this behaviour again to take him to emergency at the Children’s Hospital because they are well equipped to handle these situations. When Mitch uttered words about wanting to be dead I decided to take immediate action and get him to the hospital. It was interesting as we registered to see how the emergency staff immediately kicked into support mode, calling him handsome, giving him a popsicle, rubbing his shoulder gently. I have no idea what I was expecting but it wasn’t that. I relaxed a little as I realized they took it seriously too and wanted to help my boy.

As we waited, Mitch read his book, we talked, I held him, we laughed a little. Other parents talked about why they were there with their children, how rude the nurse was when she handed out popsicles to some and not to others and that it appeared those who didn’t need to be in the emergency room were receiving preferential treatment. It never ceases to amaze me how we judge one another without having a clue. Clearly my son had ‘nothing wrong with him’ and didn’t need to be there. As I listened to their words, I held my son. I told him I loved him, I cried while he told me he just wanted to lay in a grave so he could have some peace. We cried together unashamedly. I searched out Kleenex for the both of us as mascara and tears mixed together and poured down my cheeks, walking by those parents to do so. Mitchell’s name was called before any of theirs. No, my son didn’t need to be there. That’s why he was triaged before their children were.

After rehearsing all the events of his young life leading up to this night, the Doctor referred us for an urgent assessment the following day, so back to the hospital we went. The person who saw us was not normally in this department. It was her first day and she wasn’t sure of all the procedures but she was definitely well versed in the issues at hand. I smiled as she shared what her areas of expertise were, and that she too had a child who’d experienced cancer as a baby. No coincidence. Three hours later we left the hospital exhausted but with renewed hope. With the complexities involved they determined that I do not need to endure the challenges of figuring it all out by myself, nor do I need to contact the agencies involved to set up the comprehensive long term plan to assist not just my son, but all four of us. Imagine my sigh of relief!

Mitchell has had to fight for his life from the time he was a baby. Being diagnosed with cancer at the ripe old age of 10 months, having major surgery to remove a kidney with a tumour attached to it followed by 6 months of chemo, was only the beginning apparently. Because he’s my son, I have to fight for his life too. And for the lives of the sisters who live with the boy who is Mitch. As it is with any parent, some days I’m really exasperated, exhausted and emotional. Other days I’m over the moon that I get to be Mom to these children.

I’ve got some pretty wonderful and amazing young ‘uns, I do. It does make me wonder sometimes about the whole reaping and sowing thing, karma, whatever else you want to call it. What did my baby ever do to reap the life he’s lived so far? I wonder what the heck his purpose is, to have to fight so hard to stay alive. I wonder whose lives he will impact with the stories of his young years, what he’s endured, how he’s survived. I wonder how my girls will recount the events of their childhood and how they too survived. I wonder how grey my hair would be if I didn’t colour it. I wonder.

Now that I’ve written, I’ll sleep.

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  1. #1 by Amanda on March 4, 2012 - 2:55 am

    Dear sweet Shandra,
    Know that even though we have never met, my heart swells with love and hope for you, your son and your girls. Know that you are thought of often, and that I’m sending a big hug your way right now.


    • #2 by shandracarlson on March 4, 2012 - 1:00 pm

      Awww Amanda,
      Thank you so much. It’s pretty amazing that we can live thousands of miles apart and still feel connected. Your encouragement, love and hugs mean the world.
      Shandra ❤

  2. #3 by rackofribs on March 4, 2012 - 10:01 am

    One mom to another, thinking of you and Mitch and your girls and hoping for a really good outcome. Screw those “where’s our popsicle?” moms. The staff should have given you a popsicle too!

    • #4 by shandracarlson on March 4, 2012 - 1:03 pm

      Stef, you just made me laugh. Thanks for that! That would have been hilarious if they’d given me a popsicle too. I appreciate you taking time to read and to comment. I’ll write more as things unfold, and I am hoping for a really good outcome too. 🙂

  3. #5 by Judy Schmidt on March 5, 2012 - 8:23 pm

    I am honoured to know such a courageous Mom, who gave birth to an incredible boy & beautiful girls many years ago without knowing what your journey would be. Many, many prayers for complete health & wholeness. I believe in you & your kids!
    Judy Schmidt

    • #6 by shandracarlson on March 5, 2012 - 10:42 pm

      Thank you Judy. Your words are heard and run deep for me.

  4. #7 by Margaret DeJong Oosterhof on April 5, 2012 - 10:19 am

    Thanks for sharing Shandra. Know that you are not alone. I remember a time when I too sat with one of my children who thought it was all too much. We prayed and God has brought us through many a tough time. Continue with Him, He is the One that can take us through it all. Does Mitch have a male in his life that can mentor him? Remember how Glen S. would take young boys from single parent families skiing and such? He really needs a man in his life too…….to take him from boy to man…..pray for someone to walk with Mitch.

    • #8 by shandracarlson on April 5, 2012 - 9:24 pm

      Thanks for your encouragement Marg, I do remember now that you say it and I do have some wheels in motion, just in waiting mode.

  5. #9 by Jackie O'Neill on September 20, 2013 - 9:35 pm

    You are an amazing mom and Mitch is blessed to have you. You know my prayers are always with you, Mitch and the girls. God has a plan and purpose for Mitch’s life as he does for us all and it makes me excited to see what great things will unfold for Mitch in the future.

    • #10 by shandracarlson on September 21, 2013 - 11:46 am

      We’ve come a loooong way, baby! It’s been a long haul, too, but you’re right, I’m excited to see what’s in store for his future as well as for the girls. Thanks for taking time to read and for commenting.

  6. #11 by lucia on November 12, 2016 - 12:03 am

    Thanks for sharing so much! It made me very emotional to know that there are others who have gone through all the pain and struggle. I am a 20 year old woman (I still feel like a teen ha ha) that became suicidal In grade 6 and it warms my heart to know that other loving parents are out there to help their beautiful children. I thank God everyday that I had an amazing mother, like you, that helped me through everything. Now at 20 and still suffering from depression, I am in university and doing well and see a bright future for myself! Everything does get better!
    Prayers and hugs go out to you! !!

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    "Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." ~ Jack Kerouac
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