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Mourning our two Daniels Add to ...

Today I went for a run. Being on a run with no real purpose can be healing. With so much chaos inside my head, running is providing me with some order these past few months.

Through the process of healing I am trying to let go of the whys around our son's suicide: Why did he leave us? Why didn't he reach out to us for help? The list of whys is endless.

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When we were given the news of Daniel's tragic death in April, after waiting up all night in hopes of reaching him, our tortured souls came together as a family. Slowly we came to understand that our once-stable family bond had been torn apart, leaving only broken hearts and shattered souls in its wake.

The first minutes and then hours and days after we were told of his passing we lived in a protective numbness that offered some comfort in our grief. Our 23-year-old son, who came into this world full of energy and love, who embraced the moments of this life, was suddenly ripped from our lives.

For months now we have been like detectives trying to make sense of the senseless. In the midst of our pain we are sorting out his life. Professionals have told us that we are mourning the loss of two sons - the Daniel we cherished and the Daniel who lived with depression. He carried his hurt so well we were unable to help him. Our aching hearts do not understand as yet what our thoughtful minds are telling us. Daniel paid the ultimate price for his depression and now we are forced to live in a world without him. Our family has borne witness to the cold destruction of a human life when depression lives in the recesses of one's mind and is left untreated.

Daniel was a student at Conestoga College and lived in Waterloo, Ont. I could not wait until the times when we were together as a family unit. Bonded by laughter and history. Always feeling, even as he was growing into a young man, that being a mom to him and his two beautiful sisters was a blessing and my best work. Family and friends noticed our closeness - it was real and I am forever proud of that.

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We ask why because we need to know what could make our son end his life. We want to understand his thoughts, especially in his final moments. In an effort to make peace with our pain we went to the cottage where Daniel was found. He enjoyed so many happy and full times at the cottage, I cannot imagine the darkness that descended upon him that day.

Slowly we made our way up the driveway thinking only of our son and his last thoughts, imagining what this scene had looked like only a few short months ago. The panic in our bodies shifted to profound sorrow and then to resignation that our search for an understanding would never be complete.

As we entered the cottage it felt like a cold, musty shell of its former self - no longer filled with laughter and soothing family noise. Our beloved cottage will never again be the place it once was for our family, but perhaps in time it can offer us some solace. I pray that although the circle of our family on Earth is smaller by one we may somehow find joy again within its walls.

I realize now that I came to depend on Daniel for so many intangible things. His care and concern for his sisters, his laughter, his tenderness. Today on my run I listened to Pearl Jam's Black and thought of the many days we would drive to Waterloo on his way to school. Daniel was always drawn to artists whose lyrics, though haunting, possessed the gift of storytelling.

In sharing Daniel's story we hope that others who suffer from depression might recognize themselves and seek out support. Perhaps other wonderful human beings who sought to end their lives might get a glimpse into the devastation that we who are left behind face each day.

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I am now a bereaved mother, together with many other bereaved mothers who did not choose to be on this journey. Yet it has become our new vocation. Each day we wake to the same sad reality that our loved one is no longer in our earthly lives. I have come to understand that losing a child is the hardest loss to bear. And losing a child to suicide compounds the grief exponentially.

As we are in the early phases of grieving, we also have the rawness at our fingertips. We are almost primal in our every thought and movement as we attempt to rise each day and put one step in front of another. Our bodies tremble as we pass by photographs of happier days. Triggers of our beloved children are everywhere.

We the survivors of suicide are left with creating a new reality, a new life without loved ones. Suicide is now and forever part of our vocabulary. Statistically, we are now at an increased risk of suicide ourselves. For some of us our marriages will end in divorce. For many of us friendships will crumble. Our lives are lived in the extremes, not in the safety of the middle. The life we once embraced, even took for granted, is now a collection of wonderful memories that we hold close to our hearts.

Our son Daniel is now in a place of peace and beauty and we take comfort in that. So, for now at least, I am letting go of the whys. I pray that he continues to guide us as we soldier on in this life and provide us with signs of his presence. We look forward to the day we are all together and our family circle is complete once more.

Lynn Keane lives in Oakville, Ont.

Illustration by Paddy Molloy.

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