Today’s guest is someone who has suffered the ultimate grief – the loss of a child by suicide. Anne Moss lost her son, Charles, who had been suffering with depression which led to his drug addiction.
Charles was not obviously depressed. He was the life of the party, making others laugh. It was years before Anne Moss and her husband became aware that their child was suffering from something. It was a teacher who wrote an evaluation which stated that she thought that he might be depressed.
Her son suffered from a sleep disorder. To counter his inability to fall asleep he was prescribed drugs. This eventually led to his using other drugs. When Charles was about fifteen years old his drug use began to escalate.
Anne brought Charles to a doctor wanting a diagnosis but instead the doctor prescribed drugs which did not help the situation. “Charles then started to self medicate using some old prescription of Zanax, smoking pot and drinking alcohol. Eventually he was taking Ecstacy. It was terrifying. He was headed to a side of the mountain full speed.”
“As a result we took drastic measures. We had him kidnapped to a wilderness program. The aim of the program was to dry him out of the drugs and get him in touch with himself. There was a therapist who came, but probably the most important thing that happened was that he made friends who understood where he was.”
“This program suggested that the parents listen to webinars and watch videos. On one of the webinars it mentioned Families Anonymous. It’s a group of mostly parents whose children are misusing substances and probably suffering from mental illness at the same time. I went to the group and that’s when I changed how I interacted with my son and adjusted my own self care. It became my home away from home. I thinkthat finding support was the most important step that I took.”
“When Charles was at the wilderness intervention we finally got a diagnosis: major depression, anxiety, cannabis dependence, ADHD and delayed phase sleep syndrome. After ten weeks in the wilderness he transferred to a therapeutic boarding school but did not stay the full length of time due to a sex scandal that went on there.”
“He was using drugs again. We needed to figure out the next step, so we sent him to his grandparents. There he started going through terrible withdrawal symptoms. He was put into detox and then to rehab. After 3 weeks in rehab the insurance company said that he was fine and he could leave. He couldn’t come home because with all the expenses we had incurred with his treatments we had to sell our home. Charles went to a recovery center, but soon relapsed and was using heroin. They took him to a hospital, but the hospital said ‘they don’t handle heroin addicts.’ ”
“He was out of there for two weeks and he called to say that he had sold his computer and his bike, the last two things he owned, and that he needed us to help him. By that time, I was like a wrung out washcloth with nothing left to give. My mind was not working properly and I couldn’t tell whether he was lying to us or not.”
“He kept calling on and off for two hours and he screamed and at a certain point I just hung up because I couldn’t handle any more. I shut off my cell phone and was about to pull the plug on the house line when Charles called again and again. This was what he did when he was upset. He had unloaded on me and in the last explosion my mind could not deal with it anymore. He didn’t tell me that he was suicidal. I felt this despair and I didn’t have a bucket to put it in. No one ever talks about suicide. They don’t give you the warning signs for you to know.”
“Charles sent me a text saying he was going to rehab, and there was something he wanted to tell me and to let him know if I wanted him to call back. I had so many things to deal with. My state of mind was out of wack. I did not know about the warning signs of suicide. Not one mental health professional had talked to me about it.”
“My husband and I were in a restaurant when we got a call from the police. I assumed that they had arrested him for drugs and I was relieved, thinking ‘now he would be safe’. Then they told us that our son was dead by suicide.”
“We were in shock. It was the greatest pain I ever felt. I told my husband that night, ‘The last chapter of his life can’t be the last chapter of ours. I’m going to do something.’ “
It took Anne Moss six months but she wrote an article about her son’s death by suicide and had it published in the local paper. People did not want to discuss Charles’s death or allow her to discuss it. She wanted to have it out in the open so that others could learn from her horrible experience and prevent others from going through it.
Anne Moss says she has written her way through grief. She began with the article and saw that it was a healing experience. Her article went viral. Her blog, Emotionally Naked, followed. In her blog she discusses grief, suicide, addiction and other aspects of her grueling journey with her son, Charles.
People have written how much she has helped them. Perhaps one of the most precious responses was from a person that had been contemplating suicide. After reading Anne’s blog and reading how she had suffered, she said she abandoned the idea and will do whatever she needs to, to deal with her issues.
Anne Moss’s mission is to create a culture of connection to prevent suicide.
“My hashtag is :Just Listen. If we listen to another human being or give them a hug, it may be all that it takes to prevent a suicide. Someone with mental illness may need medicine, but it needs to be medicine with therapy. The person with the illness needs to be engaged. They can’t just drop themselves in an office and say, ‘Fix me.’ We need to want to heal and have to invest ourselves in the process. I feel that the biggest issue is connection and that;s something we can do something about.”
People can read more on Anne Moss’s blog, emotionally naked. If you subscribe you may win a free copy of her upcoming book, Diary of a Broken Mind, due to be released in October. She has also written, Coping Strategies for Grief and Loss.
In October we hope to have the honor of another podcast with Anne Moss. We look forward to hearing your feedback and questions that you have for her.