Mother Shares Grief Of Teen Suicide

Published 4:27 pm Thursday, June 14, 2012

Through a Mother's Heart by Patti Blanton is a book that starts at the end. The first chapter, “Life's End,” describes in heart-wrenching detail the day the author's 19-year-old son, James, took his life.

We stood there while the rescue squad pulled out of the woods and proceeded down the road. The eeriest sight I have ever seen was the rescue squad leaving the scene without making a sound. There was no siren sounding, no lights flashing. It left a dull ache in me that will last a lifetime. My beloved son of nineteen years took his life that night, and for a period of time took my life as well.

“I felt led to share my experiences,” Blanton explained. “I've always been somebody who helps in everything I've done. I felt the need to help others who are hurting. It can't bring him back, but in a strange way it gives me a little piece of him – a connection.”

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Page by page, Blanton shares the stages of grief common to all who have lost a loved one.

“I've only met one or two people through this who have actually had a family member commit suicide, but I've heard about loss of children, loss of siblings, – even loss of a spouse,” Blanton related. “I have met mothers who lost children from a baseball accident at seven years old up to accidents involving children who were in their 20s.”

Sharing her own story, the author believes, offers a lifeline to others struggling with the often-overpowering effects of grief.

“There's such a need,” she added. “It's something that's not really talked about. I had no idea there was so much need out there.”

Blanton details the stages of grief common to all who have lost a loved one unexpectedly. She begins with “The Pleas to God.”

I started pleading for God to send me a sign that James was with Him – please let me see him just one more time. Let me know he is with You and he is all right.

The first Sunday after the funeral, Blanton's sister and five-year-old nephew were visiting.

Dee and I were in the kitchen when Noah walked in with a piece of notebook paper. He handed it to me and stated, 'Here Aunt Trish, it's for you. It's a picture of James.' Then he turned and walked away. I looked down to see what looked like a child's version of a butterfly with a smile on its face . . . Dee informed me that while they were driving to church Noah looked up at the sky and said, 'Look, Mom, it's an angel'. . . God had listened to my pleas and sent me the sign I desperately needed.

The author continues through a list of topics familiar to those dealing with sorrow: Keepsakes, The World Moves On, Blame, Reality, and Dreaded Anniversaries. Her goal was to offer her own experiences – both right and wrong.

“Years later I realized I didn't let my daughter, who was 13 at the time, deal with James' death the way I should,” Blanton said. “I wished I had handled things differently. That's another reason I wrote this book. I'm not telling people this is the way to do it, but I wanted to try to show some things that I think I did wrong.

Blanton's book, which was released in April, was many years in the writing.

“I started the book years ago, then put it down,” she said. “It was really hard.”

Finally, Blanton noted, it was no longer up to her.

“I tell everybody that I didn't write this book – God did,” she said. “I wouldn't have known what to say or what to do.”

Since the book was published, Blanton has faced a similar dilemma. She has been asked to speak at a number of churches, particularly to young people.

“I'm not a speaker,” she observed. “I've worked for VDOT for years and I went around talking about benefits to the VDOT guys, but this is different. To be out in the spotlight is totally not me, but it's what God is having me do right now. I'll do it as long as He has me out there.”

Since the book's publication Blanton has received a number of letters and emails. One reader commented, “This book took me through every emotion that a mother could possibly feel . . . Each Bible verse touched me. I would recommend this book to anyone!” Another wrote, “I felt so sorry for what you went through, I felt sorry for myself, I felt pride in knowing just how I had overcome some of the stress and heartache that you described and I felt that in some ways I still have some growing to do . . . God has used you, and it is a job well done!”

“It's never-ending,” Blanton said. “People mean well when they say, 'you'll get over it, it's a healing process,' but losing a child is a lifelong healing process. They are an everyday part of your life whether they're here or not.”

“Just knowing that I've touched other people has touched my life,” the author concluded.

Through a Mother's Heart concludes with these thoughts, A mother's heart is filled with love for her family. Each child fills a special place in her heart, which is equally divided between each family member. When we lose a child, it leaves an empty space in our heart that mourns for that child. This space will never be filled again unless we allow God to move into it. He is the only one capable of filling this void. No other family member can step in and fill it, because they are already in their own place in our heart. Only God can make the heart whole.

Patti Blanton will hold a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Farmville on Saturday, June 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. Her book is also available on her website: