Hi, my name is Nancy. I am a survivor of suicide. My son, Justin, at the age of 28, took his life on June 23, 2007. Nothing could have prepared me for this, nothing in our life said that this could ever happen to us. Our children were raised in a home so full of love and faith. They were brought up with respect and a very strong work ethic. They were forever encouraged, and to my knowledge never discouraged. They were always allowed to speak their mind and more importantly to be able to come to us with any problem and discuss it with us. And they did. And we always listened. Our children were taught to dream and to follow their dreams. It was never a question of, what will our kids do with their life or how successful would they be, it was utterly important that they were happy in whatever they chose to do. We had a great family life. Our children came from a good stable home. How could this happen to me? I lost my son. Who could possibly understand this, and more so, how could I possibly understand how he could do such a thing? But he did.
I remember the day Justin ended his life. Friends and family had gathered in our backyard. I made a public declaration that I would choose life, even though Justin had chosen death. What I meant by that is that I would find a way to live through this and find life again. I had to find a way to live with this, to deal with this, and to understand this horrific death called suicide. Suicide has no boundaries! It does not care about race, gender, or age. It doesn’t care about social or economic status. It doesn’t care if you are a son, a daughter, a husband, or a mother.
Suicide is different than other deaths because you have no one to blame but the victim. When someone you love dies, it’s instinctive to blame someone for that death. In illness, you can blame whichever illness has taken your loved one’s life. In homicide, you place the necessary blame on the perpetrator. In accidental death, it is the one who caused the accident. But in suicide, no matter who you try to blame, it always comes back to your loved one. At this point you must take a close look at who he was, or who you thought he was. You must face a truth about your loved one that you do not want to face. The image you had of them is now forever changed. You painfully have to look at the truth, that they were depressed, alcohol or drug addicted, or suffered from some other mental illness. That they held secrets, secrets that could not be shared with anyone, secrets that would ultimately take their life. Burying my son was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but finding out what caused Justin to take his precious life was almost as hard.
I remember after Justin died I was asked several different times to bring a picture of Justin so a face could be given to the boy I loved so much. But when I went to find a picture of Justin, I was in pure agony, pure hell. I felt myself wondering, “How can I bring just one picture of Justin? Justin was not just one picture, he was a thousand pictures!” And I found myself somewhat in the same agony while writing this speech. I wondered, “How can I describe Justin. He is not a few words, he is a thousand words!” So I will do my best to share who my son was to me. It sounds so cliché but Justin was an amazing young man. He was educated and highly intelligent. He was a hard worker, respectful and polite to anyone he met. He was very loving and loved deeply. He was tolerant of all people. He was articulate, a planner, and forever learning as much as he could. He was amazingly funny with a laugh that was infectious. He was focused and dedicated. He was a hero. He was a leader and the kind of person everyone wanted to be like. He was a friend, in the deepest sense of the word. Justin was a dreamer, but unlike most of us who dream, he lived his dreams. And each dream was bigger than the last. Justin traveled continents, loved the outdoors, climbed mountains and crossed deserts. He was an explorer and a writer. With his adventuresome life he hoped to be an author some day. Justin’s last dream was to travel the world. For two years he saved his money, paid off his bills, and planned his world adventure. In May of 2006, with $25,000.00 in his pocket and a backpack on his back, he left for Iceland. He traveled to places that I did not know existed. He spent time in the slums of India, the deserts of Egypt, and the war torn country of Kosovo. He wandered the streets of Cambodia and Vietnam, and enjoyed learning to scuba dive in Thailand. He returned back home in February of 2007. Justin loved life and lived it like no other.
I lost so much the day Justin died. I lost Justin! I lost my life as I knew it. I lost the trust I had in life, now believing that more tragedy was looming close by. I believed that something might happen to one of the remaining of us. I lost my church and almost completely lost my faith in God. I lost a sister, who needed to blame someone for Justin’s death, so she blamed me. I was in a world that I didn’t feel that I belonged. Nothing was even remotely familiar to me. It was a struggle to breath, to understand, to feel, to think. I needed to survive, but I was numb and couldn’t conceive what was ahead for me.
Healing and hope comes to each of us differently in our journey. For me it was in people I met, my son’s friends, angels sent by God, a little girl next door, a book, a song, or just being held by my husband or daughter. Healing came from a minister’s words about losing your faith. It came from going to the Survivor Resources weekly group sessions, and in finding a counselor who would walk with me every step of the way. It was only one week after Justin died that we came to Survivor Resources. I have to admit, the first three times we attended I was in such shock and disbelief that, I couldn’t completely comprehend the reason we were there. I knew that Justin had died, but I kept telling myself, this just couldn’t be happening to me. Monday after Monday, my husband, my daughter and I attended, and as the shock wore off, I knew I needed this resource. This group gave me hope. It was a safe place to say anything that I felt. There were times that I could not believe that I was thinking or feeling a certain way. But, in Survivor Resources, nothing is too strange; most everything you say has already been said. I took comfort in knowing that the friends I had made at this group have lived my nightmare and survived.
Justin’s friends were critical in my healing process. I mentioned earlier that Justin was someone who loved deeply. It was no exception with his friends. I came to find out after his death how he made a lasting impression on his friends and how much they loved him. They have stayed in contact with me since that fateful day. They honor him by sharing with me the immense love they still hold for him. He was important and more importantly loved. I feel that Justin’s life did hold purpose and meaning, something I was not sure of immediately following his death. I had come very close to abandoning the God I had known all my life. I was angry at God. I knew that God did not take Justin’s life. Justin took his life. But, what I could not understand was why God did not save him. I could not understand why this God of love would allow me to suffer in this way. I searched, I read books, I studied, I looked for a new church, but there were no answers! I had all but given up, I had told Dan, no more. No more church. No more searching. No more God! But Easter Sunday, as I had watched my husband get ready for church, I felt guilty. I thought, what would it hurt, just one more time? The sermon this Easter day was about an individual in the same place that I was. The minister talked about suffering and holding on to any truth you knew, and that that truth would sustain you. This minister was the first person to tell me, to give me permission to be angry, to question God. I walked away knowing only one thing; that I knew there was a God. That is all I knew. But little did I know, that little bit of truth is what ultimately brought me back to my faith. That truth brought me to know above all else, that God is God and he is holding Justin tightly in his arms until we meet again. I don’t know why God needed Justin, but what I do know is that God needed him more than I did.
During my healing journey, I found out how important it was to keep on moving. Not running, but moving. I set aside part of my day to grieve, but I then tried to structure my days. Therapy for me was riding my bicycle or walking. I have always enjoyed these things and I guess you might call them a passion. Having a passion was of the utmost importance. My husband, my daughter and I also decided it was time try something new; something we may have dreamed about but never tried. We felt that we could focus some of our energy on something else beside the horror of Justin’s death. I chose to learn the piano. I remember concentrating, learning, studying every note which took me away from the pain, even if it were only one hour a day. I learned to stay moving, not so fast that I ran from Justin’s death, but fast enough so I didn’t get stuck. The little girl that lives next door to me was instrumental in healing. Sometimes we are sent angels, and we are not aware of it until a much later date. This little girl adored me, and after Justin died, I can’t explain why, but I just didn’t want her around. She had no idea or concept of what had happened in my life; all she knew is that she wanted to spend time with me. Every time she saw me she would run over with a smile and a giggle. She would give me the biggest hug. Day after day, she would come until she eventually softened my heart. It wasn’t long until I needed her to come see me daily. She filled my time with unconditional love and she took my focus off of Justin, just long enough to give me a much needed break from my grief.
One evening, my husband, Dan and I were in a bookstore. He was looking for a particular book and I had no interest. While waiting for him I browsed the discount rack. My eyes focused on a particular book, so I picked it up. The title of this book, was Falling Into the Face of God. I quickly read the back cover, and it was, as far as I could tell, about a man who had many struggles in life so he went to the Judean desert in search of God and a renewed faith. I bought the book! It turns out that this book was about a man’s personal struggle with life, God, and faith, but it was also a book about suicide. This man struggled with taking his life and his best friend did commit suicide. There was so much insight on suicide. It was a first hand account of the inner turmoil and thought process of one who would commit suicide. This book helped me understand how Justin got to the place he did and how he could possibly take his own life. I read that book twice! My daughter Molly gave me a CD by Allison Kraus sometime after Justin died. There is a song on that CD titled, “I Give You to His Heart.” I know it may seem strange, but listening to this song over again and again was a turning point in my healing. It was a pivotal point in moving forward. This song is a song about a mother losing her son. I could feel this mother’s pain, and she, like me, couldn’t find the answers to why her son died. Her answer to losing her son is that in God’s loving plan her son might be the missing part, so she gives her son to God’s heart. Even though I desperately wanted to hold on to my son, it was time to release him. So, I released Justin to God’s heart. About a year after Justin died, my husband and I joined a small group from our church, something I never thought I would ever do. We met weekly. The second week we were asked to explain why we were there. I did not want to share my story, not to anyone, especially to strangers! When it was my turn, I blurted out that I was there because my son had died and I had little faith and I could not pray. I know that people could feel my pain, my anguish, but the room stayed silent. Several weeks went by when a woman spoke up. She spoke to me, to my heart. She shared her story of losing her husband several years earlier, how she had no family, how she endured losing her husband entirely by herself and that for two years after his death, she was paralyzed; paralyzed to leave her home and to make a new life for herself. But her story was one I needed to hear. It was a story of incredible hope. And it came at exactly the right time. She went on to tell me that she met a wonderful man, and that she remarried and that her life was full of joy, and that there would be a day when joy would return to my life. I believed her, and in the midst of all my tears, I looked forward to that joy. I have had many experiences and stories that I could share with all of you, but I have time for only one more. Justin died two days before my birthday. This was one of the hardest things to accept in his death. Justin did not make it home for Mothers Day, 2007 and he had promised me he would. So, when I talked to him on Mothers Day, he promised me he would be home for my birthday. He lied to me. Instead of celebrating my birthday with my son who I desperately missed, I was planning his funeral. As my second birthday approached, I was in agony. I had no idea how I would ever get through that day. I was angry at him for lying to me, angry that he was dead, angry that I had to have another birthday. The night before my birthday my husband and I went over to our daughter’s house to put in some air conditioners. When we got there I was prepared to help my husband, but he insisted that Molly and I go for a walk. So, Molly and I headed out. And as we were waking, I started to cry, and then to sob. I was in such anguish over my approaching birthday. She asked me, “Mom, what is the hardest part?” I immediately answered, “Justin lied to me. He said he would be here for my birthday but my present was to find him dead.” Just then, as I looked up, there was a red car parked on street. Painted on its windows in bright red paint were the words, “Have a great day mom. I love you.” Now this was enough to stop us, and to chuckle to ourselves. Maybe it was a sign from Justin, but we were half laughing because we knew it was just coincidence. We walked another block to notice a young child standing on the corner; a boy maybe four, maybe five, holding a big yellow balloon. We crossed the street where he was standing. He walked up to me and handed me this giant yellow balloon. I told him I didn’t have any money so I could not buy it from him. He said, “It doesn’t cost anything,” and that it was especially for me. I took the balloon from his tiny little hands, and he turned to walk away, while I stood on this corner with this huge yellow balloon, tears streamed down my cheeks. Molly and I were both crying now because we knew this was no longer coincidence. We went back to Molly’s house and, when I walked in, Dan asked why I was holding a balloon. I told him that he probably wouldn’t understand, so I chose to not tell him. He told us to go out for another walk; that he still had things to do. So Molly and I left once again, but in a different direction. We walked several blocks from her house. When we rounded another corner there at my feet was yet another balloon. This one was red. I scooped up the balloon and I knew at that instant, that heaven was letting me know that Justin was wishing me a happy birthday. There is no question in my mind how, at times, when we need them most, miracles happen and angels are sent to do God’s work. My birthday is no longer sad. I will always think back to that day, those balloons, and the message I received loud and clear. I remember clearly the first day that joy came back. My husband and I had sold our house and moved out to the country to a place that is probably one of the most peaceful places I have ever been, my daughter had found new love, and I was sitting on the porch in the still of a warm September night. I felt so much joy in my heart that it spilled over and I started to cry. So this is joy, I thought to myself. I had felt other small joys in my heart since Justin died, but this was pure joy, a joy that could not be contained. And as my friend promised, joy would return again some day. I welcomed it! Losing my son is a journey I never wanted to be on. I am utterly amazed, that still to this day, I have survived! Blessings, healing, and hope, comes to us in very many ways. It’s our job to hold on to any blessings that come our way, to recognize them as blessings, and to allow them to help heal our hearts. I decided early on that I wanted to live, and this is truer today than that very first day. I want to enjoy this life, to find meaning, and to find purpose. I miss and love Justin very much and I still struggle with his loss, I have days that are sad, and yes I have days that are filled with joy. I want to live and enjoy my husband and see my daughter fulfill her dreams. I also want Justin to be proud of me. Justin was always my biggest fan, he was always so proud of how I lived my life. I want to live to make Justin proud.
It has been almost a year since I lost my daughter Sarah to suicide. In this year I have overcome many firsts: Sarah’s 18th birthday, her high school graduation day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now the one year anniversary of her death looms in the near future. I have survived all of these days with the help of my family, my friends, my support group, and by the grace of God. Even though it has been almost a year since Sarah died it seems like it was only yesterday. As the weather has turned colder it reminds me of that frigid February night that she passed away. I cannot believe that I have lived a year without seeing my daughter.
If you would have told me one year ago that I would have made it this far I wouldn’t have believed you. I have definitely noticed that my grief has changed over the past year. When I first recovered from the initial shock I spiraled into deep despair and I nearly needed to be hospitalized. After the funeral was over I felt that everybody went back to their lives and I was left sitting at home alone buried in my grief. I would sit at the cemetery for hours trying to find a connection with Sarah. I knew that this was where her body lay and as a mother I felt drawn there to continue to take care of her.
Eventually I realized that Sarah was not to be found there; she had moved on to a place I do not understand. My visits to the cemetery dwindled, but I still feel a connection to her when I am there and I continue to visit once a week. By tending her grave site and planting flowers for her I feel that in some way I am still mothering her. Sometime during the summer the intense grief and despair began to change. I slowly began to let simple pleasures into my life and although I would not say that I am happy I do have moments of calm. I am still on the rollercoaster of ups and downs but the ups seem to last longer and downs don’t seem to be so deep.
I have spent the last five months or so trying to figure out where to go from here. What meaning and purpose is there to my new life without my daughter? I decided that I have a choice in how I look at my loss. I can sit around and wallow in my grief and self-pity, I can continue to beat myself up with guilt, I can try to deny the fact that I will never see Sarah again in this life, or I can do something with the time that I have left on earth. I once read somewhere that when you lose a parent a part of them lives on in you. I believe that this is also true when a parent loses a child. Sarah lives on in my thoughts, my memories, and even in my genetic make-up. Sarah’s life changed and influenced the person that I am, just as a parent influences a child. She continues to live on in me!
One day my time will come to pass on from this life and I will see Sarah again in heaven. When I get there and she asks me, “So what have you been doing since I last saw you?” I want to be able to tell her that I did not waste my life. That all the gifts that she gave me here on earth did not go to waste. I feel a strong need to do something with the knowledge that I have gained through Sarah’s life here on earth and her untimely and tragic passing. In September I started attending graduate school and I am currently working on my master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I want to be able to tell her that her life and her death gave me the strength and courage to reach out and help countless other people.
I will conclude with a poem written by Iris Bolton, director of a counseling center in Atlanta and author of the book My Son… My Son written about her son’s suicide: I don’t know why. I’ll never know why. I don’t have to know why. I don’t like it. What I have to do is make a choice about my living.
My name is Sue Abel and my husband Bill committed suicide December 19th, 2005. Before that fateful day, I had no warning-not even the slightest inkling-that anything was amiss. Bill had never been depressed, or shown any sign of stress or strain in his life. We enjoyed each other’s company, worshipped our daughters, and-every day-we grew closer together as a couple and a family. On the day my husband died, I lost my best friend and my confidant. I had always thought I would grow old and live happily ever after with Bill.
In my eyes, Bill was one of the most outgoing and generous individuals you would ever want to meet. He never said an unkind word about anyone, and he always found the good in people. When you were invited to our home, my husband would make sure he knew your likes and dislikes so you wouldn’t be disappointed. He loved having company and enjoyed the holidays. Every holiday but one, that is. Bill hated Christmas and so he chose that time to end his life. I met Bill in 1971.
The first time I went out with him he smoked a cigar and drank martinis. I learned that Bill was a natural athlete and very competitive. Golf was his love, as was gambling. Bill was a high roller and Las Vegas was his favorite place to go. Boy, I thought then, this guy is way out of my league. But I soon learned that Bill and I shared one common, and character defining root. We both came from families of meager means, and we both grew up having practically nothing. Bill and I married in 1982 and a year later unexpectedly had our twin daughters. We decided no one could care for them like I could, so I quit working outside the home.
My husband soon became a self-made millionaire and the girls and I wanted for nothing. As he hated the limelight, he never wanted anyone to know how much he had. Then came 9/11, and Bill’s economic empire started to crumble. He had put all of his money in the stock market and soon found himself in a financial mess. But Bill kept all this from his family. He played the game of robbing Peter to pay Paul -- until there was no more Peter to pay Paul. Only after my husband died did we discover the depth of his debt. For more than 20 years I had lived the life of a princess -- and, in an instant, I was transformed into a pauper. There was only enough insurance money to bury Bill. And definitely not enough to keep a roof over our head or to feed our family-or the wolves at our front door. I was 55 years old and hadn’t worked outside the home for decades. I was forced to swim or we would all sink.
My best friend and my mom found Survivor Resources for me. At first I didn’t want to go, as I believed I had nothing in common with anyone here. Was I ever wrong. I was very welcomed and was able to tell my story the first night I attended. I felt a special bond that I hadn’t experienced since my husband’s suicide. Much like me, the group consisted of women trying to cope with the tragic loss of their husbands. I soon learned I was the only one in the group fortunate enough to have been left a letter by her departed spouse, but, unfortunately, I was also the only one with no insurance money. I quickly became known in the group as the “Queen of Denial," as that is how I attempted to get through my grief.
I don’t know where I’d be today if not for the people, like those in my survivors' group. I formed a bond here, without which I never could have overcome the deep debt and denial that otherwise could have destroyed my family. With the support and confidence gained from my new-found friends, I landed a job and began catering monthly luncheons on the side. Overtime quickly became my financial savior, and I took every opportunity to volunteer for extra hours at work. I avoided foreclosure, and put our house on the market. Eleven long and worrisome months later, we finally got an offer on the house. Ironically, I was at a trade show in Las Vegas when the offer came in. I sometimes wonder if I had tried my hand at gambling whether my luck might have changed earlier. But then, luck did not solve my husband’s financial problems, and if I learned anything from my survivors' group, it was that confidence and determination -- not luck -- would be my salvation. Although the bank got the lion’s share of the proceeds from the house sale, I was left with some hope for starting anew. My daughters and I relocated to a smaller, more rural town, where the lifestyle is more modest, and the bills are much cheaper.
On many days, it is still a struggle to make ends meet, but these obstacles only strengthen my resolve to succeed. Maybe it’s because I say the Serenity Prayer every morning. Or maybe it’s the need to assure my daughters that everything will work out. Whatever it is, it helps renew the determination that people like my survivors' group helped instill in me. I can say today that the worst is behind me, and I no longer fear the future.
I could not have done this without the wonderful friends who helped me muster the confidence and determination to get through this difficult time. A friend of mine recently told me that I was her inspiration and she couldn’t imagine what I was going through. Well, that’s the wonderful thing about inspiration -- and the support that a group like this provides. We all have different stories that tragically affected our lives; wounds that may never completely heal. And none of us would wish our fate on anyone, or want them to walk even a few steps in our shoes. But as different as each of our stories might be, we have a common purpose and goal, namely to dust ourselves off, get back on our feet and continue on life’s journey as best we can. Each of us may do it in a different way, but eventually we succeed, and in so doing we inspire others like us that we meet along the way. That inspiration is the gift we give to others. And it is a gift we give to ourselves.
My brother, John Michael Adams, was murdered in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Mother’s Day May 12, 2002. John was shot four times by his landlord, William Bloedel, as they argued over unpaid rent and utility bills. John was in the process of moving out of his apartment. He had been looking for work and was scheduled to start a new job in Texas that week. Although John was unarmed, Bloedel claimed that he shot John in self-defense. The last shot was into the back of John’s head as he lay face down on the ground. Nothing prepares you for the shock and disbelief when someone tells you a family member has been killed.
John had had a rough life. He had had more than his share of scrapes, physically, mentally and emotionally. However, he always seemed to be on the verge of turning his life around. That was always our hope and our prayer. John had been married and divorced. He and his ex-wife had two little girls together. But, John really considered himself a dad to three children. He also helped raise his ex-wife’s oldest daughter from a previous relationship. John moved to the Omaha area to be closer to his three girls after his ex-wife settled in Nebraska upon re-marrying. John struggled with accepting the limitations of his re-defined relationship with his girls. Thankfully, he was able to celebrate one of his daughter’s birthdays with all of the girls a couple of days before he was killed.
John’s killer was convicted of second-degree murder and received a 50-year sentence. My parents and siblings all traveled to Iowa to attend the trial. Later, most of us returned to attend the sentencing. At first, the trial judge did not want to have any of our victim impact statements read in open court. We asked the prosecutor to appeal on our behalf and the judge reluctantly agreed to let one of us read excerpts from the group of statements. The judge did not want to drag out the proceeding, I guess, since the sentence was fairly well pre-determined by Iowa law. My family agreed to let me be the spokesperson.
While attending Survivor Resources sessions, my group had discussed victim impact statements. The experience I gained from sharing in that group was invaluable in my preparation. The instructions the court gave us survivors were succinct: address the statement to the court and not the perpetrator; do not introduce new facts or refer to the evidence in the trial; relate how the crime has affected you emotionally, physically, financially, etc. In court, I read excerpts from statements written by one of my brothers, one of my sisters and most of my mother’s and my own statement. I stood in open court in front of the judge and next to the defense attorney, who was the only obstacle between the defendant and me. It was also in front of a group of prisoners awaiting their own sentencing for untold crimes. I tried very hard to focus on the written words and speak with enough emotion to do justice to the words written by all of us. I was told afterward that while John’s murderer had shown no emotion during the readings, several of the other criminals had looked visibly shaken with at least one young man openly weeping during my Mother’s stories of John’s youthful experiences fishing and playing ice hockey while growing up in Minnesota.
Last year, Margaret asked me to a participate in the restorative justice program where survivors share their stories in front of a group of prisoners in an effort to educate the prisoners that their crimes affect the lives of many more people than just their immediate victims. I decided the best way to illustrate the effects on me personally was to read my victim impact statement, after briefly detailing my brother’s murder. Here's what I wrote:
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT FOR JOHN MICHAEL ADAMS
Because of the brutal slaying of my beloved brother, John Michael Adams, my life which includes my relationship with my wife and five children, parents, five remaining siblings, a very extended family, friends and co-workers has been completely turned inside out and upside down. I am closest in age to John among our siblings, with less than 2 years and 9 months separation. Our relationship together more than anything else defines our childhood and teen years. This close brotherhood continued up to the day he was slain. For 39 years, three months and four days John was my little brother, my childhood roommate, my playmate, my sibling rival, my camping and fishing partner, an adult roommate, my Best Man at my wedding, my alter ego and so much more. Simply put, he was my best friend.
In a lot of ways, we were complete opposites. Where I am normally shy, reserved, conservative and “bookish;” John was bold, outgoing, flamboyant and “hands on.” These differences caused friction between us at times, but also made us complimentary. We made each other complete by balancing our respective strengths and weaknesses. When we matured, John was a tremendous sounding board for me and I trust likewise I was the same for him. I find myself out of balance and I feel lost with John now gone.
When I first heard John had been murdered, I was devastated. I still am. The details of his death are so horrific that I fear I will never fully recover. In a way, I cannot hope to. A piece of who I am is missing. John is not here to help me deal with my loss and grief! For the first two weeks after May 12th, I did not sleep. By that I do not mean I slept less than normal or that I slept fitfully. I mean I did not sleep at all! For two weeks! Since then, I have been seeing a grief counselor individually on a regular basis, attending support group meetings and leaning on my parents and siblings just to partially function. My relationship with my immediate family has suffered. I am distant and disconnected from my wife and children. They are trying to understand, but it is hard on them—especially the younger children. My five children (ages three to 13) adored their Uncle John. For someone who lived at a distance they still saw him frequently, most recently when John was at our home for Easter Sunday. The most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life was to sit down with my children and tell them their Uncle John had been killed. Their screams of horror and anguish are still bouncing around in my head.
Due to the emotional pain and the mental and physical exhaustion I have fallen hopelessly behind in my work. To date my employer has been tolerant, but I have been told that that cannot continue indefinitely. My career is in peril. I have considered resigning my position, which would be a financial catastrophe for my family. I ask myself, why has all of this happened? It defies logic.
Bloedel claims he was afraid of John. John’s last words included the plea to be left alone. The message he was sending was “don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.” Why could you not heed that message, Bloedel?! That question will haunt me the rest of my life. Bloedel claims he was upset because John owed him money for rent and utilities. All the money in the world is not worth one human life. At least that is what we were taught to believe. Sadly, in today’s world, that view is not shared by many others. Certainly not Bloedel!
I believe in Jesus Christ, life after death and heaven and hell. I know my brother John, despite his human failings, was at heart a good man who accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and that John is now at peace in Heaven. I so want to join him there someday. I fear the hate now in my heart, put there because of Bloedel’s stupid senseless actions, may prevent the reunion with John I so crave. I know it is wrong to hate. I never thought it possible for me to hate another human being. But I do. I hate you William Bloedel! Bloedel has never expressed any, nor do I expect him to ever feel remorse for his actions and their effects. I believe people who commit murder are missing something inside of them, something that is inside the rest of us. I believe that is what evil is, the absence of the sense that prevents you from taking another person’s life. You are supposed to value everyone’s life, not just your own (or your damn cats!), more than anything material. With all due respect, whatever sentence this court imposes on Bloedel is by definition inadequate for the crime he has committed. He has taken John’s life! I will never forgive Bloedel for robbing all of us who love John of his presence—John’s three beautiful children (Natalie, Jamaica and Carly), our parents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and John’s friends. All of us whom deeply love John have now been sentenced to a life without John.
For myself, before May 12th, I was content and at peace. Although I knew I was far from perfect, I believed I was secure in my relationships and my place in this life. Now, I am consumed with hate. I do not like this prison of hate I am now forced to live in. I don’t want Bloedel to feel any remorse, because I want him to burn in hell for eternity! This is how my life has been impacted. I do not like myself this way. May God have mercy on my soul, and none on Bloedel’s!
-- Respectively submitted, Joseph Dion Adams, Brother of Victim
I told the prisoners then (and I repeat for the reader’s benefit) that thanks to the support of my family members and my participation in the Survivor Resources and POMC programs, I am in a different place today than when I wrote my statement. I also thank God for that.
The day was warm and sunny for mid-March but we still had some snow on the ground. My girlfriend Sue was getting married at four o'clock at Mears Park in downtown St. Paul. We were celebrating at my house and waiting for Megan and her roommate Angela to come over, and join us in the festivities before the wedding. We waited for hours. I called Megan several times and left messages on her cell phone to call me. I never heard from her. It was time to leave for the wedding and I thought Megan and Angela would show up a little late. She and Angela never came. I continued to call her cell phone during the evening but we never spoke to one another again. I called her brothers,Tim and Marty, who were working at Eli's--a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis--to see if they had talked to her or if anyone had seen her that day. Both of my sons knew that Megan was going to the wedding and were surprised that she never showed up or called me. Of course I was concerned, and then that concern turned into deep worry. I was scared.
It was later in the evening--towards the end of the wedding reception--when we received the news that Megan was dead. No one could explain to us how or why so we went to the Minneapolis Police Department. My sons met us there along with at least 15 of Megan's friends to have our questions answered. It was all so confusing, sad and totally unbelievable that this could have happened to anyone we knew let alone our daughter and sister Megan. In the early morning hours, we were finally told that Megan had been murdered in her own apartment. None of us could believe what we were hearing and of course, that old word denial was running rampant in our brains and heart.
Megan, who was so full of life and love, was now gone. Dead. Murdered.
Megan embraced life. She made all those around her laugh, dance, sing and even cry. It was as if she had invisible magnets drawing everyone close to her. She was truly loved and admired by her family and friends. She was so much fun to be with. She was a very loving lady, very protective of others and extremely outspoken. Megan was a beautiful, young woman who was proud of her accomplishments and those of others. Always ready to help anyone in any way she could. She was a very unique individual. She was genuine--one of a kind.
Megan decided that cooking was her forté. She was accepted into the Culinary Arts program at Arts Institute International in Minneapolis. She was thrilled. She excelled in the program making the Dean's List every quarter. She graduated with honors and received her degrees in Associate of Applied Science and Culinary Arts.
Megan was then hired at Shalom Home to work in the Roitenberg Center as a chef. She was so happy to be with the elderly, the people she truly admired and loved. She had only worked there for a few months before she was murdered.
During this terrible time, we were contacted by Victim Intervention Program Inc., which is now known as Survivor Resources. I can't explain to you how wonderful they were to our family. Every single question was answered as quickly as possible by Dina, our counselor. Dina worked at the Minneapolis Police Department and was our lifeline to the detectives involved with solving Megan's murder. Survivor Resources continued to stay with our family throughout the investigation process, the trial and sentencing. An angel was sent from God to us during that terrible time and her name is Dina.
I can't begin to imagine not having Survivor Resources in my life when I needed more help than ever before. They gave me my life back. I am truly indebted to them and so I have tried to honor Megan by having an annual fundraiser in her memory with all proceeds going to Survivor Resources. This is our 6th annual fundraiser and with each year it has grown more and more.
I have stayed in contact with Survivor Resources since Megan's death. I have become quite involved with their other fundraisers. I am now on the board of Survivor Resources and trying to reach out, and help others who have had such devastating events happen in their lives.
My sincerest thanks to Survivor Resources and Dina who have helped us survive and grow through this incredibly devastating nightmare.
This Christmas holiday marks my second without Josh. The holidays had always been such joyful times of family togetherness. Me and my boys. Having two sons has been a challenge and a delight. They helped shape me as a person and define my boundaries so I could help them define theirs. So much has changed since the Christmas of 1997.
Josh unwrapped a navy sweater, plaid cotton shirt and khaki pants. He was a clothes hound and always devoured the newest fashions. Shopping for him was easy. I would look for a young adult clerk that donned the most recent fad and ask him what outfit he would buy. I purchased it and was almost always on target. Josh and his brother put their new Christmas clothes on for the family picture in front of the tree. They looked so handsome and so grown up. The next time I saw Josh in that Christmas outfit was in his casket on February 3, 1998.
Josh will now be 22 forever. His younger brother will join him at that age this next year. They were never supposed to be the same age, Josh was three years older. Because of eight angry young men, the younger brother is now an only child.
Without the Survivor Resources, I would never be able to write these words. Think these words. Say these words. The support, love and guidance I have gained from your weekly homicide survival groups has made it possible for me to face Josh’s death. Moms are not supposed to bury their children. Unfortunately and luckily, I know I am not the only mom to face this horror.
Through Survivor Resources, I’ve met many wonderful parents. Parents, who like me, were just skipping (sometimes limping) along, doing their best and loving their kids. Looking into the face of another homicide survivor whose eyes reflect my disbelief and indescribably intense pain, gives me comfort. It helps to share the insanity that results when a loved one is murdered. Most importantly, to share it with someone else that "gets it." "Getting this" is something I never dreamed I would be doing.
Healing from homicide is a long road. Twenty-three months ago I was unable to believe that healing was even possible. Twenty three months later, because of Survivor Resources, I know it is possible. There are people in your groups that have endured lots longer than I and are stronger people for it. I want to become one of those strong people too. I am immensely grateful to know that the intense pain can relent and that when it surfaces, I have folks to help me get through it.
When I was shopping the other day, I saw a shirt that would have made Josh’s intense blue eyes dance off his face. For a fleeting second, my mind was wrapping it for Christmas. But I won’t be shopping for Josh again this Christmas. Other homicide survivors will not be shopping for their loved ones either. I have learned that by sharing this pain together, we can find some individual peace.
Thank you for giving me hope for peace. Thank you for guiding me through the most horrendous pain I’ve ever known. Thank you for helping me understand the insanity that murder brings to your life. Thank you for helping my surviving son survive. Thank you for helping us put the shattered pieces of our family back together. We have strides to make yet but without you, your program, your wonderful volunteers and my fellow survivors, I fear where we might be (or not be) today.
My One Good Thing
March 2018, the life I knew left me, along with my son. He was the most beautiful, infectious, consistently warm, kind, pleasant person, and he was a genuine friend who cared. He should not have died. It was a bad day, things fell through, and he was alone. No one would have thought this was possible. Later we learned he was self-medicating with marijuana. Reflecting, we know there were signs, individually noticed. We just did not put them together.
I now write a blog to express what I am feeling and experiencing on this new journey. Maybe what I put down into words will resonate with other parents who have lost a child to suicide.
My therapist gives me assignments, ‘so to speak.’ She wants me to do something for myself each week. She gave examples like getting a massage, going to yoga, having lunch with a friend. My good thing each week is to attend a suicide survivors support group.
A brochure came in the mail shortly after my son died. I wondered how did the sender know; did this come from a friend, the funeral home, the police? I put the envelope away in a box for over two months. Then one day I pulled it out. My current therapist was no longer meeting my needs, and I was looking for someone who dealt with suicide. The support organization included referral services. It turned out, the referral was not a good fit for me, but through it, I learned of other services--ongoing services that connected me with others just like myself.
At first, I was not ready to hear other people’s stories. They were so vivid and traumatic. I soon got past that and realized I needed this group because they were like me. No one really understands unless one is in the same situation. I now go almost every week as a part of my therapy. People are in different stages of their journey. For some it has been years since they lost their loved one, others less than a year. Listening and sharing with others regardless of their stage is helpful.
I learned from them I am not crazy for feeling the way I do at the different stages. They have given me permission to say, “no” to certain obligations that really do not matter in the big picture, because I just am not ready. They ask, “How was your week?” and, “Do you have any milestones or events coming up that may be difficult?”
Another thing I appreciate is that I, too, can be there for someone else, even, at a time when I wonder why I should get out of bed.
I know this is life changing, losing my son, and I will never be the same, but, one day, I will learn how to live in this new life, just like others have in my support group.
About me: I have been married for thirty years, have a meaningful job, comfortable living, good friends and close family. My family has been the most essential part of my life. On March 10, 2018, the police informed me that my son had died by suicide. He was twenty-three years old. I am now trying to figure out how to live this new life without my son.
There is potential for secondary mental health struggles by the family and survivors of someone who has taken his/her life; therefore, I want to share my struggle and journey post my son’s death. I want others to know I am now part of their group and offer support for their losses. I also wish those who are not a member of this group to understand what the loss of my child means to me, and the extraordinary devastation his death by suicide has brought.
I am not a professional writer nor academic or professional expert on behavioral health. I am writing from my own feelings and experiences. You can find more of my writings at http://lifewithoutmychild.com