Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sad News In Oregon

Caregiving can be an amazing and wonderful experience.  This applies regardless of whether we are giving care to our children, parents, siblings, or anyone else who relies on us every day.  But those who live this role understand that there is a dark side.  

On Monday a single mom in Oregon fatally shot her 7-year-old disabled son, before attempting and nearly succeeding at killing herself.

My heart is breaking for the boy whose name was Mason.  According to the article, Mason dealt with severe mental and physical disabilities.  His father left the family right after his diagnosis.  He was home schooled by his mom because she didn't feel he could thrive in a public school.  As a single mom she was forced to live with her mother just to make ends meet.  She was described as an amazing mother and an active advocate for families with special needs.  According to friends there was nothing she wouldn't do for her son.

Its easy to take a holier-than-thou stance and condemn her.  It would be easy to consider her a monster or a coward.  The truth is she must have felt pain and desperation that few people can imagine.  She may have felt suffering, and watched her son suffer in such a terrible way that she wanted both of them to be at peace.  Its frightening when you consider that everyone close to her thought she was doing okay.  The public face that she put on must have been pretty incredible in order for her to hide such pain.

We should consider all caregivers, especially those doing it long term, as a risk for suicide. Worse yet, we should consider them a risk for homicide/suicide.  What she did was wrong and Mason had a right to life like any other human being, but I think it is important for us to understand why this happened and somehow use it as a lesson to prevent the next one.  She was able to tell herself that this horrible act was somehow going to make things better.

There are so many factors that can be looked at.  Perhaps trying to be all things...a mom, a wage earner, an advocate, had overwhelmed her beyond her tipping point.  Perhaps being abandoned by Mason's father made loneliness unbearable.  Maybe she spent every day watching him struggle and should couldn't do it anymore.  Maybe she saw herself in her late 20's with no foreseeable future for herself.  My bet is it was a combination of all of these things.

Maybe we need to invent a caregiver suicide hotline for those who are considering this as a solution.  Obviously she did not feel she could talk about this with friends and family, but maybe she could have confided in someone who has been there.  Sometimes you can tell things to a stranger that you can't tell to anyone else.  Make absolutely no mistake, this is not an isolated event.  I dare say most long term caregivers have similar thoughts.

We can discuss the reasons all day long, but the fact still remains that caregivers need people to check on them.   They need to feel that their well-being is important to others.  They need to know that alternatives are out there, other people who feel the same things are out there, and solutions are out there.  It doesn't matter if they appear to have things under control...we need to help them.  When we wait until there is a tragedy it is much too late.  Often the cry for help happens in the last moment and we can't afford to let that happen.

This entry is dedicated with love to Mason Jordan who had his life cut too short, and to his mom Tashina who so tragically lost hope for herself and her son.  May God look after and protect them both.  My heart breaks for you both.

Be well and God bless.   Tom

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