No school or degree is worth your sons' life, I learnt this the hard way

African woman crying

My son, who would have been 21 this month, hanged himself on December 24, 2016. Christmas Eve. My baby boy. Gone. There are no words to describe what it did to me, and what it did to the family. I went into his room midday expecting to find him still in bed. I found him hanging in the closet. Two lives were destroyed that day. The neighbors called the police when they heard my screams. I could not leave my house for months and lost my job. My older children had to move back in to support me because I refused to go out or clean the house or even eat food. My life had lost all purpose and for a while, it was over. With time and extensive therapy, I am just barely functional again, but life has never felt so empty. Not a moment goes by that I don't think of him. I spend countless hours every day thinking about how I could have changed it. I know I could have.

My son was enrolled in a general health studies program at the university. He didn't have an interest in health and didn't know what career he wanted to pursue, but I pushed him into it thinking it had the most potential for a successful career path and that he could develop an interest over time. He didn't do very well in his first year but he made it through with a few failed courses. In April 2016 he had finished his second year. I asked him about his final grades. He kept telling me that he hadn't received them yet. I knew he had but I didn't push. The September semester was starting and we had agreed that he would take courses he had failed in the first year. He told me that he had applied to them, and he also told me he had finally received his second-year grades and that he had passed them all. I didn't know at the time that neither of those was true. It was all online so I never checked. If I did, I would have known that he had failed all five of his second-semester units because he had stopped showing up to classes due to depression and he never applied to any summer courses. I found this out later in when he broke down and admitted it all. I did not take it well. I was so upset that he had failed his program, that he lied to me so many times, and that he spent the entire semester pretending to go to class while doing other things. I called the school immediately and arranged an appointment with the faculty. I explained the situation to them and they agreed to let him reapply in the fall as a special student, and that if he did well in his remedial classes he would have a chance to continue his program where he left off. He didn't want to do it. He wanted to take a break from school and apply to a different program later. I refused. I forced him to go back. I knew he hated it and I made him do it anyway. I didn't do anything to treat his depression despite knowing about it. Instead, I used it as an excuse to get him back in the program he never wanted to be in. I made him feel trapped enough to take his own life and I can never forgive myself for that.

Going back to his room was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. One step inside and I had a breakdown. Months passed. I tried again. Breakdown. We had to keep it locked until we hired a cleaner to pack his things because I could not bear to look at anything that belonged to him. I was only able to enter once the room was completely empty with just a few boxes stacked in the corner. Months later when I was home alone, I mustered the strength to open one of the boxes. Sitting on top was his laptop. I opened it and found it unlocked. I told myself I shouldn't look through it. It would only ruin me again. But I had to. I had to know. Maybe he saw something that made him want to do it. Maybe he had messaged one of his friends, and maybe they said something to him. I just wanted to understand why. Why he would feel so hopeless that he had to take his own life. I found most things that would be normal to find in a young person's browsing history. People's Facebook profiles, assorted Youtube videos, a whole world I never knew. There was a file folder compiling images from what I could tell was shows/comics/games that he liked. I've never seen any of it before. I never cared. Another folder with images of my son with his friends from his high school. I didn't recognize any of them. I never bothered to ask. I found a video in his Youtube history showcasing how to tie a noose. I had to stop there and weep until I had a migraine. Then I went back. I found entries on olx. He was trying to sell his game consoles and games, which I later found out he spent his tuition fee to buy. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to find. Months of grief counseling undone in an instant. I had the worst breakdown of my life. Reading through everything he wrote in his last days tore my already scarred heart into a million shreds. He had reached out for help so many times. He felt so alone. He wrote that if he died I would only care about the money I wasted raising him. I thought I had felt the worst pain a person could feel until I read that. It was my fault. He felt so alone and hopeless in his last days. And I made him feel that way. I knew he wasn't happy but I made him go back. I killed him.

If only I could tell him now that it doesn't matter to me. That no school or degree was worth his life. That no matter what he did, I would love him no matter what. Oh, how I miss my sweet boy. My baby is gone and I will never be okay again.
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