Introducing the Case Study to Jeffco counselors and teachers
Within hours after losing Patrick to suicide in 2011, I knew that I had to do something with his story. Actually, even much earlier, I had a pull in my consciousness that there was something about him, that the world would learn from him. It’s very hard to articulate, but I kept every art project, every note from his day care mom, and every report card. I just had an innate sense that I was going to need this documentation.
Early in my grief work, I met my amazing friend and grief buddy, Marguerite Ham. Her son Matthew passed away by accidental opioid overdose just 6 days before Patrick died. Matthew was 19; Patrick was 18, both were very creative, played guitars, etc. Through the funeral home’s Grief Director, Marguerite and I met and a very special and supportive friendship was born.
Marguerite is a total bad ass. She’s very strong and like me, early on she decided that Matthews story needed to be told to help save others struggling with addiction. She went so far as to document the horrific scene in the hospital when she had to terminate life support, preparing for Matthew’s funeral, and the aftermath of her despair as the mom of an only child. She had built a website for the Eye of the Storm Foundation BEFORE Matthew’s funeral; she was presenting to recovering addicts within a few months of his death. Like I said, she’s a bad ass.
About a year after the boys passed, I had the chance to attend Marguerite’s presentation. It was hard to watch, but I knew if she could do it, I could too. The one difference between Matthew and Patrick was that Patrick had been identified as gifted; Matthew probably was (from the stories Marguerite has told me) but he was not identified. And in my heart, I believe that the overexcitabilities related to being gifted impacted Patrick throughout his life. I have even gone so far as to say that he died due to his overexcitabilities, he was sucked into the drama because of his emotionality and the intensity of his personality.
So my logical venue to tell Patrick’s story was through the forums for training in Gifted & Talented. It took me about 2 years to be able to face the whole 20 pages of IM chat to see just how horrific the cyber-bullying was, but I finally did it in the summer of 2013. I had proposed a session for the Colorado Association for Gifted & Talented (CAGT) and it was accepted. Now I had to figure out how to tell my son’s whole life story, with emphasis on GT and with the most horrible ending imaginable, all in less than 50 minutes. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
I had great support from friends who sat with me to look at almost 100 slides, helped me make it more understandable, helped me find the meaning to share. I was very blessed to have so much support. But in the end, I had to do it–stand up and tell my son’s story to strangers.
I told the story in October, 2013 at the CAGT conference. And since, I have edited it and presented at Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), in Jeffco for parents and educators, etc. Some years I’ve had the time and energy to do it more than others. It takes a lot out of me. It’s a really sad story and it raises all of the guilt (“could’ve” and “should’ves”) that are inevitable when a parent loses a child to suicide.
In the time since Patrick passed, the suicide rate in our schools, state and nation continue to rise. I see our school district and legislature struggling to stem this most horrible tide. I don’t know how to help.
In the fall of 2018 I was honored to be asked by a couple of our GT Resource Teachers to tell Patrick’s story to Jeffco school counselors at their annual Mental Health Day. I said yes. Brushing off the PowerPoint deck, knowing that I could reach the people in our neighborhood schools who are often the front line with our GT kids was exciting to me, and I wanted to do a good job. I also thought it was time to re-record the talk, since I have added more grounding in Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities and this group would understand the language specific to GT programming in Jeffco, the screening tests, etc.
I told Patrick’s Story twice last Wednesday, with a whopping 7 minutes between sessions, which I was a little worried about. The feedback I received was good. Having the commentary for each of the slides fresh in my mind, I recorded the whole thing with all the detail that I can’t do in 50 minutes on Thursday. Then I spent a few days trying to wrestle down the huge files and figure out where to host it to make it accessible for those who want to view it. That work is now done.
I am at a crossroads in my career, my training and experience is primarily online learning–implementing programs, evaluating programs and analyzing national data about those programs. But my heart keeps coming back to this work of telling my boy’s story and making some good come from that. Of course I don’t have a degree in Psychology or Social Work, I have an MBA, so my qualifications are as “just a Mom”. A Mom of a gifted kid who was so typical that when I listen to the experts, I know what they are going to say about these kids most times, because I had two.
I’m hopeful that the time I am afforded right now will help me find clarity about how I can help stem the tide of suicide among some of our most vulnerable kids. I think it’s supposed to be at least part of my life work. I know for certain that Patrick’s story had an impact on almost 100 Jeffco educators and counselors last week, and that’s a good start.
Link to the Jeffco Mental Health Day Presentation: https://ispri.ng/myxLg