30 Apr sharing a piece of my story
The following is what I wrote in preparation for sharing a piece of my story at Casa de Luz on April 28th, 2014.
“My name is Holly Chamberlain. I am the founder of the aMasongrace project. The aMasongrace project exists to empower and support young people, share a message of truth, hope and love, and to honor the memory of my son, Mason Justice Chamberlain, who in a moment of panic, ended his own life. Tonight’s Life Support class is about Suicide and Self Harm, Preventing and Surviving.
At first when we discussed adding the aMasongrace project to the Life Support series, we weren’t sure that it fit. Life Support can sound a little morbid, especially when discussing suicide and self-harm. However, ‘Life Support’ is truly instrumental in preventing self-harm and suicide and that is what we want to discuss tonight. Life Support is needed every single day – it’s the help and love that we receive from our friends and families that get us through the dark times and helps prevent situations of self-harm. Life support sometimes takes the form of counseling or medication. Sometimes it takes the form of a friend’s hand, holding ours until the moment passes. Sometimes, it’s a group like this that meets together to talk about life’s toughest issues. Life is hard; it can be absolutely brutal sometimes. We need support every single day just to get through.
Tonight I’ll be telling a piece of my story to share what it has been like to survive the loss of my son. I want to share the impact suicide has on those left behind, and the devastation it causes in each of the lives of those who lose someone to suicide. I also want to spend some time talking about the signs of suicide and self-harm… although sometimes, and increasingly often, there are no signs. The Life Support we will talk about tonight is the recognition of signs, when signs are present. We will give you a take home resource tonight that describes some of the signs to look for and also provides contact information for the national Suicide Prevention Hotline. Tonight’s talk applies to every single person in this room. Some of us have lost someone to suicide, some have attempted suicide, and all are at risk for suicide. No one is exempt from suicide. Not a single one of us.
So first I’ll share a bit about my son, Mason Justice Chamberlain. He was witty, hilarious actually. He was gorgeous. There are people here tonight who knew him and they would tell you he was outgoing, funny, kind, and generous. He loved to give hugs, and believe me he gave the best hugs in the word. When you walked away from a mason hug, you felt as if your troubles had melted away. Mason was bright. He was uber smart – I sometimes had difficulty keeping up with him and I’m no slouch in the smarts department. He got angry sometimes too, just like all of us. The thing that made him the angriest is someone on a power trip. Mase fancied himself everyone’s equal, and didn’t like when people put him down or others down. He was a huge advocate for the underdog and befriended the friendless. There were several families who approached me at Mason’s memorial to thank me for raising Mason to be kind… two families told me Mason was their child’s first friend. And that was in 8th grade!
I was extremely proud of my son. I loved him insanely and always talked about him to friends and coworkers. If you knew me, you knew my son. We ran together (just fun runs, don’t think I’m telling you I can even run a block without getting winded), we traveled together, and most of all, no matter what we were doing, we laughed together. He was my only child, and as he aged and matured he became a friend too. I was so proud of the man he was becoming. He planned to attend Veteran’s Tribute Academy, and pursue an education in Law Enforcement. Mason had goals, and couldn’t wait for the next level of independence. He was mature beyond his years.
So why did a kid like this end his own life? Why did he commit suicide? He showed none of the traditional signs of depression and he wouldn’t have been classified as “at risk” for self-harm or suicide by any traditional standard. SO how did it happen? Why him? Wasn’t he exempt?
I never talked to him about suicide. I never ever imagined that my son would attempt to take his own life. NEVER. He wasn’t the ‘type’. I think now that we do ourselves a disservice by creating a type because it gives a false sense of security as to who is at risk and who is safe. My son should have been safe. What I have learned though this experience is that none of us is safe. We all have moment where we think “it would be better without me here” or “you would all miss me or appreciate me more if I was gone” or “things would be easier for xyz if I would just disappear.” My son must have thought something like this on June 3rd. He must have thought he could end the moment and be better off.
And he did. He ended the moment. He was in trouble for lying. He made a simple mistake that almost every teenager makes, and he got in trouble for it, then he compounded the mistake by trying to lie his way out of it. How many of you have ever lied? I know I have. Never ever the right way to get out of something is it? So Mason tried to lie, and got into even more trouble because of it. To compound the problem, there was added stress because I was out of town with a friend and couldn’t be here to handle it myself. I had my friend take away his phone and I told him I would speak to him later that night. My friend did as I asked, and left Mason home to watch some TV while she ran to the store. Within an hour, Mason was dead. He killed himself in my friend’s home.
I would give anything to have that boy back. I would trade my life for his, I would trade every single life of everyone I love just to have my son back. I never ever knew my son would attempt to harm himself. I never suspected that he was at rick for suicide. Not my amazing, smart funny happy confident boy. Not him. Mason redefined who is at risk for self-harm and suicide. He died instantly. He had no second chance. He had no time to be found and saved. He was gone immediately.
I will never understand why my beautiful son, the love of my life, tried to hurt himself. But he did. In a moment of panic, in an attempt to get out of trouble, in an effort to end a bad situation, my son ended his own life. My friend discovered him when she got home. She desperately tried to resuscitate him. She called an ambulance and the EMTs relentlessly performed CPR on him trying to save his life. The doctor in the Emergency Room fought hard to bring Mason back but my boy was already gone. He had left immediately and there was no second chance for him.
Here was a boy who by traditional definition was not at risk. I saw him cold and stiff and pale on a funeral home table. In a moment of panic and high stress, he hurt himself so badly that he ended his own life. He wasn’t at risk, but he was dead.
There are no words that could possible communicate the desolate, empty feeling that has taken over my soul.
I want to switch gears for a minute and share a message I have been saying since Mason left, “You matter.” Parents, I’m going to ask you to have a conversation with your children about suicide and self-harm. Even if you think they are not ‘at risk.’ This is the life support we need to be actively involved in today. We need to look our children in the eyes and tell them “you matter.” They need to know if they ever disappeared, that we would cry forever. Our hearts would be shredded. Our lives shattered. We would never recover from losing them. I know, because I am living that.
We need to be having this conversation frequently. When things are bad, and when they are good. Around the kitchen table, on the sports field, after church, at lunch. We need to make sure that our kiddos understand at their very core how unique and special they are. Even if they get caught lying. Even if they get in trouble or drive you crazy. Especially then. Do not assume they know. Let’s prepare our kids for those crazy, stressful life-altering moments, because they will come. Let’s talk to the about what to do when the self-harm thoughts pop into their heads.
For those of you who are Christians, you understand this is a spiritual battle. There are influences all around that would love to see your child destroyed. The greatest weapon of all time is our own two hands. If the enemy can get us to harm ourselves, God’s perfectly imperfect creation, he laughs himself silly. What better way to slap God in the face than to get his precious children to take their own lives. Thankfully God doesn’t judge us on our last act on earth; He judges our hearts.
I’ll say it again: YOU MATTER. You are precious and unique. You are a piece to a puzzle that is incomplete without you. There is no one exactly like you. Your laugh is unique, your eyes, your fingertips, your walk. Your mind, soul, ideas, opinions. Though we have similarities with others, there are no exact duplicates. You matter so much that you were made to be unique, impossible to duplicate. We need to instill that belief in our children and in ourselves. We need to believe that is true about every individual with whom we cross paths.
There is only one YOU. There is only one THEM. We were designed with a purpose in mind and it is essential that we live out that purpose. Ending our lives early denies God’s plan for our life and our purpose goes unfinished. There will never be another YOU.
Believing that may not be easy. Some of us have been made to feel less than our whole lives. Some of us are hated by our own families, shunned from family gatherings, and literally treated as the enemy. That could make a person feel like they don’t matter. Some of us have been divorced, told that we were worthless, bullied, mocked, shunned, ignored, or even hated. How do we continue to believe that we matter when the world tells us we don’t?
How about every day someone in your family calls you a loser? How about your brother stops speaking to you? What if your wife leaves you for someone else? Or the bully at school calls you names? People at work gossip about you? Do you still matter? Do their actions and opinions define your worth?
Hear me now: You matter. Believing that is a choice. We need to choose to believe that every day and act accordingly. Others do not define our worth. God does. And if he took the time to unique draw my fingerprints one by one, and precisely sew together my DNA, and mold my pretty face, and artistically color my hair (well, originally… now my colorist does it)… If God does that for every single person on this earth, how dare I believe anything else? You matter. I matter. I have a purpose to fulfill and so do you.
Let’s take a look at the warning signs for suicide… my friends are handing out a resource right now for you to take home, along with some Hershey Kisses that to be quite honest, just make everything in life sweeter…
Thank you for coming tonight. Thank you for listening to my story. Thank you for taking the steps to help ensure this doesn’t become your story.”