Suicide brings an endless pain
IT IS every parent's worst nightmare.
You think your alarm is ringing to wake you for work but it's 5am and as you come to your senses you realise it's the doorbell.
You open the door in your pyjamas and two police officers ask you if you have a 17-year-old son.
You close the door in their faces when they say: "We're sorry to inform you, he was killed this morning."
You can't comprehend the words but when they start to register, after what feels like an eternity, you open the door again, the words sink in and you fall to your knees.
All you want to do is scream and scream and scream but your 13-year-old son is asleep upstairs.
That's when you realise your nightmare won't end when that alarm goes off to wake you for work.
When it rings you will then have to share the information that has just shattered your world with a person you would give everything to protect.
It's been 12 years since Yamba woman Iris lived this nightmare.
After the police left she went up to her teenage son's room and lay beside him until he woke when she told him that his brother had died in a car accident.
"I lost that little boy who was so happy and funny right then," Iris said.
"Then I had to ring my two older girls and hear them screaming and still hold it together."
Her 17-year-old son Jack had been living in Melbourne at first with his father and when that didn't work out, in a student hostel.
The day of his death, Jack took his dad's car keys.
He went to his girlfriend's house, had dinner with her family and watched a movie.
He was driven home about midnight and seemed calm, happy and at peace.
At 2.30am he took his dad's car and crashed it at high speed into a wall.
What Iris didn't know that morning when the police arrived at her doorstep was that the crash was no accident.
Jack had been planning his death.
It was only after she visited him in the morgue and made funeral arrangements that his dad passed her a scrap of paper, written by Jack, asking for a song to be played at his funeral.
"That's when I knew it was a suicide," Iris said.
After the funeral, Iris went to the room her son had been living in.
"I don't know why but I felt something was left for me," she said.
"I started searching his room, I even tore a hole in a mattress but I couldn't find anything.
"As I closed the door I got the feeling I had missed an opportunity."
She took some of his belongings and as she carried one of his paintings to the car, the family member she was with said: "I think you've found what you were looking for."
On the back of the painting was a whole lot of writing and drawings.
"It was so painfully angry," Iris said.
"There were a lot of scribbled notes, one said: 'too hard to live, lost faith.'
"Then in one corner it said: 'Mum, it's not your fault'."
While it gave Iris some personal comfort, in the scheme of things it did little to ease the constant pain.
Some time later Iris discovered a book of Jack's poetry hidden in her other son's room.
"I don't know how, when or why he put it there but one of the poems was called Star Man and I realised that was his death poem.
"That poetry was like a knife through the heart.
"It was really gut-wrenching. All he wanted was to be accepted."
To help deal with her personal pain and to try to understand that of her son's better, Iris then too started writing
"I just kept writing and writing and it wasn't until 2005 when I really felt it was going somewhere. I had this gut feeling of a book."
In 2010 A Desperate Voice was printed.
It contains a collection of Jack's poetry and drawings as well as Iris's work which deals with her own emotions as well as taking on Jack's perspective.
She has offered the book to organisations that help with suicide prevention and hopes that it may help others in difficult situations think about the consequences of suicide.
"They don't think about the aftermath," she said.
"They think they are easing their pain but they are creating an even greater situation that you don't heal from."
* The names of those involved have been changed to protect their identities.
Today is suicide prevention day.
Those feeling vulnerable should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If life is in immediate danger, call 000.