In September, a Michigan mom, Kelli Stapleton attempted to kill herself and her 14 year old daughter with autism. As a nation, we stood by in disbelief watching the news reports wondering how ANY mother could do this.
I too stood there with you full of emotions. However, I was not shocked nor appalled. Although deeply saddened that this had occurred, I found myself thankful it wasn’t me.
As a mother or a parent you might be flabbergasted at how a mother could do this. Allow me to share with you how a mother can become so desperate she can not only entertain the thought but follow through.
Autism is a very isolating, frustrating, and overwhelming disability that affects the entire family. It is most often misunderstood, criticized, ignored and avoided by society. As a mother who has walked in this ladies shoes to some extent, I understand the hopelessness she often felt, the never ending battle she fought with everyone she encountered for the sake of her child, the guilt that consumes the innermost parts of her soul on a daily basis, as well as the sheer exhaustion and stress from all things an autism mother encounter in life.
Plus the financial strain that comes with having a child with autism places a huge burden on families and marriages. When you add all of it together, it can easily become a mixture for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and tendencies leading to disaster. Coupling that with not having the opportunities to socialize making it difficult to maintain friendships leaves us with few ears to listen.
Now, listen carefully… I am not saying that what Kelli Stapleton did was right or even excusable. It is a horrible act. But what I am saying is that there are many more Kelli’s out there on the verge of conducting similar acts. They are hurting and they are desperate! Its no different than any other human that is suicidal.
What makes cases like Ms. Stapleton’s different is that she wanted to take her child with her. I do not believe it was out of selfishness, vengeance, or hatred. I believe that it was due to the fact that she was her daughters primary caregiver. She felt like if she was gone, her daughter wouldn’t survive because others she felt couldn’t adequately take care of her and her unique needs.
I share this with you because if not for the grace of God and the fear of going to hell for committing suicide and murder, this could have been me at any given time over the last 7 years. Surprised??? I knew you would be.
That’s the thing… We are mama’s, many of us are college educated; we are professionals; we appear to have it all under control on the outside… We are supposed to act like we have it together and we have learned to fake it well. But don’t let the smiles and the laughter fool you. Behind many smiles are heartbroken people just trying to survive. They aren’t heartbroken because their child has autism. They are heartbroken because society is cruel. People can be cruel. Life can sometimes be cruel. And in their moments of exhaustion, hopelessness, and desperation they can’t see that ending life is not the way.
There are parents all around you who may feel a level of desperation, hopelessness, and isolation. They don’t necessarily have to be parents of children with autism. It could be parents of a child with any disability, or no disability at all. Parenting is difficult, its by far the toughest job I’ve ever had but by far the most rewarding.
This post is not about gaining sympathy. It is about having love and respect for your fellow human beings. It is to serve as encouragement to be grateful for what you are blessed with and a plea to be more understanding and tolerant of others.
Make it your goal to reach out to those in the special needs community and those you suspect maybe hurting. You never know what one smile, one kind word, or gesture can do to someone who is feeling desperate. Reach out to those around you today!!! Do it for the Kelli and Issy Stapleton’s of the world. Do it for the Brandi and Will Shinn’s in your community, in your place of worship, or your neighborhood. Do it for the children with autism who deserve to have a life and their siblings who deserve to have their parents.