Questions and Answers
1. Why did you write the book?
There are several reasons.
Firstly, I did not want my son to have died in vain. Something positive had to emerge from such a senseless tragedy. I am a writer by profession, so decided that I had to use the skills I possessed to use my grief constructively. There appeared to be a gap in the market for a book that truly connected to the raw pain and emotions experienced by families in the aftermath of a suicide of a loved one. Hopefully, it will offer some small comfort in making suicide grievers realise that they are not alone and that their thoughts and feelings are normal. I’m not just talking about parents here, but the entire family unit – grandparents, siblings, cousins, stepchildren and even friends and colleagues.
Secondly, I saw it as an avenue to raising money for charity, initially for Kidscape, the UK charity committed to keeping children safe from bullying and abuse, and currently CALM, who are leading a movement against male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.
Finally, I felt it was terribly important to raise awareness of suicide, because it is an uncomfortable topic that many people don’t wish to address and yet it affects so many families – and many more than people are currently aware of. In fact, it is the third leading cause of death in the US in people between the ages of 15 and 24. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics, one person commits suicide every 40 seconds.
2. Did you find the book difficult to write?
It was difficult emotionally, because in order to write, I had to feel and experience the emotions associated with every event I included in the book. Sometimes I would go for months without writing a word and at other times I would write for several consecutive days, but I was never able to work for lengthy periods at one time, because it was too emotionally draining.
I also had to spend a lot of time conducting research and finding families from a broad spectrum of familial circumstances who would be willing to share their experiences in the book.
It was not a book that I had planned to complete quickly, because I wanted to be able to write from the perspective of a parent who was several years further down the grieving path, so that readers could benefit from the view of someone who had continued to moved forward in life whilst still mourning the loss of a child.
I was also aware that I was potentially opening myself up to the critics, because there will always be someone making harsh judgements, but helping just one person was far more important than the fear of being judged. Other people's hurtful words are often just a reflection of their own issues and insecurities. I have learned not to take anything personally.
3. What was your son like?
If you ask the same question of anyone else who knew Kristian, they would all describe him as having a heart of gold. Everyone also said he was such a happy lad and that he would light up any room into which he walked.
He was loving, kind, funny, intelligent and had extraordinary powers of compassion and forgiveness, no matter who had hurt him. He never bore grudges. He was also very naive, impressionable and very easily led. He just wanted to be liked, so would befriend anyone who accepted him. Sadly, that included people who sometimes led him down the wrong path.
4. What do you think causes someone to become suicidal?
If we had all the answers, then of course we would be able to prevent it happening to so many people. There are many reasons and, of course, in some cases there appears to be no reason at all. Someone’s depression can be circumstantial, or it can be clinical. Circumstantial reasons include bereavement, being bullied, the end of a relationship, financial worries and so on. Suicide is the abandonment of all hope.
5. What would you say to people who say that suicide is selfish?
Unless someone has walked a mile in the shoes of someone who has felt that total hopelessness, then they are not in a position to judge. I think we have to highlight the clear difference between someone who is depressed and someone who kills themselves to escape punishment for a crime. I would defy anyone to say that the 11-year-old who is bullied to suicide is selfish. A child of that age does not have the maturity to find any other solution and, of course, if no one is listening to him and the school concerned isn’t tackling the problem, the bullied child may not see any other way to escape his trauma.
I have found that the people who are most judgemental are the ones who are least qualified to pass comment. After all, everyone does things in their lives with which we don’t necessarily agree, but we don’t all pass judgement. People who end their own lives often see it as an unselfish act, because they believe that they are a burden on others and that suicide is their way of relieving their loved ones of that burden. I don’t honestly think they realise the devastation that their suicide will cause.
6. What would you say to other parents who are worried about their children?
What I would say to any parent is, don’t believe it could never happen to you. Sometimes teenagers don’t like to talk to their parents, because they either feel that their problems may be trivialised, that their parents won’t understand, that their parents have enough issued of their own to worry about, or because they are ashamed of feeling the way they do. Every parent of a teenage child will know that it isn’t always easy communicating with them and obviously every child is different. However, you have to find some way of getting your child to open up. The most important thing is to let them know that you are always there for them if they have a problem they wish to share. For example, you could relate to a similar problem that you encountered when you were a teenager. Sometimes, our children forget that we were young too and also went through all the trials and tribulations of growing up and all the pressures that come with the transition from childhood to adulthood.
If there are any other questions that you would like to ask, or see added to the page, please feel free to email me at jandersen8888 at live dot com.