kevni itwaru

My Wish: What people need to know about suicide–love, loss, and hope

by Chano Itwaru

My tall and handsome 33-year-old son Kevin was smart, friendly, and charming. He was a biomedical engineer with a charismatic, dazzling smile, gentle personality. As a talented musician and artist he played the sitar, guitar, trumpet, piano, flute, Japanese Shakuhachi (flute), accordion, harmonium, Djembe (African drums), he produced many paintings. But Kevin had a secret. When he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with clinical depression.

My son suffered in silence rather than face what he feared–the judgment and rejection of friends and family. He slowly isolated himself from lifelong friends. It was heartbreaking to watch him living in pain, but I stood beside him through the long journey with its many triumphs and heartbreaks. I became his fiercest advocate as he struggled with depression.

With his empathetic, caring nature he was able to talk down a friend who was suicidal. Yet two weeks later, on February 28, 2020 was the darkest day of our lives. Kevin tragically lost his battle to suicide, leaving his older sister, his father and me to mourn his loss.

Why didn’t my adult son seek help? For twelve years, Kevin tried many different forms of treatment–yoga, triathlons, marathons, jogging, music, singing, art, woodworking, church, therapy, and medication. Few understand what it is like to live with an adult who is diagnosed with depression. Kevin used alcohol to self-medicate whenever he had episodes of depression and anxiety.

Suicide is a conversation killer that stole my son’s life. More than a year later, I am in a different place. While losing a child to suicide is confusing, brutal, and presents layers of loss, there is hope. As I move forward in this insidious journey of grief, I am immensely grateful for the love and support from kindred spirits as I grieve, with more love than pain, the loss of my beautiful boy.

What do I do now? I am healing and finding hope through talk therapy and support groups. There is courage in survivors of suicide stories; hence, it is crucial that I share my story of love, loss and hope. I am using Kevin’s music to heal and learn more about his life. The many works of art and paintings he left tell his life story and contribute to helping my broken heart.  Now, I am more connected with Kevin through his music and artwork, which is part of his legacy. 

Why is mental health a stigmatized topic? I never thought that I would lose my son to suicide. I am sharing my story to heighten awareness of mental health and suicide prevention and the importance of having meaningful dialogs.

Our loved ones suffered silently. Yet we need to unite as a community to let our voices be heard and advocate for meaningful, societal changes to offer hope and support to people who are vulnerable. It is crucial to empower people to take mental health seriously and have open conversations about suicide and suicide prevention.

My hope is that my broken heart will help others, as we heal and care for each other through open communication and education.

12 thoughts on “My Wish: What people need to know about suicide–love, loss, and hope”

  1. Dearest Chano,
    This heartbreaking yet powerful account will allow many to comprehend the hidden faces of depression. Often, we think that depression is visible through facial affects or obvious behavioral patterns, i.e., lack of productivity at work or engagement with others. That is not always the case as can be seen in your openness to share with us Kevin’s life and his emotional journey. You capture us into his beautiful soul as through you he brings awareness that depression has many faces. It can imprison the creative artist who entertains you; the friend who comforts when you are down, the child or adult who tells you that all is fine, etc. Hence, in Kevin’s case, he encourages a call to action—depression demands attention and let us all be part of the support team for those in need.

    1. Dear Emery,

      I so appreciate your very thoughtful and heartfelt response. And you are absolutely right….”depression demands attention and let us all be part of the support team for those in need.” We need action even more than ever; Mental Health matters and is a vital conversational topic. Thank you!

  2. Chano, I admire your strength. I admire how you are finding positive ways to let out your pain and emotion after living a nightmare. For those who have experienced a loss after suicide, it can be an emotional rollercoaster that takes away all that we have ever believed in or re-evaluate our beliefs. Our purpose changes. Bringing awareness can help you and others heal from the unbearable pain. Thank you Chano. All my love.

    1. Hi Lizette,

      You are absolutely right, “our purpose changes”. I am trying to find out “who am I now”. Loss by suicide is very complicated and I appreciate your insights.

      Much love,
      Chano

  3. What a powerful testimony to the impact of the loss of your beloved son to suicide. Kevin was an absolutely amazing and accomplished man. All of his strengths, talents and relationships make his death unimaginable and hard to grasp. How fortunate that his survivors will keep his legacy alive. Chano, your pain is palpable but your dedication to Kevin and working through your grief gives us bereaved parents hope.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments and I am sorry that you understand this grief journey….all I have now is Kevin’s memories. Thank you Nancy!

  4. Chano, I admire your ability to articulate how you are feeling and your willingness to share. It is comforting to hear that the loss and sadness you feel does not, can not, will not diminish Kevin’s legacy – all he was, what he accomplished in his short life, and the art and music he left for you (and others) to enjoy.

    If love were enough to save those we loved from their pain – I know Kevin would be alive today.

    1. HI Loretta,

      I appreciate your comments and thoughts on such a silent disease. I totally agree with you….if only love…..he would be alive today.

      Much love,
      Chano

  5. “Suicide is a conversation killer that stole my son’s life.”
    So sorry that this is true. Depression is also a conversation killer, which leads to further isolation of those in need. The stigma of survivor’s guilt is a tough nut. In these days, when we are all learning what it means to be members of the Human Tribe, many social forces work against our evolution. That being, the evolution of human empathy. When we, as survivors of loss to suicide, feel the heavy burden of failure to rescue, we must STOP. We must understand that this is Not some simple task that has slipped our grasp, but an epic challenge that takes more than one or two loved ones to rescue those at imminent risk. I believe that the growing Tribe is learning how to grow the resources to turn the tide on suicide. I am with you as heal and mourn your loss…. Robert

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thank you for responding to my story. I agree with you, “it is not a simple task” and every voice and story will make an impact to this “silent conversation killer.”

      With much appreciation!
      Chano

      1. Sweet Chano,
        Thank you for sharing your story, I really admire you for that as I’m sure it was very difficult for you. For all that you’re doing I feel you are truly honoring your son. My prayers are with you as you navigate through this journey.

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