Losing a Child to Mental Illness


“Our love doesn’t stop. It grows around the pain ….”

I had an idea when I started this blog nearly two years ago that I would be brave enough to take some readers on a journey with me to find my homeless son. And I did write it, I suppose courageously, up to a point. I found Sean, but encountered an utterly changed child–delusional, paranoid and ravaged by mental illness and a life on the streets.

In my last contiguous chronicle, I had succeeded in getting intervention by a mobile crisis unit and watched as Sean was shackled in People’s Park and loaded into an ambulance bound for a psychiatric hospital. There my posts ended. At the very beginning.

In the ensuing months, Sean has cycled through operatically horrific episodes of hospitalizations, incarcerations and homelessness. He walked into traffic and was hit by a car and spent 5 months in hospitals only to release himself Against Medial Advice. He is now in a wheelchair, nearly catatonic, refusing help of any kind. He is also in one of the best psychiatric hospitals in the Bay Area, where he is being “stabilized” after his recent admittance. He was picked up in an alley, sitting in his own waste, convulsing.

I couldn’t write about any of this. I just held my breath and blundered through. But I want to now. Maybe not so much the outward journey of negotiating the nefarious mental health system, but what it feels like as a mother to grieve a living child. I have discovered there are so many of us, often sitting alone in our own pain. Mothers whose children are lost to drugs. Or to husbands, or courts, or through anger. Children get lost through our own failings and for no reason at all.

Our love doesn’t stop. It grows around the pain, misshapen, and even strengthened.

Schizophrenia has stolen my son. But I will not let him go.

13 thoughts on “Losing a Child to Mental Illness

  1. no words. but love, hugs, hope, endless empathy, a deep and grievous sense of connection to your pain. your, our, and yes their strength is heroic. you are so right: there is no letting go.

  2. I am sad for you, but “happy” to hear from you, knowing you are still holding on. Your life is an example of true love. Even if unable to express it, I do believe that inwardly your son knows.
    God Bless You, and give you His Strength to continue on.

  3. Thank you for finding the strength to post this. Sending my love and sympathy for the pain you are both experiencing. My heart breaks for you both and I am amazed by your strength.

  4. The photo you posted illustrates the phrase under it so perfectly — it made me gasp. Thank you for your courage to write again and for helping the rest of us get a glimpse of what it can feel like to not let go. This site feels like a link for all of us.

    • It means so much to me that my experience might be of help to you and anyone else. Thank you for following me and please pass my blog along to anyone else you think would benefit. Blessings to you …

  5. There is so much courage and grace in how you express–in words and photos–what is unbearable. I hope many will find their way to your blog, painful as it is, because your love and perseverance is inspiring. I believe you and Sean will be reunited when he is stable enough to recognize you–and your fortified, reshaped heart. Thank you for writing this.

  6. For you to keep opening your eyes on the day; to walk from your car to the office and participate in a work environment; to consider what groceries are needed or whether laundry has to be done, are acts of courage. And yet you also knit, take photos, stop in at concerts in case transubstantiation of your pain may happen through music. Body and soul you are alive, and Sean has the umbilicus still attached. May he get the medicine and time he must have to come to himself again, and to you.

  7. Pingback: Taking Refuge in the Appearance of Life | searching the street

  8. Your blog is so beautiful and also so very sad. But this is how mothers who have children with Sz are. We are beautiful and sad. Our children are like no other and we are not like mothers who have healthy children. Only we can understand this very unique experience and the pain that we endure. Thank you for your graceful courage.

    • It is so affirming to hear from other Sz mothers and I am thinking about what you said about our uniqueness. Yes, it’s very true, and I find that it defies words often. That’s why so many of us sit alone in our suffering. No words for the experience. Not just the pain, but the layers of love and memory that surround it. Thanks for reaching out …

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