Dear Jenna

Dear Jenna,

No one else could have provided the support I needed this past year. You, too, struggled with a mentally ill son. You knew Jeffrey, and of our ongoing challenges. And I’d known Alan since he was a boy. We were both shocked when he lapsed into his first major depressive episode at eighteen. Friends before we bonded over a shared helplessness as mothers of brain-disordered sons, we offered compassion to each other that we were often unable to give ourselves. “It’s not your fault,” I told you when you imagined that you had committed some indelible parenting error. “It’s not your fault,” you said to me a month later or so, as I experienced my own horrific wave of self-blame. And so it went.

How long could anyone endure watching a son in such pain? We talked about the impossibility of “letting go.” What did that even mean? Yet you, Jenna, boldly came to see that you could not prevent your son from killing himself. You released him from the obligation to stay alive for you. If he were in that much pain, you would let him go.

But I wasn’t that generous. I didn’t release you. I needed you when Jeffrey died. You were my strength, my reason, my mirror that said “We can get through this.” I leaned on you, and you helped me stay upright time after time. And didn’t I do the same for you?

Why didn’t you call me? You didn’t let me know how much you were suffering, didn’t give me a chance to wrap you up in compassion and pull you up. You walked into that river and drifted downstream without even saying good-bye.

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