“This should shake my foundation but it only makes it stronger” is the declaration I made to those in my home one year ago today, July 28, 2019, after finding my 16 year old son, Thomas Ocasio III, who took his own life after losing his battle with depression.
The declaration was made while awaiting for Thomas’s body to be removed from the home. It is no secret that I am strong in my faith and I believe in God and in Heaven. Believing in God and Heaven also means I believe that satan and hell are real. It means I believe in Spiritual Warfare and in the midst of the most excruciating emotional pain that I have ever been in it was even more important to make the declaration that satan had not won. It is for the same reason that I got up off my floor the following Sunday and went to church. With tears falling, I was still going to praise God and know that one day I will see Thomas again when he meets me at the gates of Heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely had days that I did not have it in me to get out of bed. After all, I am human, I am a grieving mother who lost her “momma’s boy”. There is a part of me that is missing. When the thoughts of all that Thomas has missed this year especially the birth of his nephew, Ezra Thomas, and all the hopes and dreams he had now out of reach become too much to carry it is those moments, those days, that if I don’t hold on tight to the hem of His garment that I will come undone because in my flesh I could not do this, the pain is too great. It is in my Spirit that I find hope and strength.
Following Thomas’s death I re-read the book of Job in the Bible. The book of Job is about a man who lost everything including his children. Throughout it all Job continued to praise God even when mocked by family and friends for continuing to praise God after everything Job had lost. The end of the book of Job there is victory for Job who was abundantly blessed for never losing faith in God and not allowing his foundation to shake.
While no blessing could ever replace the loss of a child there is hope to be found in lives being saved in the midst of such tragedy. The saving of lives in and of itself is the blessing. I have said it before and will continue to say it, I do not understand God’s plan but I will trust His plan. I believe the scriptures in the Bible and that what satan meant for evil God will use for good (Genesis 50:20).
At Thomas’s funeral service an altar call was given and over 40 people raised their hand and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That is to be praised and celebrated. My 16 year old son was at the front of the church in a casket and satan still did not win. People were still being saved. Even typing this makes me want to shout praises at the victory of lives being brought to Christ.
Following his death people have contacted me about the impact Thomas’s death has had in their lives. People have told me that either themselves or a loved one who was previously reluctant to mental health treatment are now receiving mental health treatment. Parents and their kids are now having conversations regarding depression and suicide. Teens are reaching out to adults when they have a friend that is struggling. Again, satan has not won. In life and in death God has used Thomas to change lives. I am going to grieve the loss of Thomas until the day that I die but I refuse to allow satan any foothold in my mind and choose to find joy in the fact that lives are being changed and saved.
Thomas and #LIVEFORTHOMAS
Thomas was a popular kid, an athlete, honor student, and had been approved to graduate early in order to enlist in the US Army. Since his death many people have said, “I never thought it would be him”. Thomas was compassionate and would do what he could to help others while hiding his own pain. At his funeral service, we had shadow boxes for people to write down memories/thoughts and place in the boxes. Here are a few of the things people had written:
● “Everytime I saw him he was always so joyful”
● “He would do anything to make other people smile”
● “He had a wonderful influence on others”
● “Helped me out one day when being bullied”
● “He knew how to put a smile on anyone’s face”
● “His smile was the highlight of the day”
● “Helped me get through alot of things”
● “His contagious smile”
Thomas LOVED Christmas, he had his own Christims tree in his bedroom. Thomas also loved kids and had talked about wanting to become a dad in the future. He definitely would have been the uncle that would have spoiled his nephew,Ezra, like crazy.
Mental illness and suicidal thoughts and behaviors do not discriminate. It can happen to anyone. For that reason, and for my son, it has become my life’s mission to change the face of suicide and break the stigma.
During his funeral service the hashtag “LIVEFORTHOMAS” took hold and has become the slogan for suicide prevention and awareness in his honor. Thomas’s sister and I have since taken that hashtag and established the LIVEFORTHOMAS Foundation to continue Thomas’s legacy and to help others. The purpose of the LIVEFORTHOMAS Foundation, a non-profit organization, is to promote suicide prevention & awareness and break the stigma regarding mental health through a variety of activities in addition to providing scholarships to Cecil County Seniors.
Follow us on Facebook: LiveForThomas
Website coming soon.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15-19 years.
The following information is from www.mayoclinic.org
What are the risk factors for teen suicide?
A teen might feel suicidal due to certain life circumstances such as:
● Having a psychiatric disorder, including depression
● Loss of or conflict with close friends or family members
● History of physical or sexual abuse or exposure to violence
● Problems with alcohol or drugs
● Physical or medical issues, for example, becoming pregnant or having a sexually transmitted infection
● Being the victim of bullying
● Being uncertain of sexual orientation
● Exposure to the suicide of a family member or friend
● Being adopted
● Family history of mood disorder or suicidal behavior
What are the warning signs that a teen might be suicidal?
Warning signs of teen suicide might include:
● Talking or writing about suicide — for example, making statements such as "I'm going to kill myself," or "I won't be a problem for you much longer"
● Withdrawing from social contact
● Having mood swings
● Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
● Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
● Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
● Doing risky or self-destructive things
● Giving away belongings when there is no other logical explanation for why this is being done
● Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
What should I do if I suspect my teen is suicidal?
If you think your teen is in immediate danger, call 911, your local emergency number or a suicide hotline number — such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) in the United States.
If you suspect that your teen might be thinking about suicide, talk to him or her immediately. Don't be afraid to use the word "suicide." Talking about suicide won't plant ideas in your teen's head.
Ask your teen to talk about his or her feelings and listen. Don't dismiss his or her problems. Instead, reassure your teen of your love. Remind your teen that he or she can work through whatever is going on — and that you're willing to help.
Also, seek medical help for your teen. Ask your teen's doctor to guide you. Teens who are feeling suicidal usually need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist experienced in diagnosing and treating children with mental health problems.
The doctor will want to get an accurate picture of what's going on from a variety of sources, such as the teen, parents or guardians, other people close to the teen, school reports, and previous medical or psychiatric evaluations.
● American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org
● National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
● Text “TALK” to 741741
● Maryland Crisis Line Hotline: 1 (800) 422-0009
● Cecil County Mobile Crisis: (410) 996-5550
● The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center: (410) 874-0711