CLEVELAND– There’s no word for a parent who loses a child. There is widow, orphan, widower, but no specific word to describe a parent without their child. Even harder to describe is losing a child by suicide.
“The very person who can answer all your questions isn’t here anymore and the person you want to yell at and say why did you do this, why didn’t you come to me, why didn’t you tell me? Isn’t here,” said Jane Lewins, a clinical social worker from Rocky River who lost her 18-year-old son Micah to suicide in 2011.
“I didn’t think he was depressed, I didn’t think he was anxious, I didn’t think he struggled, he was just a regular kid,” Lewins said.
Marie Black knows Lewin’s pain better than most. Black’s son Tyree took his own life when he was just 13-years-old.
“He was a dancer, a basketball player, a comedian, ladies’ man, charmer,” remembered Black. Both moms have five other children, both had to keep on living despite horrific grief, both are on a mission to stop suicide.
“So many people you never know of, all walks of life, who are dealing with this issue and I’m not afraid to deal with it,” Black explained.
Black started the 'Dancing for Life Tyree Black Organization,' and holds a praise dance fest every September to raise awareness for suicide prevention and honor her son.
“Illuminating all of his talents through the praise dance fest just seeing his pictures and the thought of dance and the thought that I am going to try and help someone who may be considering suicide,” Black said. Her mission to let other teens know that there is help available and that suicide is not the answer, keeps her going amidst the pain of losing her son.
This year the praise dance fest is on Saturday, September 29, at Williams Temple Church of God on Woodland Avenue in Cleveland. The event will highlight talking about suicide with monologues, performances and a panel discussion with local experts.
“We think there is no hope and no one to turn to and a lot of sadness takes over and people need an outlet they need resources and to know that there is help out there,” she said.
Jane Lewins also wants people to know there is help available and she’s letting them know one at a time in her office. Lewins took the grief of losing Micah and went back to work as a social worker.
“The kid that nobody, nobody would have thought would think about suicide, died. And so I wanted to know why? Why are we losing these kids and what are we not doing for them,” Lewins said.
As a clinical social worker Lewins helps people struggling with mental illness and suicide as well as the people around them who often don’t know what to do.
“Whatever the struggle is we need to say to them, I’m worried about you, are you thinking about suicide?”
As the president of the Ohio Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, she works to fundraise for suicide research, treatment and legislation.
Inside her office, she helps people deal with situations they feel are overwhelming.
“My work is helping that person and the people around them figure out how do we reduce the stress? How do we douse the flames that are causing so much stress for a person?” she explained.
Lewins tells some of the people she counsels who are in crisis to not be afraid to ask for help, let go of what they can’t control, learn stress-reducing strategies and live in the present.
“If you can put a space between the thought of suicide and the action, we can save a life,” she said.
If you or someone you know might be at risk of suicide, here are ways to help:
Call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people in suicidal crisis or distress.
You can learn more about its services here, including its guide on what to do if you see suicidal language on social media. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone about how you can help a person in crisis. Call 1-866-488-7386 for the TrevorLifeline, a suicide prevention counseling service for the LGBTQ community.
Text HOME to 741741 to have a confidential text conversation with a trained crisis counselor from Crisis Text Line. Counselors are available 24/7. You can learn more about how their texting service works here.
For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454. For support outside of the US, a worldwide directory of resources and international hotlines is provided by the International Association for Suicide Prevention. You can also turn to Befrienders Worldwide.