Today I am writing one of the saddest and most difficult articles I have ever written in my entire life – and it’s an extremely personal one!
This time last week started out as any normal Monday does – checking and replying to emails, writing upcoming articles to share with you girls (and guys) and just generally getting organised for the week ahead – that was before my whole world was turned upside down….never to be the same ever again!
About 2.15pm last Monday there was a knock on the door. When I answered, there were three (3) people in Army uniform standing there and they asked to come in. One of them introduced himself as a Chaplain (Padre). Immediately I knew! This was THE knock on the door that no mother ever wants to receive! One of them launched into the blurb….
“Mrs Thomas-Smith, we’re sorry to inform you that your son Alexander has passed away. We’re very sorry for your loss.”
My son, Alex is/was in the Australian Army and based in Brisbane – we (his family) live in Sydney. He was 23 years old. About 6 months ago we started to notice that he didn’t call home as often and didn’t return our calls to him. We knew that he was busy in his job and at that time, was spending quite a bit of time “out in the field” so we just put it down to that. Then started the admissions to the base hospital. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he was suffering from what everyone thought was mild depression.
Things weren’t getting any better and so 5 weeks ago, I managed to get him a weeks leave and brought him home to Sydney. He and I did the long drive from Queensland over 2 days and he slept most of the 12 hour trip. Clearly he was just EXHAUSTED from the stress of everything. While he was home we spent a lot of time talking about his situation and ways that he could cope better when he returned. We had a plan in place, a good healthy diet and a forward plan for the next 12 months which gave him something positive to look forward to and work towards. The following weekend we drove back to Queensland so he could return to work. I stayed on for a couple of days to make sure he was OK and then flew home on the Tuesday morning. That was the last time I saw my son.
It didn’t take long for his world to come crashing down again and within days I was getting phone calls from his house mates about his unusual behaviour. I spoke with his commanding officers and tried to get him another months leave so I could get him back here and get him the help he so badly needed. Sadly, they were not forthcoming and I was told that “he was a soldier, and they were not in the habit of negotiating with soldiers mothers.”
Four weeks later, my son was found dead at his home and no one knows how/why! They can find no clear reason for his sudden death, although it appears he DID NOT take his own life….well intentionally anyway! He was a bright, happy guy who just wanted to make everyone around him smile and laugh. God knows he made me smile and laugh lots and I will miss that the most. The photo of him above is EXACTLY who Alex Thomas was. That little guy who would jump out in front of you, or do something really random just to make people smile.
Our family is shocked to the very core, and as a mother I am dealing with my own set of emotions – disbelief, anger, extreme sadness, guilt and a whole lot more! Everyone copes with these situations in different ways and grieves in different ways, and we are no different. My ex husband, Alex’s 3 brothers and sisters, all of us are dealing with our own issues. I have my own “coping mechanism” – those little guys that lay dormant in your brain until needed, then they come out. At the moment, my little mechanisms are in over drive! I don’t cry a great deal, I don’t scream, I don’t melt down (well not yet anyway). I have quietly slipped into business mode. I have a funeral to arrange, people to contact, things to do – and most importantly I have to find out why my son is no longer here!
I have always been one of those people that wants to help others – that’s why I do what I do…but now that I have been confronted by this very personal tragedy, I’m sure that I will be an even better and more compassionate coach, mentor, friend and sounding board for others dealing with their own tragedies.
For the next couple of weeks, I am going to take some time out as we honour and farewell our “Little Dude” and I go through the process of dealing with his loss – but I will be back soon…I promise!
Until next time….