Her death still hurts, but it is better now

Paris Jackson, the 15-year-old daughter of the late singer Michael Jackson, cut her wrists and swallowed a bottle of pills June 6. As she recovers, one in six high school students will seriously consider ending their lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. Our daughter, Karla, was one of those young adults who found the pain of being human unbearable, and took her own life. What was it all about, and how can a parent bear it?

It was 10 years ago on a dreary, damp, overcast Monday, around 1 p.m. in a windowless, bare, cinder block room just large enough for a king-size bed, a bedroom converted from a storeroom in a vending machine repair shop, in an aging industrial section of the west end of Tulsa, Okla., that our 26-year-old, beautiful, charming, loving, occasionally brilliant, multitalented, bipolar daughter found a hidden .22 caliber rifle, propped it up between the bedspring and the mattress, rested it on her chest, reached down, pulled the trigger, probably with her right thumb, and died instantly as the bullet ripped through her body, severing her aorta with what the medical examiner later described as a “perforating contact gunshot wound of the chest.”

Our soul has been weeping ever since.

I miss her. Her mother and her twin brother miss her. We will always miss her. I want to always miss her. But I want to accept missing her. Someday I will. Her death still hurts, but it’s getting better now.

At first, grief emotions attacked from everywhere. There was anger in my oatmeal, regret in the trees in my neighbor’s backyard, depression drove my car to the grocery store, and frustration hijacked my dreams, my TV, treadmill and prayer. Continue reading


Tom Smith is president of the Karla Smith Foundation, supporting families affected by mental illness and suicide across the United States.

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