Still here – old memories and feelings of guilt

I received a surprise Facebook private message two mornings ago that brought up a lot of old memories of our deceased son Paul and many old feelings of guilt about what I could have done to save him. Even though he’s been gone from our lives for almost eighteen years, those things can come up without warning any time of day or night.

The note, I’m sure, didn’t intend to promote those old feelings. It was a lovely compliment about my book and how my book will help the writer with her work as a therapist. However, when I read it at four in the morning, I was through sleeping for the rest of the night.

Here’s the message I received from a young woman who was in Paul’s high school class at Crossroads in Santa Monica. I don’t remember ever meeting her until she asked me to be her Facebook friend a few weeks ago.

“For seven years Leaving the Hall Light On was on my Amazon wish list because I graduated from Crossroads with Paul. When we found out at our reunion that he had died from suicide, many of us were shocked and saddened by the news. He was so talented and while you say isolated, he was a strong presence in our class of 1989.

We did not know the Paul with Bipolar DO. It would have been great if the class was made more aware of Paul’s illness to see if any of us could help. We were a very close class. That being said, I am now a therapist and worked at Didi Hirsch and am so glad you attended their grief group and work on erasing the stigma. That is something I feel strongly about as well.

I am now working at Vista Del Mar and yesterday had to dx a 15-year-old girl with Bipolar II and felt devastated for her and her family. Today I had to place a 15-year-old girl on a 5150 hold because she had a plan, means, and intent to kill herself. It’s been a rough couple of days. However, after finishing your book tonight, I know that I can help the girl and her family process her Bipolar II dx and get her hopefully on the correct meds.

I want to thank you for writing this book and for allowing me into Paul’s life after high school. I could tell the book helped you process the grief and this will in turn help me help other parents who are experiencing an indescribable grief….”

The part that stated, “It would have been great if the class was made more aware of Paul’s illness to see if any of us could help. We were a very close class,”  broke my heart. If only I had known how his classmates related to him; if only I had known how to contact them. He  reached out to one high school classmate that I know of – a young man we saw a lot of during their high school days and afterward, Martin. And Martin is still in our lives now.

Like I’ve told others who mourn their loved ones, our grief never goes away. We move on and live our lives the best we can, but we can never erase those old memories (nor would I want to) and feelings of guilt.

What about you?



  1. Kurt huebsch says

    Hello my name is Kurt huebsch. I just realized that Paul passed. So sorry for your loss. I was a roommate of Paul’s in Music School. Such a talented pianist, and individualistic soul.

    • Madeline Sharples says

      Thank you for your note, Kurt. We miss him terribly even after twenty years. I hope your music career is going well.

Speak Your Mind