I know the spot where LaShanda Armstrong drove into the river.  I pass it on my way to our South Street offices, and before Tuesday, it was a sight that cheered me.  Seeing the water, the boats, the bridge in the distance has always given me peace.  And yet, it beckoned this distraught mother as a way out.  Her photo in the local papers shows a happy mom, hugging her babies.  But we will never know the inner turmoil she felt when she closed the door at night, or had a moment to herself after dropping her kids off, before dashing off to a job, or a college class.  At 25, LaShanda had four children.  Four!  That means at 15, she was already a mother when other 15 year olds were thinking about school, college, anything else but making sure their baby was taken care of before taking care of themselves.  

Everything I’ve read about LaShanda tells me she was really trying.  Motherhood can be intensely difficult, especially when juggling a job and school.  She held on as much as she could.  Recently, I happened to come across this passage in the book, The Disappearing Girl, and I read how teenage girls, according to the author, “may stress the difficulties and disappointments of their relationships and forget, disconnect, or dissociate themselves from the experiences of love that continue….”   While LaShanda was in her twenties, she may have still fallen into that trap due to overwhelming responsibilities and a childhood that ended too soon: forgetting the people around her that love her, that would have taken the kids for the night, or just made a call to the Mental Health clinic on her behalf. 

If I could take one thing from this terrible, terrible event, I’d say to all those who have children in their lives, but without consistent and regular support or breaks, to set something in place NOW.  Find the closest confidant you have and just say to them, “Keep a watch out for me.  I may have a day I’m not thinking straight, and I’ll need for you to step in.”  And for all those confidants out there who accept this burden, bless you, for one day you just might save a life.    TTYL, mj

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