|THE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
After the publication her story, Sara Fritz answered questions from readers about her family. Here are the questions along with Sara's answers:
Question: I am sorry for your loss. I couldn't help but notice a very crucial statement in your story at which all parents should take a deeper look: "... our hopes that he might become a doctor were dashed...." Isn't 4th grade a bit young to put such pressures on a child? I can't help but notice that parents are continuing to do this, even at earlier ages.
Sara Fritz: Actually, I was making what I thought was a wry, little joke about Dan not being a doctor. I never thought that he would be a doctor. I just figured that flunking health might foreclose that option. I never told Dan what I wanted him to be, but I was hoping he would become a minister. He loved going to church and helping other people. Sara Fritz
Question: I have a 15 year old daughter who is currently in a residential treatment program. After reading your gut wrenching article, I immediately sent it to her therapist. The information in your story may help my little girl who has been diagnosed with ADHD and possible bi-polar issues. Your story is almost identical to the problems which face my daughter.
Sara Fritz: You are doing the right thing to help her as much as you can. You might also want to read one of those books I recommended. They are very enlightening.
Question: You didn't mention how your daughter Mary is dealing with her grief, and I fear for her mental health. If you simply left that part out of the story I apologize, but the lack of her reactions really stood out to me after reading your article.
Sara Fritz: I chose not to dwell on Mary's problems in my article because I wanted to protect her privacy. She has suffered deeply, and we have been careful not to penalize her for her brother's mistake. We try never to compare her to Daniel or restrict her freedom because we are afraid of losing her too. Although she is an independent teenager, she stays pretty close to her parents. We get strength from each other.
Question: How's the family doing now?
Sara Fritz: Even though my daughter is an independent-minded teenager, the three of us are close. Jim and I are better able to cope with our pain now. But Mary has not fully grieved the loss of her brother. The professionals say she will revisit this trauma at every developmental stage in her life. Sadly, her latest boyfriend who is depressed and suicidal. I fear she wants to help him to make up for what she could not do for her brother.
Question: My nephew recently took his life in Sept. 2003. I will be seeing his mom, my sister in law next week for the first time since this tragedy. I am really unsure of how to behave around the parents. We will be visiting for Thanksgiving and I am worried about the holiday atmosphere making her feel worse. Can you offer any suggestions?
Sara Fritz: Nothing you do will make her feel worse than she does already. So you don't need to walk on eggshells. The best thing you can do is show her you love her with hugs and kind words of support.
Question: As a nurse, I am curious about something that was not mentioned in the article. I worry about the diet of the children of today and wonder how much processed food vs. natural food Daniel ate. I don't know if a parental coalition has looked into the chemicals in our food in combination with the medications that are prescribed today or not.
Sara Fritz: I have never heard of such a study. For the most part, Daniel ate healthy meals and loved to drink milk. But all youngsters will eat junk food because they like it. I think parents should first explore the possible sideeffects of the medicine.
Question: Did Daniel leave a note -- anything to explain why he did what he did?
Sara Fritz: We got no note. We think his suicide was too impulsive for such preparation.
Question: Did any of the therapists consider the possibility of homosexuality. And if not, why not?
Sara Fritz: None of the therapists raised this subject. But I assume that Daniel, like most boys, was afraid of being gay. Two facts argue against homosexuality: (1) he was probably still too young to make that kind of self-determination, and (2) he seemed to have a crush on several girls in his class.