Throwing it All Away by Nina Owen

A high achieving young man brimming with genius and incredible promise shockingly succumbs to the devastation of depression and drug use. Starting with the day her son went missing, this is a true story of a mother’s indescribable anguish and the esoteric spiritual experiences she underwent after his death. In an authentic and unwavering voice, she imparts her son’s intimate story and offers real wisdom for others. Depression and suicide are ripping through communities in record numbers. Throwing It All Away gives an uninhibited look at one family’s struggle with suicidal ideation and the mystery of peace after death.

Throwing It All Away will be available on September 22 from Blissful Beings. Pre-order your copy now.

In advance of the release of her book, Nina Owen sat down with Laura Drummond for an exclusive interview. Learn more about Nina’s reasons for sharing her story below.

 

This story is so personal. What compelled you to share it with the world?

In February 2016, my 20-year-old son, Sam, ended his life. For a year, all I was able to do was to grieve. However, in early 2017, I became inspired to write this book after uncovering Sam’s writing—journals, school papers, and other documents. I believed that the story told from both Sam’s and my points of view could help those who were suffering from suicidal ideation. I felt compelled to share this with the world with the hope that by laying bare our struggles, the book would touch another person and perhaps prevent another suicide.

 

Reading Throwing It All Away can be heart-wrenching. What was the process like writing it and reliving one of the most difficult experiences of your life?

I have had people ask me if writing this book has been cathartic for me. The answer to that is yes and no. Now that the book is finished, I do feel a sort of catharsis; but, while I was in the midst of writing and rewriting, I felt sad almost every day. For over three years, the book went through many revisions and edits. Each time I wrote about our dark days of losing Sam, I would feel my loss poignantly.

 

Your son Sam passed away just four and a half years ago. How long after his passing did you feel a need to share his and your story with the world?

When Sam died, I had a friend who had also lost her son give me a piece of advice. She encouraged me to journal. When I started journaling, I had no plans to ever share what I wrote with others. I wrote to get the overwhelming emotions out of me, seeking a small amount of relief.

About a year after Sam’s death, I started to consider sharing our story. When Sam died I could not find any books that fit my situation, from a mother’s point of view. I wanted to know that someone else had felt this horror and yet survived. I knew there must be many people out there, especially moms, who could relate and be helped by such a book.

 

Do you think sharing this story has been part of your grief and healing process?

I write in my book, “Composing this memoir has deepened my knowledge of my son, which has only increased my appreciation of, pride in, and love for him. One thing this book did not do was to heal me from the loss of Sam.” That said, I do think the process of sharing my story has helped in my grief process. Besides suicide survivor meetings, I spent a great deal of time workshopping my book at various writers’ studios and conferences. I will say that each time I shared our heartbreaking tale, I was treated with empathy and understanding. At times, I just wanted someone to validate my feelings and sharing my story enabled that.

 

Can you talk a bit about your journey through healing and finding peace after your loss?

The days after we lost Sam, I, too, wanted to die. I could not imagine living with this devastation. But, I had my two daughters Maggie and Claire. They did not deserve to lose their mother along with their brother.

I sought professional help right away. I saw a clinical psychologist once every week during that first year. I also started seeing a psychiatrist. She prescribed and monitored me while taking antidepressants.

I attribute most of my healing to the love and support of my family and friends. I was surrounded by care during those first few months and that meant everything. I like to say that what a grieving person needs is for their friends and family to “just show up.” Showing up can manifest itself in a card sent, a walk shared, or a phone conversation.

It wasn’t until Sam began visiting me in my dreams that I began to feel any sense of peace. Those dreams were more like visitations and I knew from those that my son was thriving in the afterlife. And, that he loved me.

 

Why was it important to you to include Sam’s writing in this book?

Part of the reason for sharing his writing is that I thought Sam was a good, reflective writer. Even when he was documenting his depression and drug use, his written insight is stirring. My son had many gifts, but his writing voice was one tangible gift that he left behind. It felt selfish to not share his words.

 

What do you think Sam would think about the book?

I sincerely believe that Sam would be proud of me for writing this book. He was such an empathetic soul that I think he would be okay with me sharing our story. I know Sam would want to help others who are suffering from depression or suicidal loss. I like to think that he’s proud of me for completing the book.

 

What would you say to families who are currently struggling with depression or suicidal ideation?

I am not an expert on depression nor suicidal ideation. I am only an expert on my story. Everyone’s circumstances are different. What I would say to families is to seek the best help you can find as soon as you can. There are good and bad doctors and therapists and hospitals out there. Depression should no more be stigmatized than cancer. If your child had cancer, you would not be silent about it. You would actively get the best help out there. The same should be true for mental illnesses.

 

What about people in the midst of grief?

Grief is a precarious business. What helped me—seeing a clinical psychologist and then a psychiatrist—may not be right for others. The five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—do not neatly flow from one to the other and only last a set amount of time. Every griever has a different path. I would encourage anyone going through grief to talk to someone you feel will keep your confidence. It’s okay to say that you are mad at your loved one who died. That is a real emotion. Getting emotions out and feeling validated are key to healing.

 

In reading your book, what is something you hope people learn about suicide?

Suicide is not always planned and it can be impulsive. What I want people to learn is that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. If a suicidal person will just wait a day, a week, a month, those darkest thoughts and feelings will likely change. I also want to educate others about the permanent and never-ending pain felt by survivors of suicide. Parents, spouses, siblings, and friends will always feel cheated and sad that their loved one left this world prematurely.

 

Throwing It All Away will be available on September 22 from Blissful Beings. Pre-order your copy now.

Help us disrupt the Southern literary landscape.