Grief has been a companion of Leanne Tressler for much of the past four years.
But, the mother of seven from Pleasant Grove is using her experiences to persuade, commune with and help others. Through her writing on social media posts, which have been shared hundreds of times, Tressler hopes to ensure that others do not experience the pain that she and her children have.
Four years ago, Tressler’s husband died by suicide after 15 years of marriage. Spencer Tressler had been struggling with emotional issues and a combination of medications for a medical complication may have exacerbated these issues, according to Tressler.
At the time of his death, the couple had seven children, ranging in age from four months to 13 years. “Everyone struggled in their own way,” Tressler said. However, her oldest son, Kaden, seemed to have unique struggles because he suddenly felt responsible for the family.
“That’s probably the worst way to have your dad die,” Tressler said. “Kaden was a good boy. He wanted to fix the brokenness that his dad’s death left on the family.”
The weight of Kaden’s grief and feelings of responsibility for 3½ years led, at least in part, to him also dying by suicide on April 20. “The most recent turn in our family’s road has brought us to our knees…yet again,” Tressler wrote in a Facebook post on April 23.
“After Kaden, I have felt more compelled to bring more awareness to the fact that we all wear masks. We all struggle,” Tressler said. On the outside, it seemed that Kaden was happy and doing well, she said.
Tressler wants others to know that we all have struggles. “Reach out to people. We have a duty to our fellowmen. Be more aware of those who are struggling with depression, anxiety or sadness,” she said.
Holidays and the grieving
During the holiday season, those who are grieving can have an especially difficult time. “Everyone grieves for so many different reasons,” she said. Tressler hopes that people understand that it is OK if they do not feel up to going to parties. It is OK to simply take care of self and family.
“The world tends to focus on being cheery and festive. It can pull people down who are grieving. It’s OK to say that we’re not feeling that way this year,” she said.
“What a strange phenomenon it is that times meant to bring joy and excitement can bring depression and loneliness like a train running down the tracks,” Tressler wrote on Dec. 10. “Every year I see the smoke in the distance from the engine, feel the slight vibration on the ground from its massive frame steaming down the rails. I hear the rumbling and rhythm of its cars moving relentlessly closer. I feel it coming.”
Tressler wrote about the “train cars” of loss looking different to different people, different experiences and circumstances. But, whatever it is, others can help. “Show up on their platform. Don’t even need to speak. Just stand with them, shoulder to shoulder in an act of human solidarity to honor their meeting with the conductor,” she wrote.
Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay. Stay.
“Don’t deprive the world of your light. Keep it here,” Tressler wrote on Sept. 15. The word “stay” is weaved throughout her writing, letting the readers know that is what they should do. “He shouldn’t have died. My husband, his dad, shouldn’t have died. If you are thinking about suicide, call someone…today, right now.”
Tressler said that when people are having suicidal thoughts, they often think that their families will be better off without them. “I want people to see the effects, to watch how it affected my children. This is not something people get over. We’re not better off without them,” she said.
“My plea to parents is to not do this to your kids. Try all you can, as many therapists, as many vacations, whatever you can. You will alter your kids’ lives forever,” she said. “It affects their whole perception of themselves and their world. There are a lot of resources out there to keep you alive.”
“The pain you feel will be passed on. It does not leave with you. As the pain Spencer was hoping to leave behind was passed to Kaden, the pain that Kaden succumbed to is now passed on to Nate,” Tressler wrote on July 31, about her younger son, age 9.
Tressler said her posts are both therapeutic and challenging. “These are lessons that I’ve paid astronomical prices to learn,” she said. Also, she knows that they are helping others because of the messages that people send her. “It’s hard to put it out there. But after Kaden died, I knew that I wanted to spare others.”
The words of a grieving mother are being shared and read in the hopes that less people will have cause to grieve. “He was there…and then he was gone. He was warm and loud and hilarious and kind…and then it was quiet. He was my boy in the room across the hall…then he wasn’t. He was my boy who always said I love you before hanging up...and then the calls stopped.”