It’s been nearly a decade since Dean and Nicole Williams’ son Kale died by suicide, but the family’s pain hasn’t gone away.
“It’s still hard,” Dean said.
“I sometimes feel angry with myself when I find myself happy because you miss him and you wish he was there.”
Nicole said, “Some days are good. Other days are very hard,” adding there’s not a day that goes by where they don’t think about him.
Kale died in 2013 when he was in Grade 12 at Notre Dame High School. His parents described him as an “energetic kid.”
“He had lots of friends and he loved hanging out with his friends. He was like most teenagers,” said Nicole.
“Probably the last kid you would’ve expected to have done what he did,” Dean added
The Williams have three other children, who are now 21, 23 and 28. Kale was the second-oldest child and would have been 27 years old today. Kale’s death was “traumatic” for his siblings, Dean said.
“There are five of us left and I think this has made us all closer. We went through it together and we still have a very supportive group of friends and family. We still celebrate his birthday like he’s here,” Dean said.
“The good days are better because you know where you’ve come from. We’ve got three other kids who need us to be happy and supportive, so you kind of fight through it and do what you can.”
In the wake of Kale’s death, the family received an outpouring of love from the community.
“People I hadn’t talked to since elementary school were reaching out. The community support was huge,” said Nicole.
Dean added, “Everybody was there to help.”
The Red Deer couple has shared their son’s story a number of times over the years because they want to help others.
“If we can help one family and save one kid, it’s worth all of the effort. That was the worst experience I can imagine. Nobody should have to go through that,” said Dean.
“You don’t ever think about losing your child. If we can bring more awareness to whatever it is that’s going on, that’s what we want to do. That year (2013) there were a lot kids who passed away, I think five or six - all boys,” Nicole noted.
Nicole said it’s important families “keep communication open” with each other.
“I know kids don’t like talking to their parents all of the time. But as parents, we should … ask and check, and it’s important for kids to check on their friends. If something seems a little weird for a couple of days, it might be an indication,” she said.
“There was only a couple of days where Kale was just kind of sad before (his death).”
Dean added, “We knew he was sad for those couple of days, but we figured everyone has those good and bad days.
“With his personality and the way he was, and his relationship with us and his friends, we didn’t think there was anything terribly wrong. We thought he was maybe just having a bad day.”
You don’t always see the signs of someone struggling with their mental health, Dean added.
“It’s really hard to diagnose. Even if you think there’s a problem, it’s hard to focus on what the proper help is,” he said.
”If you break your arm in an accident, you go to the hospital to get your arm fixed, but if you’re suffering from mental health issues, what do you do? There’s not a clear answer with how to deal with it.”