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December 30, 1996

Grieving parents learn to cope with dead kids

By Amanda Lehmert, Brian LaRue and Danielle Ouimet

Every parent thinks that they know their child better than anyone else. But what happens when they don't know enough to save his life?

Maria Torza and John Krupski's teenage son, Neil, was an outgoing, funny kid with a lot of friends, and seemingly normal teenage problems.

Then his mother found him soaking wet and limp in her car, overdosed on pills.

Four days later, with their son in a coma, his parents made the heartbreaking decision to take Neil off life support.

Years earlier, another mother who asked to remain anonymous thought  her son Jason (not his real name) seemed an average kid who loved his 
dog and his car. He just happened to have numerous health problems.

One morning she found him under a blanket.

``He had shot himself in the head,'' she said, ``You have no idea. You can't even imagine what he looked like.''

Torza, Krupski, and Jason's mother never saw their children's funerals in their future. 

Although Torza knew Neil was into drugs and depressed, she didn't realize the intensity of his problems. 

``They were masked by the fact that he was a teenager,'' she said. ``I didn't think he was so depressed to the point that he would take
his life.''

Krupski didn't anticipate a thing like this happening to his son, either.

``You never think of suicide,'' he said. ``Maybe he was reaching for help and he didn't realize he was going to end up where he is. He didn't 
think about what he was doing. He just did it.''

Jason's death came as a shock to his mother as well. She regrets not having identified her son's specific problems. 

``Some mothers are close [to their children] and kids don't want to upset their mothers,'' she said.

Losing a loved one is difficult to deal with, but having a child taken away by their own hands is particularly painful.

``Feelings hurt worse than a punch in the face for me. I hold onto the memories,'' said Neil's father.

After Neil's death, his mother felt guilty. To cope, Torza finds herself avoiding the issue completely.

"I spend a lot of my time trying not to think about it," she said.

Jason's mother dismissed grieving parents who drown in their own sorrow. ``You have to live with it, but you don't have to ... live in it.''

The deaths of their children left a void in the lives of these mourning parents.

``I feel like all the questions weren't answered,'' Krupski said. ``I feel like I was cheated out of a life with my son.''

Neil's mother agreed.

``There's a big emptiness inside me that just won't go away.''

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