Mom turns to rock painting to cope with loss

TONEY, Ala. - People handle grief in different ways. And it's important not to paint yourself into a corner when dealing with loss.  We first met Kim Belle Isle painting with the Facebook group Rocket City Rocks. The reasons people join are as different as the rocks they paint and leave for others to find.

Kim found her first rock while on a walk with a friend. “He picked this up and said Oh, I think this is meant for you,” Kim told us. ”And it said hello on it.” She immediately thought of her son. Kim added, “You know, that Keagan was still looking out for me.”

Just like her only child, her “hello” rock is one of a kind. “Yes, it's the only rock I've found,” Kim said. And she doesn’t think it’s coincidental. “There’s been a lot of signs,” she said. There was a bracelet with a message in her son’s handwriting that says, “You're perfect in everything you do.” Keagan ordered it for his mom for Mother’s Day.

Fighting back tears, Kim said, “My son, you know, he committed suicide.” Keagan was fighting a battle. “Because of his autism, he was very, very literal. So he just stopped eating,” Kim said. He was only 17. “He had what they call acute onset anorexia,” Kim told us. “So he lost like 30 pounds in a month. And he was six-foot tall and goes down to 135 pounds.”

As Keagan struggled, his family battled too. Kim said the first time her son attempted suicide, “A neighbor found him and I am so thankful.” After treatment at two different facilities in North Carolina and Georgia, he came home to Toney. “They said you know, he was good. And like I had the most amazing birthday with him,” Kim said. “I mean, he started school. He made friends. I just felt like things were going good.”

That all changed April 5th of this year. “I got home from work and there were just empty pill bottles everywhere and he wouldn't answer his phone,” Kim recalled. “And his car was gone.” Keagan was nowhere to be found. “I mean, we looked everywhere for him,” she said. They finally found his body in Limestone County by the railroad tracks.

“I was really struggling and I didn't want to go out of the house or do anything,” Kim said. But getting out for a walk in a downtown Huntsville park with her friend and finding that “Hello” rock introduced her to hope. She joined the Facebook group and started painting rocks with inspirational messages to help others. “I did one that says time heals and I crossed out heals and I put helps,” she said.

It won’t bring back her son but it’s helping her cope with an unimaginable loss. And she’ll keep painting. “I will,” she said. “And I've looked around where I'm moving to and I don't see anything about rocks. So I might start something.” Her mission is to help bring hope to others. “Yeah, I think it'll be good,” Kim said. “And I’ll probably call it Keagan's Rocks.”

September is national suicide prevention awareness month. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers support 24-hours a day. Help is a phone call away at 1-800-273-8255.