After reading this heart-wrenching article,
This all-to-familar story brought me back to a time when I experienced the loss of a dear loved one to the lies and deception of suicide and untreated mental illness. I thought I’d share with you an essay I wrote for my Loss and Grief course during my MSW journey.
First of all, I can’t express enough my desire for anyone who is contemplating suicide that ending your gift of life is not the answer—help exists. If no one has told you, I want to remind you that you are valued, loved and special. You are not an island floating on your own without someone who cares. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of depression. I vividly remember the lies my mind would conjure up in order to convince me I was a worthless waste of space. Thankfully I am still alive to do my little bit to help others who may experience these thoughts and feelings. Mental illness is just as devastating as cancer and it can steal your loved one just as heart disease can ravage one’s body.
Here is a snippet of my essay with names and other identifiable information of people or places removed to protect identities.
November 7, 2004, is the day which transformed my reality forever; the day I lost my best friend, most humorous loved one. If his death were expected in some ways it may have been easier to confront; however, death to suicide is something I would not wish anyone to experience. For me his death caused a great deal of heartache and depression. Suicide, a type of death which leaves more questions than answers, more hurt than solace, and a trail of betrayal in its wake. Over the past 12 years I have experienced many different phases of grief—some easier than others.
It was an ordinary beautiful fall November day at University; one any 21-year-old college student probably would not recall. Imagine an exam at 2:00PM, a group study session at 4:00PM and dinner with wing mates at 6:00PM. I sure did not expect to be facing the biggest loss thus far in my life at 7:00PM. Multiple aspects of that day are forever imprinted on my mind. The unseasonably warm breeze of the day, the long walk it took me to get from my apartment to class, the phone call during lunch I had with my Mom and the numerous times I attempted to call home with no answer to talk with my loved one. So many albeit mundane tasks have now been magnified and framed into an unforgettable picture.
After my busy Monday, the clock struck 6:30PM and I was in my room preparing for the next day. After a quick dinner with friends I had to prepare for the week, put away items from my trip home from the weekend and study. Since midterms were fast approaching, I needed to partake in serious study strategies. While music played softly in the background, I veraciously was reading over an assignment for Methods class. The next thing I knew my cell phone was ringing. My first instinct was to ignore it since I had so much to do, however I decided against giving into my gut and took the call which transformed my forever
What I heard on the other end of the line will be entrenched on my memory for as long as I live., “He did it!” I began to feel my pulse quicken and my chest tighten. My first reaction was disbelief. What are they talking about? He did what? Then I tearfully heard pronounced those fateful words “He’s dead. He died.”
After taking a few minutes to process through the news I was given besides being stunned and shocked, the first emotion I recollect was anger. How could he have done this? Why did he leave us? What will I do now? I barely remember the ride home. What I vividly remember felt like this empty ache in my chest and stomach. I could not stop crying and at times screamed out of anger for the inevitable events I knew my family and I had to face. Thoughts of questions, accusations, anger and shame challenged to suffocate me. I assumed experiencing previous major losses would have prepared me for what was to come, however encountering suicide was in a realm of its own.
As I entered the front door, the silence was impenetrable; even our pets did not greet me with their usual incessant barking. Words did not or could not express the heavy cloak of grief we all now reluctantly wore. We gathered in the living room to talk, cry and do our best to comprehend what happened. As we went over our individual day before he died. We talked about the priest who immediately came over to bless his body before the hearse came to claim him.
Walking into the funeral home with its overly symphonic piped-in music and sweet sickening smell of flowers will forever be embedded in my memory. I still remember the over-sized comfy blue hoody I wore with the pocket in the front. It is still painful to revisit the memory of walking into the viewing room and seeing his body laid out. Feeling his cold hands and clammy skin brought reality crashing down onto me; he really was dead. Before he died he placed the rosary he always carried around his neck. All I could do was scream, cry and touch his cold stony face. Inside, this void of emptiness emerged which threatened to swallow me whole.
For me grappling with the aftermath of death by suicide was difficult to accept. I retreated into myself and fell into a deep depression and relapsed into anorexia numerous times.
Losing a loved one to suicide forever transformed the landscape of my life. I learned about the stigma of mental illness, experienced the shame of suicide by our society, and gained a deeper appreciation for my family and friends near and far. Death taught me about the inner strength I previously did not believe I possessed.
Although experiencing the loss of a loved one to suicide was an emotionally painful chapter in my life, after some reflection on my past decisions, I became bound and determined to learn something positive from this traumatic event. Despite going through a bout of serious depression and struggles with the eating disorder, I began to view my life from a different perspective. Gone were the days of living a carefree existence in which I primarily worried about my own concerns. Even though I had previously faced losses of family members both near and far, none were so close to home in such a violent manner. At first questioning my mortality was extremely uncomfortable, however, going through this process helped solidify my faith in God and the afterlife. Whether it was through journaling, conversations with close friends, creating playlists of favorite songs or random poems I would write about how I felt, the feelings of absolute despair slowly began to morph into a sense of a new normalcy. I knew each November I would always revisit those torturous memories, however, I knew I could not stay in that dark place for long. I also knew I could nnot ever put my loved ones through the hellish experience of taking my life no matter what lies depression attempted to feed me.
Suicide forever changed my viewpoint of how I want to live the precious life I have been given; I see each day as a gift which I attempt to enjoy to the fullest, and I encourage you to do the same.
Until next time,