Why We Need to Talk About Suicide
In 2004, I was newly separated, pregnant with my daughter and at a job I enjoyed with a morally corrupt boss that I hated.
But I was fine.
When I was 32 weeks pregnant, my father came for a visit. Dad lived two hours away from me, so having him show up suddenly for a visit wasn't unusual. In fact, I loved it. I'd wake up to the smells of breakfast cooking, coffee brewing and my Dad whistling happily to himself as he took over as caretaker in my house.
There was something very comforting about my Dad's presence in my house. My father was six feet tall and strong. So when he hugged me, he enveloped me. The feel of his embrace, the scent of his cologne, the unmistakable him-ness, could give me strength and faith that no matter what, I would always be okay.
My father loved me. My father was my friend. My father was a fabulous grandfather to his grandson. My father was my foundation. My rock. My stability.
And that morning, my father showed up and made breakfast. Blueberry muffins. He spent the morning talking to me and my son. He helped my son tie his shoes for school. I could hear them laughing and talking and whispering to each other as Dad helped his grandson fix his hair for school.
When it was time to leave, my son did not want to go. He wanted to stay home and spend the day with his grandpa. I remember saying to my son, "Come on, I'm taking you to school. Grandpa will be here when you get home."
My son hugged his Grandpa goodbye. His grandpa told him he loved him He told his grandson to have a great day.
I told my Dad I'd be back in about an hour. I needed to stop at the store before I came home. My Dad told me to be careful. He kissed me on my forehead and told me, "I really love you, kid. I'm glad I came to see you."
As I drove out of the driveway, I glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw my Dad taking out my trash and for one moment. One tiny moment, I thought to myself, "Maybe I can let my kid skip one day of school. We could all just spend a nice day together."
But, my son had a spelling test, and his gifted class that day and I didn't think he should miss those. I looked at my father in that mirror and I felt so good that he was there. I was so glad to have my father show up that week.
I remember thinking, "Time with Dad is just what I need."
It was early spring here. The morning was slightly chilly but the sun was shining brightly. The day was bright with promise. After dropping off my son and a quick stop at the store, I headed home.
I got out of the car and grabbed my few bags of groceries and went into the house. At 32 weeks pregnant, I had an awkward sense of balance, but I managed to get to the door in spite of the dog and that's when I thought, "What's the dog doing outside? She doesn't stay outside by herself."
I went inside to find that my father had killed himself.
Much of what happened that day after that is burned into my brain and I will never, ever forget it. Some things are gray and fuzzy and lost to the haze of my grief and I'll never remember them.
What I do know is that my world, my foundation, my entire sense of who I am was taken away in one moment by the one person who was supposed to keep me from ever feeling like that.
It's been six years, and I'm doing okay with it.
So why am I telling you this story?
Because this isn't just a story; it's about real people. This isn't a statistic; this is my father. The day my son was born, my dad wasn't able to be there. I can't remember why. But soon after we got home, he was there and this is the moment he held his first grandson for the first time. I believe my dad was cooing to him. But the obvious joy at having that boy makes this photo one of my most treasured memories. I wanted you to see it.
Because my Dad was a real person. He had a family, had an education, had a career. He existed.
Because suicide is bullshit. And its after effects last a lifetime. In our case? Two lifetimes. It has shaped who I am today and who my son is as well. In that one moment, my son and I became collateral damage in a war I didn't even know was raging.
Because if there is anyone here reading this who thinks that suicide will end pain needs to know that it causes a lifetime of pain. Pain, confusion and hurt.
Because no one wants to talk about it. When someone loses a loved one to an illness, an accident or at someone else's hand? People are there for them. They listen to them. They commiserate. They form a support for them that is so goddamn necessary to heal. For the ones left behind by suicide, it just isn't the same.
Suicide is a topic that no one wants to be connected to. They don't want to talk about it. They don't want to hear about it. It's not something that they want to believe can happen to you. They don't know what to say. They don't have the answers either, and that makes it difficult for them. It's uncomfortable for them, and it's easier to avoid the topic all together.
My father's suicide has made me the loneliest I have ever been. I've been isolated in so many ways because of it, that I don't know if I will ever not feel like I'm separated from everyone else again.
I could sit here and tell you all the ways this has changed me. All the ways I am stronger. All the ways I am scarred. About crying in absolute emotional pain and just wanting my dad when just weeks later, I gave birth to my daughter. About all the irrational fears I have. Someday, I may tell you about all of it.
Today, I tell you this story because this community is amazing. I read your stories and I am humbled by your courage, your tenacity and your amazing support for each other.
You have no idea how much it would have helped me in 2004, but I do.
I need you to know that if you have lost someone to suicide that it's time we start talking about it and making it okay to talk about it. We have to talk about it. It's okay for us to talk about it.
I need you to know that if you are thinking about killing yourself, my story is a very good example of what you will leave behind. By killing yourself, you will have caused more pain than you can imagine. Pain that will never go away. Please, please, don't do this to everyone in your family. Don't do this to your parents, children, and friends.
I need you to know that if you ever feel like anything will be better for anyone with you dead? Seek help. Because nothing gets better with suicide. Nothing.
I need you to know that I stopped believing that anyone would love me more than themselves. I don't know that I'll ever believe in that again. That a piece of me is broken from that day, lost forever. Those left behind by suicide don't ever really heal.
I need you to know that I am sharing my story because I trust you.
Thank you all for inspiring me.
Thank you for making this the community it is today.
Thank you for being here.