In life, things happen that move us, grow us and shift our perspective. Then, there are things that completely rip the ground right out from under our feet, shake the very core of our soul and abruptly change our lives forever. Losing a loved one to suicide falls into the second category.
It’s life shattering.
You’re like a piece of glass being dropped on the floor, scattering into a million pieces. And as if that isn’t bad enough already, every time you try to pick the pieces back up and attempt to arrange them the right way, you’re only cut, scraped, and wounded by the sharp fragments.
November 20, 2015 will mark 7 years since I lost my dad to suicide. No, the wounds don’t heal; the pieces of me don’t fit back together the way they were, and they never will.
The hardest part is that he didn’t die from a sudden accident, or an incurable disease - he died from a choice, and because of that, now I had a choice to make too. I could let this keep me broken in pieces, or I could try to find a different way to put myself back together.
I did stay shattered for a while and learned that you can’t try to pick up your fragile glass pieces too soon. At first, I tried to jump back into normal life and pretend like everything was fine - which didn’t work so well. Slowly, I started to accept what life has given me, which I am still in the process of today. Then one day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post about a girl I was good friends with in elementary school that had gone missing. A few weeks later, they found her body in a river and concluded she had jumped off a bridge. That’s when it hit me that I could do something - that I had to do something.
It was that moment that motivated me to change my outlook on what happened. No one should be left unaware of the resources available to the point where they feel like suicide is their only way out of life’s hardships, and no one should ever feel shame or embarrassment for seeking out help for their mental health. I had a story and a voice and I became dedicated to using it.
It took everything in me to start talking about my dad’s death. When I first wrote the story on my blog, I cried writing every word and it took me days to work up the courage to hit “publish”. But it ended up being one of the best things I have ever done. I had so many people open up to me - telling me their stories. I was initiating a conversation that needs to be had. For the first time, I started to feel a fraction of peace within me since my dad has been gone.
I definitely don’t believe that my dad died so that I could have this voice and empower other people to talk about suicide. But, I do believe that I have the power to decide what I do with his death - to let it keep me broken, or to cultivate a purpose from it - which is exactly what I did, and what I’m still doing.
According to U.S.A. SUICIDE: 2013 OFFICIAL FINAL DATA, roughly 41,149 people commit suicide every year, which leaves roughly 1 in 65 Americans who have lost someone to suicide. Our biggest mistake is negligence. If you haven’t been impacted by a suicide loss, ask one or two of your friends. I can almost promise they have been.
Seriously sit down and talk to your friends. Communicate with everyone. We absolutely have to talk about mental health. We need to become aware of how many lives it affects. There are so many things we can’t prevent in this world, but we can 100% stop suicide. We don’t know when we’ll find a cure for cancer, or if we can ever create a vehicle that is so safe no one could die in an accident. However, if we commit to becoming more knowledgeable on mental health, if we learn the signs to look for, if we become aware of the resources out there, and if we are open to discovering how to truly help someone in a suicidal state, we can start preventing more suicides starting today.
I’ll leave you with this: You are important. Your life has a meaning, even if in some moments (or a lot of moments) you can’t see it. The world needs you, and everyone around you, in it. The best and the worst part about life is that everything is only temporary. Take care of yourself and do everything you need to do to survive during the hardships - remind yourself nothing lasts forever. Cherish the good times and soak in all the love, happiness, and lessons that you can - again, remind yourself these moments won’t last forever either. Most importantly, share your stories. Share what you’ve been through and the lessons you’ve learned. Change and awareness happens only when we expose the raw truths of our journeys to the world.
If you are in crisis, please call 800-273-TALK (8255). If you are worried that someone in your life is suicidal, call the same number and they will help you. For more information on suicide, prevention, and coping with a loss to suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a number of informative and helpful resources - https://www.afsp.org.