“Mom died this morning. She killed herself.” I can still hear these soft, gentle words that my dad spoke in my ear when he called me the morning of Saturday, January 5, 2008. I was eighteen-years-old, a freshman in college, and on my way to the campus library to get some studying done. But when I heard these words, I stopped in my tracks. For a second, for a moment, I hoped — I wanted to believe — that he was kidding. This had to be a joke, right? My mother would commit suicide. My mother would never leave me. My mother was many things, but she was faithful and loyal.
“What!” I said, the words the echoing in my head as my heart started to beat loudly. What was happening? Was I dreaming?
Once he confirmed that I was not, in fact, dreaming, I stood still, looking up at the blue sky. It was a beautiful sunny day, I remember clearly, but at the same time, it was not a beautiful day. Suddenly, I felt alone. I felt as if I was the only person alive, just me against the world, as memories of my mom came flooding back to me. I remembered that last moment when I saw my mom after winter vacation as my parents dropped me off at school. I remember those last few weeks, the laughs and the good times that we shared. She was not depressed. She could not have killed herself.
But she did. It happened.
It has been ten years since my mother killed herself. Since then, I have had to live for ten years without a mother. Since then, I have had to come to terms with why she died. I have had to not only deal with the grief but also to accept what happened, and even forgive her.
This is the big difference between dying of suicide and natural causes. When your family member or friend dies because of cancer or some other terminal illness, it is, however sad, expected. You might even feel relief that your family or friend is no longer in pain. You might even be glad for this because it means that they can now rest in peace.
But when a person dies of suicide, it raises a whole host of questions. The big question is WHY. Usually, people do not expect this to happen. Weeks before someone tries to kill themselves, they do not tell anyone what is going through their minds. They do not confide in anyone the bitter and horrible feelings that they are experiencing. Instead, these negative thoughts begin to spiral around until it is too late. At that point, they just don’t know what to do. They just want to do something, anything, that can stop the pain and bring them some peace. Unfortunately, they resort to killing themselves. Because they see it as the only way out.
Putting the Spotlight on Suicide
But it is not the only way out. So, what can we do to help them? What can we do to stop people from taking this tragic step at ending their lives?
We need to raise awareness of how important it is to just know and recognize when someone is not feeling so good about their life. We need to reach out a helping hand and talk to them. We need to let them know that we are listening. We need to tell them that it is okay. We need to tell them that everything will be okay. We need to reassure them.
We also need to help them figure out how to make their life better. Usually, people who are in such a bad place that they are willing to end their lives just don’t know where to go next. So, we need to point them in the right direction. This often means that we need to not only listen but offer advice. We can also get them to see a trained professional who is more than willing to help them get past these issues. A trained professional can help them not only figure out what the problem is, but teach them how to solve the problem.
At the same time, they have to be willing to get help. They have to be willing to let us help them. Otherwise, they will keep going down that negative path and that is not good for anyone.
I wish that my mother had gotten help in time. I wish that she had told me what was wrong. I wish that she had told me what she was going to do so I could have tried to stop her. I wish for all of these things and more. But this is one wish that I can never get.
Because of what she did, she missed so many things that I wish she had been a part of. I wish she had been there to see me graduate from college. I wish she had been there to see me get my first job. I wish she had been there to hold my hand when my daughter was born. I wish she was here now, so she could see how I am doing.
September 9 – 15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. This week is dedicated to raising awareness of suicide. National Suicide Prevention Week seeks to help prevent suicide. It is always tragic when someone dies — let alone when someone takes their own life. When someone reaches the point of suicide, they feel as if there is no turning back. They feel as if they don’t know how to go forward.
But the thing is, no matter what obstacle, no matter what happens, it can be overcome. What they need are support and comfort. They need to feel as if they are validated and respected. They need to feel as if their life is worth living. Because it is. Everyone’s life is worth living. That is why we need to raise awareness and help prevent suicide at home, at school, in the workplace, on the streets, wherever.
This starts with everyone. It starts with us. It can start with you.