It is inspiring to see so many people – celebrities, politicians, everyday folks – speak up today on “Spirit Day” in support of gay teens, anti-bullying and suicide prevention. It breaks my heart to see so many young people taking own their lives because they see no other way out.
I lost my brother to suicide 353 days ago – I cannot believe that it has been nearly a year (an anniversary that I am dreading and will write more about later). While he was not a gay teen but rather a straight 32-year-old Ph.D. candidate with all the promise in the world, I hope that the emerging suicide prevention dialogue encourages people to speak up about depression, mental health issues and suicidal thoughts to remove the stigma and let people who are suffering – from children to the elderly, the lightest skin to the darkest, of any sexual orientation – reach out for help and talk about their challenges.
I guess there is no time like the present to share my story. So here goes – the much abbreviated version anyway.
My brother first attempted suicide in 2006 when he was 29. The call to let me know what happened came from him – and it was a shock not just to me, but to my entire family. Sure, he could be moody and have a temper, but I never saw him as depressed or bipolar or anything like that. He got the medical help (medication, therapy) that he needed. Life went on.
This attempt took place in Ithaca NY, where he was a Ph.D. student at Cornell University. Many of his friends, classmates and professors were aware of what had happened and provided him with a great support group. In addition, he was incredibly open and honest with everyone about how he was feeling, what he was going through etc. – his openness provided me with a sense of relief, and hope that if another problem arose he would reach out to his family and the strong support network, all who would be there to make sure he received the help that he needed.
One of the last times I spoke to my brother was around one of our birthdays in July 2009. When I asked how he was, he said he wasn’t doing well and had been in a “dark place”. We talked about it a bit, and although I was worried about him, I wasn’t alarmed as he had gone back to the doctor, was on some new medication, and was working through this latest challenge – his local support group was aware of what he was going through and trying to help him exit the dark and return to the light.
Unfortunately, he was never able to get out of that dark place, for reasons that only those with mental health issues can truly understand. Apparently he saw no other way out. While I know that deep down he wanted to live, I guess he felt that he just couldn’t continue living with his pain.
Whether or not there is a difference between people considering suicide due to mental health issues and/or due to the fact they don’t think they can continue living as they are (humiliated, heartbroken, struggling with sexual identity, whatever it may be) is irrelevant. What matters is that we need to remove the barriers to an open dialogue about suicide – not only for those who are considering suicide and don’t know how to ask for help, but also for the rest of us who may notice someone is down, sad, not like themselves. We need to reach out and talk about it.
I do not know if anyone could have saved my brother. Sure, maybe he could have been saved on Nov. 1, 2009, but part of me really thinks I would have received that call at some point – be it 6 months from then, 6 years, 20 years, whenever. But I hope that all of us will do everything that we can to save the next potential victim and support that person through medical recovery and beyond.
I am so sorry. My heart just aches for you.
I never would have made it through the past year without your and Linn’s support. Love you XOXO
I AM SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS,I KNOW EXACTLY HOW YOUR FEELING,MY21 YEAR OLD SON ALBERT, COMMITED SUICIDE ON DEC 30TH 2009,JUST FIVE DAYS AFTER CHRISTMAS,I DONT THINK I CAN EVER LOOK AT CHRISTMAS THE SAME AGAIN,I WAS VERY CLOSE TOO HIM AND I MISS HIM EVERY DAY,I FEEL SO GUILTY BECAUSE I DID NOT SEE THE SIGNS,BUT I KNOW THERE ISNT ANYTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT BUT TOO JUST GO ON WITH LIFE..
So true, Bill. If only it wasn’t so hard. “They” always say that the first year is the hardest … I look forward to the day when the anniversary is a distant memory and it’s easier to focus on and celebrate the life and the good times. My plan is to never acknowledge the anniversary again after year 1, instead celebrating the birthdays etc. There is more to my brother’s legacy that suicide. It will be difficult, but I think it will help.
I am sorry about both of your losses.. My husbnd of 15 years commited suicide on December 27th,2008. and passed on the 29th. The holidays are not an easy thing for me ormy boys, but we made the best o it last year, and we plan on doing the samethis year. Yes, the first year is hard. But I have com to realize that this year was more difficult hen last, because you are just trying to get thru the firsts and trying to fid the right ay o do thngs. I know that my situtation is a little different, but I am sure there were certain things that you did with your, son/brother. Please remember that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Something do get easier with time, some feelings get less and less, and things do get better. May the angels watch over you all!
Thanks, Brandy. Now that the first year has passed I look at it as, I can remember my brother in death, or life. Clearly the first year is painful, but now – I am choosing life and good memories. I just can’t live the rest of my life focused on how his ended. Easier said than done of course!
We’re very, very sorry for your loss! I’m glad that you are using this blog as an outlet for your grief, as well as a way to address the every day challenges and opportunities we face. I don’t know what afflicted your brother, but I do know that depression is the most misunderstood/misdiagnosed disease we face today. Many people suffer from it and don’t realize it… or won’t face up to it as they think it makes them weak or “different.” I know many. The lucky ones have a great network of professionals, family and friends who do their best to support and encourage, like your brother. But ultimately, these individuals still feel like they face life alone.
With love & support to you,
Ken & Lara
Thank you so much for your love and support XOXO
You are in my heart and am here for you anytime. May time accomplish what no words can do. Hugs.
XOXO thank you for your friendship
Your words are so true. I lost 2 children and a grandpa to suicide. I prefer to say, “They chose to die by suicide”, in lieu of “They committed suicide.” Committed ? no they Chose…..and your right, I often think it would not have mattered if my 17 yr. old daughter, chose to do it on Nov. 11, 2005 and my son on May 28, 2006, the time for them to choose their own death was inevitable. For some odd reason, I have never been angry with my 17 yr. old. She struggled with her sexual identity after the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a teacher, (female) at the age of 14. She was just a baby, and was impulsive since the time she was born. However, I do and still get angry with my 30 yr. old son. He left behind a 7 yr. old son that idolized him, and a wife that loved him. I also lost a 22 yr. old son in 2009. I will never know if he chose to die, or it was accidental. I do know he struggled so over the loss of his dad, (my husband) that was killed in a car accident in March of 2009, his brother and his sister. But, it really doesn’t matter. What matter’s is he too, is gone. They are all buried together, my husband, my 2 son’s and my daughter. Suicide is never an answer, but I don’t think at the time they are thinking of it that way……as your brother said, “they are in a dark place.” May they all RIP and we will all miss them terribly for the rest of our natural lives.
I am so sorry for the many losses that you have suffered. One of the things that unites many of us who are victims of things beyond our circumstance are, what do we want to define us? What will be our legacy? I hope that ours is not, “they had a tragedy”. Rather, something more along the lines of, how in spite of (or because of) life’s obstacles, we were able to grow, flourish, love and celebrate the best that life has to offer (as well as celebrate those lives that left us too soon), and hopefully leave the world a better place. All the best to you, Sherilyn.
Thanks Laura. You to. With my life, I feel as if I had taken a big plate, china glass. And I threw it onto the cement, and shattered it. Yet, I can still find a small piece that I can use, if even for crumbs, to make it through a second, minute, hour or day. People tell you it gets better with time. In a way, a small way, I can relate to that. However, time doesn’t heal it when it involves your child. Because with each passing mile stone, there is always I wonder what they would be doing today, I wonder what her baby would have looked like, would she have went on to college, who would she have married? It doesn’t get better, but it does get different. I feel like I live on a remote island, near the ocean itself, always so near. And I never know if a small tide is going to come in and if a Tidal Wave is impending. The Tidal Waves are hard, I have to brace myself. I have to find comfort in a friend, grandchild, or one of my remaining children. Or in a book or on the internet. This is one of those times. God Bless You All….RIP Kevin, Kelly and Cleve……
I am remembering Lucas again, almost a year after his passing. I don’t have the words to temper, even a little, what happened or why, nor do I have anything meaningful to say that might comfort you in your grief – an odd thing for a writer to admit, I suppose – but I can tell you that I remember your brother with great warmth and affection still, and with a deep respect for the man he was becoming even then. He had such a big heart, even when he was giving us all that mischievous grin. Lucas will always be much more than just that final act: even struggling with his own private darknesses and disappointments, his LIFE was so much greater. I feel honored to have known him, even for the brief time I did. God bless you and your family.
Thank you, Anne – not only for your kind recollections of Lucas, but also for all the support you’ve given this novice writer as I try to write about my healing process. I truly appreciate your support – and friendship.
I am so sorry about your loss. I can relate to your pain. I too lost my fiancee Jerry Trujillo, of 8yrs Jan. 25,2010. I have been on an emotional roller coaster ever since. I never imagined life without him. They say time heals pain, or lessens it, but it has almost been 9mos and it still feels just like it did when I first found out, and then there are days, when its not as bad. I too think sometimes, if it would have not have been that day, It would have been like you say 5 yrs later, 10 yrs later, for Jerry had these thoughts since we first got together, but then it would be okay, and we’d move on, and then we’d have another episode, yet I never thought he would complete this journey. Again, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
My thoughts are with you as well, Cynthia. We are both navigating that difficult first year – I hope we both ultimately remember and focus on the good memories vs. the bad.
I just want you to know that this tragedy has touched me deeply over the past year… I think because I also have one brother and can’t imagine losing him (despite the love-hate relationship that is typical of siblings). I think you’ve been really strong through all of this and am glad that you decided to start this blog to share your thoughts and feelings. I hope it helps bring peace and healing. Love, Karen
Thanks, Karen – as terrifying as it has been, writing (and sharing it!) has definitely helped. I really appreciate your love and support XOXO
Thank you so much for sharing on this post. I’ll be thinking about you over the next couple of days as you approach the 1 year mark of Lucas’ passing. I didn’t know him, but anytime someone commits suicide it saddens my soul so much.
My extended family has been impacted by depression, bi-polar and suicide attempts. It hasn’t always been easy, but after acceptance of the illness some of my family members have been able to manage it with therapy, coupled with medicine. Great blog!
Thanks again for sharing, darling!
Thanks so much, April. You may remember me at Cybertrust after his first attempt (Sept. 2006) how crazy everything was. Dealing with mental illness is not easy to navigate – just when you think everything is all right, life throws you a curveball.
XOXO miss you
Thanks Laura. I oftn wonder “why” I post these things. Because, it still hurts. And I still miss my family. I still ask “why” “why would you do that to me, to us?” “Didn’t you know I loved you so so much?” and all the questions each and everyone of us ask our loved ones who by their own choice died. Before their time. Yet, my husband, who did not, I am angry with him to….”Why wasn’t you driving more carefully that day?” “Why did we have to make that one stop, that would have changed the course of the day?” So, then I ask myself “Why do you write these things to people that don’t know you, don’t know what you are feeling, for they are just words written down in black and white.Like the face’s I talk to in the night now & in the mornings, in the evenings, at the cemetery. The pain goes deeper than that. There surely must be something to this, because alot of times when I am down, I search for other’s that feel in ways that I do. The dark side that my kids were facing, I have to look to the light side in order to make it. It’s a struggle. Sometimes, I want to give up, but know I could not do that just now at this time in my life. So, we look for the light side of life, and resist the dark side. Right? That consumed our loved ones. And they went towards the light.
I’m so very sorry for your loss. I have experienced the shock waves from suicide too and can relate to what you said – even if someone may have intervened on that particular day, the demons would have continued their plague.
Thanks Diane – you’re absolutely right. A friend of a friend just died of cancer, and was very open about how ready she was to go as her quality of life was so poor. Clearly for the mentally ill / depressed / bipolar, the feeling is somewhat similar – the thought of going on, suffering as they are, is unbearable.
Thanks so much for reaching out and your comment.
I am so sorry for your loss. My 21 year old son committed suicide on August 24, 2009. His birthday was October 26, and it’s still hard to beleive he’s not here. The suicide survivors are left with all the questions and no answers. This pain is the hardest part of life that I have had to deal with. I pray that we all will find some peace through this heartful of pain. May God bless each of you, and my prayers go out to all of you.
LaMarcus Meadows (son)
Thanks, Priscilla. I wish those contemplating suicide were aware that the pain they carry doesn’t go away – it’s only passed on, exponentially, to their loved ones. My thoughts are with you and your family, I hope you are able to embrace the good memories of your time with LaMarcus.
My daughter was diagnosed with bipolar this past year. She was first hospitalized last November for depression and suicide ideation. The doctors put her on an anti-depressant. It was working for a while and then she started to become more irritable as time went by. During the week of Christmas 2009, we wound up in the emergency room at ECMC as she was not doing too well. The evaluated her and sent her home. In early January 2010, things started to get worse. One night she became so agitated that she started to become violent. She wanted to take some pills and swallow them. I literally had to sit on her from doing this. Now understand that she was about 4 inches taller than me at the time. We decided that it would be a good idea for me to take her back down to the hospital. After several hours, they decided to admit her. She wound up on the children’s psychiatric floor for the next 4 weeks. She had been misdiagnosed. Due to our family history of depression and bi-polar disorder, the doctors were positive that she was showing signs of a mood disorder. However, they could not officially diagnose her with bi-polar. That came later on in the early spring when she started showing signs of mania. She has been in and out of the emergency room several times this year. She has stayed in the emergency room of the children’s psychiatric department in the Emergency Observation Bed area. It has been a tough year for us. We have seen her in so much pain. We will continue to fight for her life. I can tell you that she has a goal to become a psychiatric nurse for adolescents. There are not enough of compassionate nurses in that field. There are not enough child/adolescent psychiatrists either. Like I said, we are going to continue to fight and hopefully, just hopefully it will be enough.
Please know that we are here for you as well. Luke was just such an amazing person. I wished I could have seen more of him, but once he moved away, he did not come home too often. May G-D Bless you!!
Thank you Debbie – I am so sorry that you are experiencing this with your daughter. Please know I am thinking about you and your family. I hope your daughter has found some peace (as hard as the medication / medical experiences must be for her) and continues to focus on what’s next and how to help other adolescents in the future.