Wednesday, May 25, 2011

These Are My People

Each time I walk into one of our Survivors Of Suicide meetings, I am instantly comforted by all the faces I see but at the same time I am sad that these people have to be here too. Survivors Of Suicide is a support group for people who have lost someone they love to suicide. It's a place where people get what you are going through, because the rest of the world can't understand what the aftermath of this act does to the people left behind.

Our group meets twice a month. Sometimes I wish it was more frequent as you can't schedule the ups and downs of emotions that you experience when you lose someone to suicide. We started going to meetings 11 months after my father in law took his life. Our grief process was delayed by my pregnancy bed rest, car accident, and surgery so by the time Thanksgiving hit last year my husband simply couldn't bottle any more emotion. He was full. Every knook and cranny of his body had been filled with things he stuffed deep down inside so that he could take care of me and our kids. But now it was time to take care of him. The difference in him was immediate after our first meeting. He wasn't alone. He could finally feel what he was feeling and know that it was "normal".

The group is a God send in the sense that each person in that room has had that day. That day, that phone call, that fist in the gut, that moment where all of the blood rushes out of your body, the disbelief that this has happened. And each person in that room has also had every day since. They've been mad. They've blamed themselves. They've cried themselves to the point where no tears will come out. They've wished harder than they've ever wished before that they could have stopped it, made a phone call, stopped by the house, or that their loved one will take it back. These are my people. They get it. They understand in a way that other people can't. I didn't understand how suicide left its survivors shattered to pieces and living in a state of question for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately now I understand.

There is so much that I have learned by going to group. The first is not to carry the shame that suicide brings to its survivors. My father in law took his life January 23, 2010. I couldn't say out loud that it was suicide for over a year. I would say "He died tragically and unexpectedly." Which is the truth, but not the whole truth. You see, my father is law was an incredible man. One of the greatest I had ever met and that is evident in the man that my husband became. Finding out that he had committed suicide was a shock to our system. This isn't who he was. He was so much more. So after he died I felt like if I told people that he killed himself that it would be the only thing they thought about when I spoke of him. I liken it to the period at the end of his sentance. I was ashamed of the way he chose to die. But his last day should not erase the 6 decades of the amazing life he lived. And going to our S.O.S. meeting you hear this same story over and over again. These people had amazing hearts, put others before themselves, loved the people around them intensly, and were amazing fathers, mothers, sisters, wives, friends, uncles, etc.

I have learned that the stereo type of suicide doesn't apply to the majority of the people who take their lives. Society seems to think they know what suicidal people "Look" like. Moody, depressed, etc. That they are young, hormonal and misguieded. In reality most people who commit suicide get to do so because no one saw it coming and therefore couldn't do anything to "stop" it.

I have learned that no matter what they looked like on the outside, these people carried a pain that we can't relate to. They carry hurt and a loss of self worth that we can't understand. Take your deepest depression and magnify it. That's what they had been living with. Whether we knew it or not.

I have heard so many stories of loss in our meetings. There are so many ways that the people in our group have lost their loved ones. Some are in the way you would associate with a suicide (gun, rope, pills, jumping) and others are much more graphic and done to ensure that this will be it. That there's no turning back. These graphic deaths leave such amazing scars on the people left behind. I know for us, my father in law was missing for 3 days before police found him laying in the woods with a gun shot to the head. The thing that haunts me the most is that this beautiful, amazing man whom we all loved and cherished laid in the dirt and rain for 3 days. I can't get that out of my head. So I really can't imagine what some of these families endure daily at the idea of how their loved ones died in such a graphic manner.

Our meetings are filled with tears. Some tears are healing and some are angry. Most are empathetic as we listen to our fellow survivors. Empathy is why we come here. Empathy is what we can't get from anyone else. These are our people. They get it. They feel it. They know.

So I'm going to ask you to do something for us. For all the survivors. If you or someone you know is depressed or have considered suicide- please don't take it lightly. Get help. Be the difference. Visit the National Suicide Prevention web site or call them at 1-800-273-TALK
to speak with someone who understands. Every life is valuable.


  1. My sister's husband (Roger)'s younger brother Steve killed himself when he was a teenager. He fit the stereotype of young, moody, off and on drugs. But his death was intentional (he hung himself and left a note) and sadly it was mere weeks before Roger's birthday. Now the time of Roger's birthday is always clouded with this sadness.

    Sadly, my sister & her husband do not have kids by choice. Roger's mother PINES for grandchildren, and she will never have them (who knows if Steve had wanted kids though).

    It is so sad, and I never know what to say to Roger. I feel horrible.

    I am so sorry about your father-in-law. My thoughts are with you and your family, and especially your poor husband.


  2. I love you, my friend. I wish I had had a chance like this when I was 16 and found out my biological father had killed himself. I spoke to him only once in my life about 10 months prior to his suicide. He wanted to know me, finally. He wanted me to write, send pictures, come for a visit. I was so angry with him for waiting so long to reach out to me that I did not do any of it. The next I heard of him was from his sister saying he had committed suicide. TO THIS DAY, I wonder if I had only written, sent a photo, acquiesced to his his request in some way, maybe he'd still be alive. Maybe I wouldn't have tried to take my own life two months after him.

    Suicide is nothing to take lightly, and I am so glad you are finding support and encouragement through it all. I love you!

  3. Wow. What an excellent post.

    I have not had anyone close to my commit suicide, but I have known people around me to suffer such a loss.

    You are right, people don't get it. It kind of gets swept under the rug. People are just to uncomfortable to handle it.

    But people discussing it as you have here, helps. I know it helps me understand a bit more anyway.

    I wish peace to you and your family.

  4. A truly beautiful post. You brought tears to my eyes. My older brother killed himself...gosh, 16 years ago. I don't think it ever leaves you, but I'm so glad there are groups out there to help the ones they leave behind. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. Just found out my real dad killed himself and didn't die in a car crash. I realise now why my family get so emotional when I ask about him, he died when I was a couple months old so I didn't know him, I'm 21 one now. Scary because I don't want to do what he did and I wonder why he did it now did my mom and I do something wrong?

  6. It's ms.chessnudt from BB2G. It never really gets better - I hate to say that, but it's true. It gets different and more manageable and we gain the knowledge and the wisdom that we would trade in a hot second for our loved ones to have stayed alive, but so it is and we have responsibilities, in a sort of way, to teach and destigmatize and be free so that other survivors may also be free. I love my SOS group, I'm so glad to see that you guys get comfort from yours, too.
    I'm holding your family and your father-in-law in my heart: I'm sorry for his pain, and for the pain his death brought your family. Stay in touch - honest.