Eight years ago, I got a call no one wants to receive. Bittersweet, horrible news from my husband’s sister. A search party made up of friends and neighbors had finally managed to find her son (my nephew).
He was dead after taking his own life. For the first time since I met her (about twenty years ago), she asked me for help. I called my boss as it was a weekday, rushed home, packed quickly, and my family and I headed over. It’s a three hour drive normally for us to get there, but we must have made great time as she commented so many times on how she can’t believe we got there so quickly.
So many calls to make and things to do when someone dies, even more so when they suddenly take their own life. Calls to and from family, friends, neighbors, his trade school, local funeral homes, local pastors, police due to the nature of his death. I let her guide me. She would make some calls, and I would make others.
Her husband still had to work because of his job duties, combined with suddenly needing every little bit of extra money they could get. We listened to everyone’s perspective about the events leading up to his death.
He had stayed up, talking to his sister. He told her he was going for a walk late sometime around midnight on Friday, and had been missing ever since. He would often stay up late and go out for a smoke before bed. Something was not quite right this night though, as he had apparently left his cigarettes on the kitchen counter.
But the question of why remains. He called and talked to me for almost two hours before this all happened and I didn’t know it would be the last conversation I ever had with him. Did I say something that made him feel worse? Did I not say something that could have saved him? These are the impossible questions family and friends left behind ask themselves every day.
At the funeral, I was asked to do a reading. I tried, but
started crying so hard I couldn’t talk... until my husband joined me and held my hand and I got through it.
I hugged all of his friends that asked me. It was our thing. He would hug me, introduce me, and tell his friends they had to hug me because I liked hugs.
I went to an outside of the darkness suicide awareness walk that year. Two of his friends came, and one of mine. The four of us walked and talked and met others who had lost loved ones to suicide. There were so many people there. Whole families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, classmates, teachers, people from all walks of life there to remember those they had lost. It was beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. So many lives cut short and so many left behind to try to pick up the pieces and left wondering why.
I managed to get a job at a crisis like taking calls from people feeling suicidal that I did for almost six years. Losing that job due to lots of changes in my responsibilities was like losing my nephew all over again.
Grief is strange like that. It becomes your constant companion. Grief is always there like your friendly neighbor, who faithfully waives and telling you hello and yet it’s also like the neighbor who is cruel to you for absolutely no reason. Grief like deja vu, itching at the back of your mind like the chorus of a song stuck in your head. Grief like the thunder of a bad storm, loud and making it impossible to concentrate with quick flashes of a memory out of nowhere like the lightning. Grief is like a fall where you break your leg, making you frustrated and angry because now you’re hurt is brand new and fresh and agonizing. Grief is the diary you write in when you remember to, and then you see it in the corner of your eye as you’re leaving the house to go to work and you feel guilty because really you keep telling yourself you know it’s a great tool but when was the last time you wrote in it.
On twitter, I still give out hugs in memory of my nephew. Since his death, I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder. I was in therapy for almost three years. I got a certified emotional support animal (a cat) three years ago, and started taking anti-anxiety medication this year. Thanks to encouragement from my husband and also from friends on Twitter. No, I don’t want anyone to have to go through any of this, and so many people are struggling. If I can help just one person with resources or support then maybe just maybe my nephew’s death will start bringing some positive change in the world.
*If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 or go to the website for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website athttp://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgbecause YOU MATTER!!
If you or someone you know has lost a friend or family member to suicide, the Survivors of Suicide workbook at
is a great, free resource for support - although it does NOT take the place of bereavement counseling or grief support.