This post came to me in a dream.
I don’t know whether it was simply my brain trying to process the unthinkable, or a message of comfort from the other side. Perhaps it was a bit of both.
I’ve sat on this for months, afraid to hit publish. However, this week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and I felt it was time.
We see reports of suicide every day in the news. Celebrities, terminally ill patients, children — each story tragic in its own right.
But we never imagine that suicide will hit our family.
Until it does.
Reading about a tragic suicide grips your heart and wrenches it, but you can look away. You can turn off the television, compartmentalize it in your mind, and move on. It’s how we humans survive: by separating ourselves from the “other.”
When it’s your loved one, you can’t “turn it off.” It’s always there. Little things remind you. A photo of a tropical beach transports you back to the last vacation you spent together. Christmas songs bring back the years of holiday traditions.
With suicide, there is no closure. There is always a “why” and a “what if.”
This is how suicide has impacted me personally, and what I wish I could say to my Uncle who left us all too soon.
A Letter to My Uncle
There is a hole in my heart.
You knew that we would miss you. Looking back, I now recognize the last words you spoke to me were actually your last goodbyes. You knew it. I didn’t.
What you didn’t know is just how much you would be missed, and by how many.
You were a constant in my life. My dear, sweet, quiet, quirky uncle. I was secretly elated when I discovered we shared a love of the music of Steve Winwood. I treasured our visits and our unpredictably random conversations. But did I show you enough that I loved you?
I feel now that I must have taken you for granted. Maybe we all did. We assumed that you knew how important you were to all of us.
I hope you knew.
I try to convince myself that I could not have changed things. And most likely I couldn’t have on my own, maybe none of us could.
But if you had only given any of us just a glimpse at the depths of your struggles, we would have tried. You would not have been a burden.
All of us would have done anything to keep you from going through this alone.
That is what is hardest to think about: how alone you must have felt. How alone you felt to make this choice. How alone you were when you left this earth.
That’s the part I can’t process. It’s as if my mind won’t let itself go there. It can’t.
It still doesn’t seem quite real, and I don’t think it will ever feel quite right.
Every family gathering will be tinged with sadness, as one of the cornerstones of our family is not there.
If I could say one more thing, it would be that your life mattered. It mattered to so many of us. It still does.
Actually, I would say this too,
I love you.
I don’t think I said that enough when I had the chance.
National Suicide Prevention Week is not the only time to talk about it
Suicide can happen in any family.
Depression and mental illness don’t discriminate, but for some reason they carry a stigma. There should be no shame in trying to heal our minds and our spirits, just as we would if our bodies were sick.
The first step is to talk about it, and that’s why I’m sharing my story. The more we bring to light, the more importance we place on mental health care, the more tragedies we can prevent.
Parents, talk to your kids.
Don’t wait for them to tell you there is a problem — that might be too late.
Our children need us to be their advocate, their support, and their strength as they learn to navigate this often-scary world.
Show them that they matter. Don’t assume that they know it.
The same goes for all of your loved ones. Don’t miss any opportunity to tell the people in your life how much they mean to you.
If you’re having thoughts of suicide, please don’t go through it alone.
Because you are never truly alone in this world. YOU matter. You matter to a lot more people than you could ever realize.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, or even for someone just to listen. Your family and friends would rather try to help you now than to pick up the pieces you’d leave behind.
If you’re scared or not ready to talk to your family, you can talk to a trained counselor at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at no cost ANY time of day, 7 days a week.
Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
But please, talk to someone. Your life matters.
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