Have you considered the full effect of suicide? It goes far beyond the loss of one person’s life, potential, and dreams. The following guest post by our friend Rick offers another perspective.
When we look back at our lives to discover how we got to where we are today, we likely recall people, events, or days that shaped us and altered our plans or course. A small number we would call “life changing,” so dramatic, drastic, or horrific that we are forever changed. We can never be the same again.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013, will forever be such a day for me. That is the day that I became a suicide survivor, a loved one left behind when someone takes their own life. Tim and Debbie Bishop asked me to put into words what it is like for me as a suicide survivor. Here is my story.
When I left for work that day, I could see that Seth, my 18-year-old stepson, had not come home the night before; his truck wasn’t parked in front of the house. It was unusual that he wouldn’t have let us know if he was staying at a friend’s place. Yet, it was not unusual that I wouldn’t know of his plans, since our relationship was often contentious.
Alarm bells started going off in my mind later that morning when I spoke with my wife. She also did not know where Seth was. Text messages and phone calls to him were not getting a response. We decided that I would come home from work to try to locate him while my wife continued reaching out to friends who may have known where he was. Before I was able to pack up and head home, a receptionist came and found me. She said that some people needed to speak with me and that … no … it couldn’t wait until tomorrow.
As I walked down the hallway, I learned that the police were waiting for me. Since we hadn’t been able to locate Seth, my mind went in so many directions, but not to what had happened. Moments later, when state and local police detectives and two pastors from our church met me, I knew something was drastically wrong. I could see it in the pastors’ eyes. I was right; Seth had been found. Furthermore, I learned that he had apparently taken his own life.
Instantly, a flood of emotions and questions raced through me: disbelief, sorrow, horror, guilt; Why? Are you sure? How am I going to tell my wife and his mother, and his brother and sisters? … and anger. How could he do this?
I was shocked and ashamed at the anger I felt, but I have learned from my therapist that anger is actually a common and normal response. If someone kills a loved one, there is grieving and sorrow for the loved one and anger towards the perpetrator. With suicide, the one lost and the perpetrator are one and the same.
I also learned why two pastors were sent to meet with me. Someone had to drive me home, to the house that Seth had left the day before and would never return to again.
Meanwhile, Seth’s mother had dropped our younger kids off with friends while she was driving around trying to find him. I called her, not to tell her over the phone, while she was driving, what I had just learned, but to get her back to the house. I also started working on getting our other children back home.
I can’t tell you how long I was waiting for my wife to get home, because I have no idea, but I can tell you it felt like years. I wanted her home for support. Yet, I dreaded the moment she would arrive and ask me what was going on. I can’t adequately describe what it was like holding her and telling her that her oldest son was gone, that he had committed suicide. I am not sure if I was holding her so she wouldn’t collapse or so I wouldn’t. Our other children, Seth’s two older sisters, younger brother, and younger sister, arrived home shortly thereafter. We told them the horrific news and held each other as we cried.
Word got out quickly. We soon had a houseful of folks to support us, including some of Seth’s teen friends, many of whom would speak at his funeral. We cried, laughed, looked at pictures, and told stories about Seth as the reality of his suicide sank in. Much of the day still remains a blur, but so many of the details of it will never leave me.
Seth’s death touched so many that day. My family and I are not the only suicide survivors he left behind. I suspect each will never forget that day and can tell you where they were and how they heard the tragic news.
My story doesn’t end that day; it only begins there. The impact of that tragic day will be with me, my family, and many others for the rest of our lives. The suicide of a loved one is, without a doubt, a life-changing event, one I pray you never experience. Sixteen months have passed and the tears still come (I won’t tell you how many times I have had to step away from writing this tonight), questions still linger, and the emotional floods still come.
The work done by TheHopeLine to help so many young people struggling in so many ways gets many of them off the path towards taking their own life. Each of those teens’ stories of success and continued life also means many painful stories of surviving suicide–like mine, my family’s and Seth’s friends’–isn’t written. Please support TheHopeLine through Tim and Debbie Bishop’s TheHopeLine Tour of 2014.
Our thanks to Rick for his courage in sharing his very personal story in order to help others. If you would like to pledge support to TheHopeLine, please go to this webpage.