In 2001 my life changed forever and honestly, it feels like just yesterday that my mom took her own life. I remember it like it was yesterday;
January 4, 2001. I yelled at my mom that morning before school and slammed the car door and walked to the playground without looking back at her. At 10 years old, I didn’t think it would be the last conversation we had. Today I’d give anything to look back at her.
My grandfather picked me up after school and and I knew something wasn’t right, his silence and tears on the way home were enough to confirm it. We pulled up and my house was swarmed with police and ambulances and my grandfather lost it and looked at me and said, “ I’m so sorry and I love you.” I jumped out of his car and ran into my dad’s arms and all I heard was “kid she’s gone” and a man I’ve never seen shed a tear was brought to his knees. I attempted to rush into my house and at that moment a stretcher with a black bag on it came rolling thru my front door. It was mom; I didn’t know it then, but I know it today. It was the longest night of my life. School was never the same, my friends didn’t know how to act around me, adults whispering about it, and nearly everyone saying to each other, “how long will she last?” I was numb and cold for years, my poor father had to raise a tiny human terror until I was 13. I spent years chasing her, chasing death, destroying everyone around me because there were no answers; I came up empty handed every single time. It made no sense why beautiful, blue eyed, calming, compassionate, loving mom would do this.
At 13 my brother and sister took me to the outdoor basketball courts and said, “do you remember how to use this?” (As they handed me a basketball). I shrugged and thought that’s silly I’ve played this sport my whole life (up until mom left me). We must’ve played out there for hours, and that night something in me changed. I wasn’t gonna be the kid whose mom shot herself anymore. I went to her grave the next day and I told her, ( i wrote it on the back of her obituary) “I’ll never understand why this has to be our relationship now, me talking to a rock, but I’ll come back to your stupid rock as much as I can for the rest of my life and I promise to love you even when I’m angry at you. I promise to make you proud, always work hard and carry you with me wherever I go, but I’m done chasing your death and I hope that if you’re listening you understand why. I love you mom and I’ll always be your perfect fan.”
I went on to play college basketball which allowed me to travel all over the United States, I speak to high school students about surviving suicide and suicide prevention, I am a nuclear mechanic government employee who builds submarines and carriers for the navy, I have failed a thousand times it only drives me to be better, and I have been blessed beyond measure all because I chose to stay – pretty incredible, huh? I don’t have the answers for any survivors reading this, but I do have words to share that remind me why I’m okay or when I have bad days that may help you….
Years 1 and 2 are the same as years 15 and 16. I’m not sure if it ever gets easier The aftermath of a loved one’s suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. The suicide of someone you care about is a devastating tragedy. It happens in the best of families and to the best of people, shattering the lives of the shocked survivors. Time has no bearing on how or when you heal from it. I spent many years angry at a woman whom I’m supposed to love thru everything. Recovery from suicide of someone close is a monumental task, for the process of mending a broken heart is painful and slow. The road to recovery requires you to accept your feelings, to draw from your inner resources, and to develop positive attitudes toward the past, present, and future. There’s no answer for your broken heart but there are ways to get you thru. Learn to live with the unanswered questions, allow time for bad memories, acknowledge your feelings of anger, and turn your anger into forgiveness. Suicide leaves deep scars on the survivors. But there is no turning back. You cannot change what had happened. You can, however, change your outlook‐ from backward to forward, from death to life..
September is suicide prevention month, be kind to all humans and reach out even when you think their world is fine.
Story submitted by AJ.