I know it is now October but this is something I have been writing over and over for a while. September is National Suicide Prevention month. I am a suicide survivor, not because I have attempted suicide, but because my family and I have survived the aftermath of a loved one who committed suicide. So because of this, every month, and every day, feels like suicide awareness to me. The last few months of every year are difficult for me; September- because I want to write something about awareness and help lead an openness about suicide, October- because it was the day before Halloween that I lost my brother, November- because this is his birthday month, and December- because Christmas the year before he died was the last time I saw him. Every year I think of him and want to write and help share my perspective about suicide and open people up to begin talking about it more, but every year I stop half way through because it is too painful to write.
This year it will be 8 years since my brother Jeff passed away. I wish I could say it is easier today than 8 years ago but it isn’t, suicide doesn’t work within the normal parameters of grief. There are so many questions, guilt, knowledge that it was their choice and anger, then guilt again, bargaining thinking maybe they made a mistake and it wasn’t him; but for me I feel there is never acceptance.
For me, after my brother died, I felt I was granted a glimpse of how my brother felt and others feel when they are so depressed and alone, and feel afraid to talk to someone about their thoughts. Normally the social etiquette when a person dies is the community around the grieving family brings food, flowers, and offers of help and support. When I told friends and people from our church that my brother had died and committed suicide, no one brought us meals, or even offered us support; in fact people stopped talking to me altogether. Even a pastor at our church only talked to me for about a half hour and then never spoke to me again. I was so angry because of this and lost faith in people. I felt so alone and ashamed to talk about my brother and how he died. I realized how this would be all the more difficult for someone so depressed and thinking about suicide to find someone to open up to about their feelings.
I have realized over the last 8 years that many people are afraid to talk about suicide. They know someone or think they know someone who is depressed and suicidal and think if they bring it up to them it might make them put real consideration into going through with it. But I guarantee you the thought is already there and if you don’t bring it up there is no helping them. When you don’t talk to people about suicide, the person who is depressed is still thinking about it and coming up with countless reasons why they should follow through with it, but you never get to help them come up with countless ways for why they shouldn’t go through with it.
We need to be there for each other. We cannot do life alone! We need to let people know we are there to support each other, lend a hand when you feel too weak to go forward alone, bring laughter to a dark day, cry with each other when the tears need to fall, and love each other so we know there is always someone around to pick each other up when we fall. We never truly know how another person is feeling. Our automatic response when someone asks us “How are you doing?” is to reply with “we are fine”, but this is not always true. We are afraid to let people know our true feelings and what is happening in our lives. We are afraid to let others know we are not perfect and that sometimes we are falling apart. So we need to really listen to people and pay attention to others when we talk to them. We need to be aware of when to ask more questions, because sometimes people want to tell us what is going on and they need someone to talk to but they are afraid to come out and say it. People are afraid to burden others with their own problems because they know we all have problems of our own.
If we have family or friends who are struggling we should sit with them and let them talk, while we really listen. Listen with an open heart so we can hear what is being said so we can give them what they truly need. We should take time for each other and not rush when someone needs to talk and pay attention to our words. Make sure that instead of passing judgment we are showing mercy, instead of criticism we offer encouragement, and instead of voicing disapproval we are giving unconditional love. Realize that our words and actions are powerful and they can either build someone up or tear them down. Learn how to plant seeds of hope in someone who desperately needs hope.
I am not different from anyone else. Our lives get stressful and busy and there are times when we don’t want to stop and talk to someone that we know needs to talk, we are afraid it will take too much time away from our already over-booked schedule. However, 8 years ago I learned the importance of listening to my heart and hitting pause for someone to give them something that could have a life altering impact. I would give anything if I could have one more time to talk to my brother Jeff. I am not perfect and still at times say I am too busy for something; but I try each day to listen to my inner voice when it tells me to stop and talk to someone, insist on giving someone help who is struggling, give someone a hug or stop and pray with them. It is important to let others know they are not alone and with each other we can overcome anything.
Who has been on your heart or mind recently that you can call or stop by to visit? When you feel in your heart to do something for someone else, can you stop and do it without over thinking it or making excuses why you can’t? Find ways to give something to someone this week, someone who looks like they need a friend, a smile, or just someone to talk to and be there for them. If you are someone who is depressed, reach out to someone today!