Most of us have that month or season of the year that is more difficult than others. For me it’s September. Thirteen years ago, on September 12. 2010 my fiancé, Billy died by suicide in our home. I found him and my life was forever changed. For years I was disassociated and walking through life like a robot just going through the motions. I never thought I would feel “normal” again. I struggled to understand why and blamed myself for not doing more. I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012, I suffered increasing issues with substance use and other mental health struggles. I too became suicidal. September being Suicide Awareness Month made it much more difficult since the reminders were everywhere.
My journey toward healing began in 2012 but it was not a straight road and I now know there is no prize at the end of this journey, there isn’t even a destination. Being at peace and helping others are gifts I’ve been given along the way but that took time, a lot of time and hard work. In 2014 on that same September day, my first grandchild was born. I initially struggled for some years with how to balance a terribly painful day in my memory and this new, beautiful blessing. I felt the universe had provided me a way to heal by understanding that there is a delicate balance in life of loss and gains. This new outlook allowed me the strength to keep going but my journey has not been easy. The first 8 years were some of the most difficult of my life. I needed to learn and understand that we humans are like onions, we must peel back the layers one by one in order to heal from our traumas. The hard work eventually paid off and with help from many avenues including therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), 12 Step Recovery, Loss Support groups, meditation and more I am in a better place of acceptance and understanding with my loss.
I also went back to school a few years ago so that I could help others who were suffering. I was able to co-facilitate a suicide loss support group this past spring at NAMI during an internship which was a pivotal point for me. It allowed me to see how far I had come in my own recovery. I feel very fortunate today to be able to share my experiences with suicide especially since I could barely discuss any of it for so long. I never imagined I would be in a position to help others suffering suicidal ideation or suicide loss but I am so grateful to be able to.
I’ve often been asked what I would have done differently had I known what I now do. This is a difficult question since there were so many passive attempts by Billy, I did honestly get to the point that I didn’t think he would actually do it; I became very desensitized to it. Billy had significant mental health struggles and I believe he was at war with his own mind most of the time. I believe he was just so tired of struggling with it. I think the most important lesson is that even if you don’t think someone will actually complete suicide, something significant is going on with passive attempts and threats to act on suicide. I would have been more pro-active about getting him help. I felt powerless often over his mental health and behaviors and I’m not sure if it would have changed anything, I’m not even sure I could have gotten him to agree to getting help but, I wish I had tried more. The fact is we cannot save everyone but we can try and many can and will be saved if we keep working towards ending the stigma and learning how to support those who are struggling.
There are many things we can do to help someone that may be having suicidal ideation. Talking about it is one of the most powerful ways to help remove the stigma surrounding suicide. One misconception is that talking about it leads to it. However, discussing suicide is one of the best ways to prevent it. Further, learning to talk about suicide openly and honestly, teaches kids how to talk about it and what to do if they suspect a friend needs help but also if they experience suicidal ideation themselves. Most of us have had thoughts of harming ourselves at one or more points in our lives but we are so afraid to talk about it. There is often a lot of shame tied to those thoughts so we mask them and pretend they were never there. When we share with others our own experiences it helps them feel less alone and can remove the shame attached to those feelings that we see as so negative.
My hope is that anyone reading this who is suffering and thinking about suicide knows that they are loved. Even when you feel no one cares, there are people who care and help is out there. To anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I hope that you too find peace in your journey toward healing even if it hasn’t yet begun. Remember, it is a journey not a destination. The healing takes place along the road not at the end of it.
Links to learn more and find support:
- Learn the warning signs Danger Signs | Suicide Prevention Services of America (spsamerica.org) and educate yourself regarding prevention.
- Take prevention trainings: visit Prevention Training | Suicide Prevention Services (spsamerica.org) to learn more ways to help prevent suicide.
If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal ideation or loss of someone to suicide:
The Suicide Prevention Services of America provides counseling, support groups, workshops, school outreach, depression screening, prevention training and a 24 hour hotline.
528 S. Batavia Avenue
Batavia, Illinois 60510
Suicide Prevention Services | United States | Support & Awareness (spsamerica.org)
Office Hours: M-F 8:30-4:30
Evenings & Weekends By Appointment Only
24/7 Hotline: 800-273-8255 or 988 or 630-482-9696
In Illinois, CARES line: 800-345-9049
National Text Line: Text HOME to 741741