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To the Survivor Who's Just Lost Someone to Suicide

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To the new Survivor of Suicide,

I was you. 

We will be Survivors for the rest of our lives, but in those first moments, everything is too raw to really understand what that means. So take a minute and breathe. Your life has just completely changed, but you will be OK.

The first person I called was a best friend, hoping she would tell me my boyfriend is probably fine behind that locked door to our back office. But she said she and her husband were on their way, and I needed to call 911. It’s OK if your first thought isn’t to call 911. What’s happening is  traumatic, and you’re in denial. You’re probably hoping the situation can be anything but what’s actually happening. Your first acceptance that you’re encountering a serious situation is tough, and it’s about to get tougher, but you will be OK.

“I’m sorry to say this, miss, but your husband — I mean your boyfriend is deceased.” When the statement finally comes, and your loved one’s death is confirmed, brace yourself for reactions you don’t expect. I was oddly silent. Maybe you’re hysterical. Nothing about the situation will be what you expect, but just remember to breathe. It might seem hard to believe in this moment, but trust me, you will be OK.

I walked outside to sit on my stoop, and a young officer followed and told me he’s not supposed to leave me alone. “When my friends show up, can you tell them?” I asked. It’s OK to ask for help. No matter what, you need to ask for help. It’s time to put humility aside and let people go out of their way for you. You need to heal, and eventually, you will be OK.

My friends arrived, and the officer pulled them aside. A gasp and suddenly there were arms around me. You will receive so many hugs in the coming days. A hug is someone physically telling you that you are loved. Don’t you ever forget that: You are loved and you will be OK.

My friend kept telling me when to breathe in and out. I’m pretty sure I would have forgotten if she wasn’t there. Basic things might seem hard for a while. If this happens, don’t be embarrassed. People love you and are sympathetic. If they can remind you how to do something simple and it’s successful, that’s something to celebrate. But maybe later. I know right now it seems like celebrations will never be possible again, but as time goes on, you’ll learn to love more and not get upset over the little things. You will be OK.

Another friend showed up. I handed her my phone and told her I didn’t want to see it for a few days. She needed to make The Call. I threw up. Staring at the concrete and vomit, I suddenly thought of some of his and my friends. Where were they all in that moment, blissfully unaware? I envied them. I gave her a few names, knowing others could help spread the word. The Call is not fun, so don’t do it if you don’t want to. Always ask for help when you need it. Keep yourself in a safe place so you will be OK.

I realized I still hadn’t cried yet. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. If you experience this, it’s OK. My therapist would later tell me that is normal during shock. You’re not broken, just hurt. The crying will come tomorrow, and every day for a long time. But crying is healthy, so you will be OK.

Over the next several hours and days, people from all over the country were suddenly here. I dreaded the thought that everyone would eventually go home again and leave me all alone. But know you are never alone. You are loved. There is always someone who loves you. I love you. You will be OK.

I am sad to say I had some scary thoughts in those first two days and am eternally grateful no one left me alone long enough for me to process those thoughts fully. Suicidal thoughts are normal in the aftermath of a suicide, but you must not believe any of it. You are valuable. You are loved. There is help. I know suicide is suddenly more real than it ever has been before, but please believe me, you will be OK.

Since his death I have learned a lot. I have healed a lot. I read some books on grief by survivors like us. Coloring books are also oddly therapeutic. Stick to the things you love to do. Focus on you. Ask a friend to help you find a therapist, and if you can, one that specializes in grief. Finding the right therapist can be tricky and may take some trial and error, but when you get there, it is so worth it! There are support groups for survivors like us. Other survivors and myself are living proof that life after the suicide of a loved one is possible. I will always miss him, but I am OK, just like you will be too.

For life after those first 48 hours, I made a blog.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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What a Coldplay Song Taught Me About My Father's Suicide

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Music has the power to evoke such strong emotion. It can touch upon our deepest sorrows and our greatest joys. It might be intertwined with a cherished memory, bringing us back to the past, no matter where we stand today. Music can be part of our truth, our narrative of life. It can frame the way we see the world around us.

When I first lost my father to suicide I felt like an open wound. The words to a song could be a source of comfort or deepen my sense of pain. If the song, “Fix You” by Coldplay came on the radio, it would unleash sadness so profound it was hard to breathe.

And the tears come streaming down your face

When you lose something you can’t replace

When you love someone, but it goes to waste

Could it be worse?

Those words spoke to my loss. They were a reflection of the abundance of tears I cried day in and day out. It felt like such a waste to lose my father in this way, to suicide. And I could hardly fathom a pain that would feel worse. It was as if a song written years before my father’s suicide, were somehow written just for me.

And then came the part of the song that exposed my deepest wound, the profound guilt that I carried.

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you

We, his family, were “home” for my father. He was tired. The suffering he felt as he fought a deep depression coupled with severe anxiety had most certainly reached in to his bones. “Bone weary” is the term that comes to mind when I think of how exhausted he must have felt. And oh how we tried to be the light in his darkness. With all that we had to give and with what we knew then, we tried to help him to heal and to find the strength to fight on. We tried to ignite within him that spark of hope that seemed to have gone out. He was caught in a storm, and we stood as a lighthouse, ready to guide him to
safety and calmer waters.

But it turns out we could not fix him. And because of that, we thought we had failed. Suicide leaves behind an abundance of blame that we took on as a family. As if our grief was not heavy enough, the missed signs caused our knees to buckle.

But I know today that we could not “fix” my father. He had an illness that required treatment. He would have needed to find the strength to seek it out. He would have needed to dig down into his already depleted reserves to find the resilience to work toward recovery. We could offer him love, unconditional and without judgment. And we did. We could reassure him that he was cherished just as he was. And we did. We could listen when he talked, hold him when he cried and support him on his journey to
wellness. And we did.

My father was not broken as a human being, though I believe he felt that way. And none of us is imbued with the power to fix another person, much as we’d like to in the face of such suffering.

It wasn’t our fault. I know that now. And I can hear that song today without allowing it to bring me back to that place. I cannot revisit that burden of guilt. The lyrics still evoke tears for the father I loved and lost. But it was not for me to fix that sense of brokenness. And I know  the love we shared, in the time we had, will never go to waste.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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If You Feel Like You're 'Losing' to Your Mental Illness, This Is Your Reason to Stay

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I’m sure you’ve stumbled across the photograph online, saying that if you’re looking for a reason not to hurt yourself, kill yourself or stay that “this is it.” I’m not going to post a photo. I’m going to tell you, one on one, why I need you to stay.

I know a lot of you reading this are struggling with mental health problems. We are all at different stages of our war with mental illness; some of us, however, are losing the battles. And it’s never simply “life is too hard.” It feels as though life is against us. It feels like everything we do is wrong, and slowly we end up thinking maybe the “something wrong” is us.

When you’re losing a battle, it can feel like your existence is the problem, and the only way to “fix it” is ending your life.

I’m here to tell you that’s not the answer. 

I, too, have lost battles before. I’ve relapsed and I’ve gone into dark places. I’ve been admitted into hospitals and I’ve attempted suicide, with plans, without plans. I have hurt myself and I have hated myself. I’m just going to be straight with you: it sucks. You feel alone, and you feel like you’re suffocating. You need a release. I get it. What you’re feeling, although terrible, is not unnatural or weird. It’s OK to feel this way.

But it’s not OK to act on these feelings. Although it’s best to talk to a therapist, or head to the hospital or even call the suicide lifeline, our society will still frown upon mental illness. It’s covered and dipped in stigma. We need the help for the terrors in our heads, but we’re too afraid to be called crazy or to go on medications. We’re too afraid of what others think.

For so long I was too ashamed to get help. It was easier to live in pain and to let myself suffer. After a suicide attempt and fight with a former partner, I ended up being arrested and held on a psychiatric hold. I stayed in the mental hospital for some time. I’m not proud of what happened, and I’m not going to sugar coat it, it wasn’t easy. But it was a blessing in disguise, and the greatest thing to happen to me. Because now, I am open about my mental health problems. I know I have a support system and doctors in my corner. I can openly speak to my doctor about medications and treatment options, and I can advocate. And I know now there is no shame in getting treatments for having a mental illness.

Now, I want you to forget the rest of the world. It’s only you and me:

Your health, your stability and your happiness come before anything else.

There’s no shame in being “crazy.” We are sick. And sometimes we need extra attention, we need extra care. It is OK. You can seek the extra help. I need you. I need to know you’re OK. I need you to know through all of this, through all of these scary thoughts, there are calmer days ahead. Please breathe. And please call for help.

If you need a reason to stay, please let this be your reason.

Please don’t hurt yourself. You are beautiful and you are loved. And I will be devastated if you’re gone. Keep fighting, stay strong. It’s OK to lose a battle; but please keep fighting the war. And please know, I’m on your side, fighting with you.

Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a love letter to another person with your disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To the Friend Treating Me Differently After Finding Out About My Suicide Attempt

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Dear friend.

I know you care, and I know you’re concerned. I’m sure you have no idea what to do around me anymore, and I’m sure you’re just trying to do the best you can. I know something about your view of me changed when you found out I’d attempted suicide. I know because everything is different now. The way you look at me, our conversations, everything. I don’t know how you feel. I’m sure you’re in some sort of emotional pain, and I’m so sorry I’ve caused that for you. But what’s done is done, and all we can do is keep moving forward.

I just want to ask you one thing. Listen to me. Just for a moment. The girl you used to know, the one who dances around a store just because she likes the song playing, the girl who’s always smiling and chatting away, the girl who loves socializing and horses and dancing; the writer, the girl you used to call your friend, is asking you to hear her out. Not the new girl you look at cautiously, overanalyzing everything she says.

I’m still here. It’s still me. I still love horses and dancing and writing and talking and laughing. My words carry the same amount of weight they used to carry. My jokes are still real and aren’t some sort of secret cry for help.

Maybe I’m not the girl you thought you knew. Maybe you were one of the many people who saw my smile and took it at face value. Maybe you were one of the people who thought my life was going well and I was happy. Maybe you were one of the people who would guess out of a hundred people that I’d be the last one to possibly have depression or be suicidal. I know I don’t always show exactly how I feel. 

I’m not your friend because I want a person who’s constantly concerned about me. I’m your friend because I like spending time with you as you and me. Just two humans. Not one normal person and one suicidal person. I’m still a person. I’m still me. I’m still the girl you spent countless hours talking to about anything and everything.

friends at prom

I want you to know something else. I miss you. I miss my friend. Because you’re not the same person you were before you found out about my suicide attempt. You’re suddenly afraid and analytical. I’m still me. I’m still here. I want my friend back. I want the friend who would make a face at me from across the room just because you felt like it. I want the friend who would make jokes freely without overthinking them and laugh genuinely. I want the friend who would play a game with me and really play the game, not let me win out of fear that a loss would make my depression spike.

Please, just look at me. It’s still me. I’m still the same girl you always knew. I’m not a different person than I was before. But you are. So please, bring my friend back. I miss you.

With love,

Your old friend

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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This Is What It’s Like to Lose a Friend to Suicide

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This is what it’s like to lose a friend to suicide.

There’s shock. It’s obvious to say it, but you’re shocked. Even if they were in a hospital on a mental health ward at the time, even if they were suffering from a multitude of problems including depression. Even if they’ve self-harmed in the past. Even if they’ve tried in the past — it’s still a surprise to find they actually succeeded this time.

Not everyone succeeds.

You didn’t succeed.

And succeed isn’t even the right word, it’s too positive. But they have “succeeded” in this one last thing and now they’re gone and you’re surprised and shocked and you don’t really understand even if you’ve been suffering too, even if you’ve tried, even if you’ve already lost a friend or two like this.

And you want to understand and it gets a little obsessive, searching for information. For answers. You need answers because you need to understand why, because you thought they were getting better, thought they were getting off the ward soon and you thought everything was going to be OK and now nothing is OK.

There is no information at first, just the fact that they’re gone and you scour the newspapers website, refreshing the page over and over because eventually it has to tell you something. Anything. There has to be an answer somewhere to explain why. You need to know why, why and how and exactly when, all the exact little morbid details and then you’re following trails of information around and making calls to coroners and funeral homes because you’re desperate, desperate for anything, any shred of information. Any hint of an answer.

And no one ever mentioned in those five stages of grief people talk about all the time that obsession would be one of them, and that years, God damn years later, you would still be reading articles about the last friend you lost to suicide you bookmarked on your computer as some sort of last attempt to hold onto them, even though they’re gone and have been gone for over four years. And now it’s another friend gone and you’ll be bookmarking their articles too and reading them every now and again and searching for their names in the newspapers and Google and hoping other friends know something, anything, because your own experiences, your own desperation, doesn’t seem to give you any understanding at that moment even though you’ve tried yourself, taken your own overdoses and cut your own arms.

When there is information, it’s just that — information. Words and facts and not answers and it doesn’t help, doesn’t help at all. It feels like you’ve been punched in the gut. You think you might actually throw up and your eyes burn to cry but you can’t cry any more this week, you’re empty and you think you might be dehydrated though you’re not sure that’s even possible but thinking about it is a distraction from the fact two friends did the same thing, died the same way, in the middle of desperate moments, under the care of a mental health team, while you thought, you thought they were getting better.

They had gotten clearer but not better.

Not better, just more able, more in control and able to plan and get it right this time. Get it “right.” Still too positive.

You think — about their last few minutes, writing the notes and taking those last few steps and not even crying, just a clarity of mind you’ve never felt when even
trying to kill yourself, and maybe that’s why they’ve done it and you’re still here. You wish you have been there, because you would’ve physically stopped them, or supported them or done something but you weren’t, you aren’t there, you’re far away.

Even a few miles, a town away, becomes a sea suddenly, and it’s your fault you never swam across to check how they were, checked more often, checked just recently. And you know, you know, you would’ve have been given the truth — they had to have their feelings dragged out of them — but you blame yourself anyway. This is your
fault and you wish you were all together. You’re in the next town, the next county, the next country and they’re gone and it’s too late and the anger bubbles up next. You manage to push through the anxiety to anger and you blame the people who were supposed to look after her, cause the mental health team have messed up again, and you’ve lost another friend and you’re not sure you could even turn to them for support in the middle of a crisis they caused.

There’s not much energy for anger, because you want to blame people, want to blame your friend even, but it’s not anyone’s fault. There is not fault. There is this illness that takes over, takes time and energy and personality and leaves just this shell behind. A shell that only really has the ability to end it all and then it’s over, they’re gone, even though they really went a while a go, but no one really noticed because hiding, hiding what’s wrong, hiding cuts and scars and tears and everything and anything that would give you away.

And you know this, because you’ve done this and just cause you’re better now, improved, a complete person, doesn’t mean you’re not left with scars and anxieties and now this overwhelming sadness because you’ve lost another friend, and it’s spiraling out of control because you can’t get up, wash up, get your mood up.

You’re not sure you want to because they’re not getting up. Ever.

It’s not OK, it’s not OK. Not right now. Not for a little bit, even with the support of other friends, and family and your beautiful and understanding wife and the distraction of your life as a whole and your niece is asking why all the time and your nephew has even more questions and then, a few months down the line, the sadness, that overwhelming sadness, will be gone, will have disappointed, without you really realizing it was even happening. Then a few years later you’re living your life again, exactly as you were before, because it gets you no where, that sadness and anxiety.

You don’t forget though. A flash of a green coat, a haircut on someone, something on the pavement and that wave of sadness is back, greatly reduced but there, teasing your heart with a little hope that it was all a dream after all and you’ll wake up and they’ll be back. They’ll all be back. The reality is cold again and you keep walking, a little sadder than you started the day, and you walk over all three drains in a row in the pavement because that’s what your friend did as part of her OCD. That becomes part of your OCD because that’s all you have now to keep close to them.

A few photos and a ritual that was never yours to begin with, but you take and keep with you. Even though you can’t quite explain why.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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10 Things to Say to Someone Who Recently Attempted Suicide

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After my own suicide attempt, I quickly realized few people really know what to say to a loved one who recently attempted suicide. Here are some of the good things I heard, as well as some things I wish I’d heard.

1. “I love you.”

These three words mean the world to someone who just felt so hopeless, so alone, so unloved, they wanted to die. After surviving a suicide attempt, it’s not uncommon to feel unlovable. Remind them that’s not true.

2. “I’m sorry it got to this point.”

No one actually wants to be suicidal. No one wants to have suicidal thoughts. No one wants to be depressed. People who are suicidal often feel a lot of shame and guilt about having suicidal thoughts or tendencies. They didn’t ask for this. Show them you realize this. Remind them what they’re feeling isn’t their fault, and that no one deserves to feel like that.

3. “I believe in you.”

Recovering after a suicide attempt is a daunting task. Having someone who supports you and believes in you is huge.

4. “Whatever you’re feeling right now is OK.”

Everyone is different. We all cope and process differently. It’s a process. It won’t get better right away. Remind them that’s OK.

5. “Take care of yourself.”

Immediately following a suicide attempt, survival is everything. Whatever they need to keep going is OK. Remind them they’re not being selfish, that taking care of themselves is the right thing to do.

6. “You’re not alone.”

Having someone by your side you can call or text anytime to talk to can truly mean everything. Be that person who’s there for them. Remind them they’re never alone.

7. “I’m here for you.”

Again, having that support means so much. Make sure they know they always have someone they can talk to who won’t be judgmental or harsh, and is there for them no matter what.

8. “It’s OK.”

When it comes to recovering after making a suicide attempt, everything can feel completely upside down. Remind them it’s OK to not be OK. That this too shall pass.

9. “Would you like to ____?”

Your loved one might need an extra push to get out of the house. If it seems like they just want to sit around watching time go by, ask them if they’d like to join you on a walk. If they aren’t eating much, invite them out to lunch. When they’re ready, get them out and doing something.

10. “You are needed.” 

Depression makes people think and feel like they’re a waste of oxygen. Remind them of their positive qualities. Remind them they’re capable of amazing things. Remind them they aren’t worthless.

Basically, just be a friend. People who attempt suicide are human, too, and they’re no different than anyone else. Having a friend who understands that can be everything.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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