Victims of suicide are not only those who lose their life to an indescribable feeling of hopelessness. The people most affected by suicide are those left behind with an endless list of unanswered questions.
The morning of Aug. 14, 2011, my mom took my brothers and I to church, like any other Sunday. Sitting with my family, singing and listening to the Gospel, I was unaware of the texts and calls with the news of my aunt’s passing waiting on my mom’s phone. Our visiting with friends after mass was cut short as my mom rushed us home.
The only information I was given was that my dad had to leave for El Paso and that something was wrong with Aunt Nett. I was 12 at the time and didn’t understand why I couldn’t go with him. Our trips to visit my aunt were always the highlight of my summer growing up. In my eyes, Jeanette Zachary radiated joy and a love for life. My memories of her are filled with her fabulous outfits, love for every dog she met, days of pampering, swimming and more love than my heart could handle.
My heart dropped before the words even left my dad’s mouth. At the time, I was unaware of the circumstances surrounding my aunt’s death.
All I knew was that she was gone, no explanation, no last chance to visit and no opportunity to say goodbye. When my mom explained that my aunt had committed suicide, I had no clue what she was talking about. I didn’t understand the concept of killing yourself.
Why would someone want to die? Why would they want to leave their family and friends? What were they thinking? What was so terrible about living? Why didn’t I know? What could I have done?
I will carry these questions with me for the rest of my life, never receiving any answers.
Following my aunt’s passing, I wasn’t the only one left with an unbearable amount of sorrow, as I witnessed the same dark cloud take over everyone in my family. My dad lost his sister and my cousins lost their mom. I didn’t only want my pain to go away, but I wanted nothing more than to relieve my family of theirs.
How were we supposed to bounce back from that? How was life supposed to continue on without her? Why would she leave her family behind like this?
I will never know the answer, but I believe these questions never crossed my aunt’s mind.
The truth is the pain never goes away, but it becomes more bearable with each passing day. I carry her with me every day, and on the days that are harder to get through, I read the poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye that was printed on the program from her funeral service:
“Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow I am the diamond’s glint on snow, I am the sunlight on ripening grain, I am the gentle autumn’s rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die.”
Suicidal thoughts cloud one’s mind with the idea that they are alone, they have nothing to live for and that no one would miss them. They are left feeling so hopeless that no other option exists in their mind. These detrimental thoughts eliminate any logic and thought of what will happen after they are gone.
The topic of suicide is difficult to understand and often makes people uncomfortable. However, in order to educate people about the dangers of suicide and how to handle that type of situation, we have to continue the conversation.
Programs like Suicide Prevention Week, this year from Sept. 8 to Sept. 14, have not only opened the conversation about suicide, but continue spreading awareness and enabling us to continue that conversation.
Suicide is not something we should shy away from and keep locked in the closet. Tiptoeing around suicide only encourages the idea of individuals feeling alone and as if there is no help.
There is always someone who cares. Someone who will be left behind with their life in shambles. Someone who’s heart will break for another life ended in suffering. Nothing good comes out of suicide, but only good can come from talking about it.
If anyone is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, I encourage them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-(800)-273-8255.