Helping a Loved One Navigate Life after Losing Someone to Suicide

Suicide: before January, it was just a word, a word that in and of itself held so much pain. And then, I got a call, a call that I never expected. I will never forget picking up that phone at the end of my day at work, excited to answer it because on the other end was my sister-in-law. I answered it in my usual way and instead of hearing her cheerful voice on the other end, I hear sobs. 

A police officer and her cousin had found her dad dead in his apartment that afternoon after he hadn’t been heard from in a couple of days. I was dumbfounded. I had no consoling words for her.Helping a Loved One Navigate Life after Losing Someone to Suicide | Duluth Moms Blog

Her dad has been a vibrant part of our family for many years. So many of my holiday memories over the years, Mike was a part of it. We spent hours over Christmas playing the Game of Things – our responses often very similar in regards to our love for the Vikings and our hatred of the Packers. We spent many hours sitting by the fire and playing bags at the annual Y is the 4th of July parties. He helped my nephew serve beer at my wedding last summer. He cheered me on in the two marathons I ran in the cities. 

Mike was a friend, he was a father, a grandfather, a son, a brother, and a colleague. And he held something dark from all of us. He was struggling with something so big and sad, he couldn’t talk to anyone. He felt that the moments leading up to his death, that the world was better off without him. 

Boy was he wrong. 

This world has a huge hole it now. 

I remember feeling so helpless. I was hours away from my sister-in-law, brother, niece, and nephew. I know that my sister-in-law’s life will now forever be defined by before my dad died and after my dad died. 

She will never be the same. 

Losing Mike has been hard, but watching someone that I love fall apart has been even harder. There is no how to book about navigating life after suicide. There is no timeline of when the significant weight of the grief will be lifted. There are no answers to the millions of questions that have been asked. 

A thousand times, I have wished I was closer to them. Daily texts, calls, prayers were sent. I remember walking into the restaurant to join my family the night before the funeral and seeing my beautiful niece. The moment she fell into my arms, we both started crying. 

I would have given anything to bear the weight of her pain. I saw my sister-in-law across the room, with a sad smile on her face as she heard story and story about her dad-the impact he had on their life. She is the bravest, strongest person I know. I know inside she was falling apart, but here she was listening, laughing and sharing stories about the man she called dad. She gave the best tribute, talking about being his passenger for so many different adventures. She had spent hours working on a photo slideshow highlighting his life.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd. 

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States; claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people
  • Is it the 3rd leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 14 and the 2nd leading cause of death between 15 and 34. 
  • There were twice as many suicides in the United States as there were homicides
  • Over the past 15 years, the total suicide rate has increased 24% 
  • The suicide rate among males has remained approximately four times higher than among females

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has created #BeThe1To campaign to help share resources, tips, and messages throughout September to show the world how we can make an impact in someone’s life. 

Helping a Loved One Navigate Life after Losing Someone to Suicide | Duluth Moms Blog

Let us do our part by learning more, so no other families have to experience the type of grief caused by losing a loved one because of suicide. 

On October 1st, I will be running the Twin Cities marathon, a marathon that Mike had run for years. I will be running that marathon in his memory. Every mile and every step I take, will be for Mike, for my family, and for all the other families that have been impacted by suicide. 

One Response to Helping a Loved One Navigate Life after Losing Someone to Suicide

  1. Ami September 27, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, Tonya. It wasn’t easy to do but so many need to hear this.

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