When someone you love dies, the loss of that person is immense. When that person takes their own life and commits suicide you have all the emotions of a death but so many unanswered questions.
Unfortunately, my family experienced a suicide death when my 21-year-old nephew, Bobby, took his own life, just a few weeks shy of his 22nd birthday. The action he took, in such a violent way, shook everyone he knew to the core. Life for his parents, sister and relatives like me, would never be the same.
When you don’t have children of your own, the gift of nieces and nephews gives you the opportunity to experience the love a child on a very personal level. I was blessed to be included in the lives of my niece and nephew, Bobby. I experienced most of their “firsts”. I was invited to share in their childhood milestones. I never passed up an opportunity to cheer them on at sporting events and graduations. Being included in children’s lives is such a gift.
One of my fondest memories of Bobby as a child would happen when I would travel to my sister’s home. I would bring toys for “trading”. My niece and nephew were told to bring something back to the table to trade for what I brought. My niece being older, knew to bring something not that valuable because she figured out the gifts I brought would be given to them no matter what they brought from their rooms. Bobby always brought something he treasured and was willing to give that up. This gave me an insight into his generous heart.
Bobby had an infectious smile and a quick wit. By all accounts everything he did came easy to him. Good grades and outstanding athletic ability gave the outward appearance of never having to struggle to achieve anything. He didn’t have to study, but was proudly inducted into the National Honor Society. The words people used to describe Bobby were handsome and charismatic, but mostly kind. He was
very patient with his young cousins and small children and they adored him.
My belief, no child was ever more loved by his parents and sister than Bobby. My sister and brother-in-law gave unconditional love and support to their two children and enjoyed being together as a family most of all. Being parents was always their biggest joy. Losing a child at such an early age to suicide is their biggest unfathomable grief.
If someone dies in a car accident, there mostly will be a definite answer as to what happened. Typically, with illness there can be understandable medical reason for the death. With a suicide there isn’t a definitive reason why someone would take their own life. Especially without a note left behind to offer some type of explanation. Depression is so hard to understand when looking from the outside. It is a
silent pain that others can’t always see and can be hidden behind a beautiful smile.
The 5 stages of grieving (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are intensified when the death is by suicide. The mere stigma of saying the word “suicide” is difficult. Because suicide has become so prevalent, and affects so many families, it should be talked about in hopes of possible helping someone else going through dark times.
The lingering pain that you feel is “why did he do it?” “What could we have done to prevent such a tragedy”? I know for my sister and brother-in-law the burden of guilt was overwhelming. Blame and Guilt. How did they miss the signs, what could they have done.
About 6 months after Bobby died, I saw a TV show that had 4 or 5 young people on the panel. Each of them had tried to kill themselves by inflicting various types of injuries with the goal of suicide. They all survived, albeit they were physically maimed in serious ways. When asked “why did you want to die”. Their answers were the same. They were in so much pain, they just wanted to go to sleep to make the
pain stop. For these young people and Bobby and anyone who is in such a low dark spot, I wonder why it is so hard to reach out for help especially to their family who would move heaven and earth to get help, offer love and support and where needed, acceptance.
At his memorial service the week after he died, the shock of his death and how he died was evident on the faces of those who came to offer their condolences to the family. Over and over, the same thoughts were shared: how could someone who had everything going for them take their own life. If this deep pain could happen to Bobby, it could happen to anyone. He was always such a positive person with a deep love for life.
Our family is left with the unanswered question – what type of pain was Bobby in and what could have been done to help him get through it. When he took that opportunity away from his parents, sister and family, we are left with the hole in our hearts that never closes
To honor Bobby’s generous spirit and the love he had for children, each year on his birthday his family and friends donate “Bobby Bears” in is his name to the local hospitals for their pediatric patients.
Please if you or someone you know is suffering, please reach out for help. This pain is stronger than the individual person can handle by themselves.
The national Suicide Prevention hot line is 1-800-273-8255.