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Whom She Never Knew

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Whom She Never Knew

Callie Whitlow

Today we have a guest blogger, Kristin. Here is her story of how suicide has affected her life…

I have a daughter.  Her name is Charlie, Charlotte actually.  She’s named after her uncle, whom she never knew.  When I tell people that she is my brother’s namesake, my brother who died just over seven years ago, the response varies.  Sometimes people just move on, but more than once I’ve gotten something like, “I’m so sorry.  How did your brother die?”

They expect me to say cancer.

They expect me to say he was in a terrible accident.

They do not expect me to say he committed suicide.

It’s still such a taboo subject, isn’t it?  And you know what the two most common responses are to my reply?  One, a look of sadness, mixed with horror, mixed with “ I have no idea what to say.”  A little bit of panic really.  Let me just tell you, that’s okay.  I’m sure that eight years ago my reaction would have been the same.  But the second group of people, a shocking number of them, proceed to tell me that they lost someone dear to them exactly the same way.  It could be someone I’ve just met, or from someone with whom I’ve been acquainted with for a while.  Nevertheless, the look on these people’s faces is always the same.  It’s relief.  It’s “someone else gets it.  Someone else has lived through this.”  Yes, I’m part of “that club” too.  I survived the loss of a loved one to suicide.

November 21, 2015 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know this day existed.  It’s certainly not touted amongst the media.  There aren’t teams running around on fields or across courts wearing different colored shoes or wristbands or towels to encourage awareness.  But why not, when according to the World Health Organization over 800,000 people die due to suicide each year?  800,000.  And that number doesn’t include unsuccessful attempts.  If nearly a million people are committing suicide each year, how many of us have actually been affected by it?  Those numbers have to be staggering.

And yet we don’t share our stories of survival.  Because we’re afraid.  Afraid of the looks, or the whispers, or the judgment.  Or maybe you’re still so suffocated by the pain of loss that you can’t even fathom uttering the words.  I get it.  Believe me.  But in those moments when you feel absolutely overwhelmed by the tremendous loss in your life, consider what it might look like if you had someone come alongside you who understands because they’ve been there too.

I feel no shame in telling my brother’s story.  To this day I can’t tell you why my brother chose to take his life.  That’s not something he chose to share, but it doesn’t matter really.  His life matters.  His death matters.  His story has now become a huge part of my story.  I survived the loss of one who was so precious to me to suicide.  Chances are you or someone you know has too.

For those of you who are brave enough to tell your story, thank you.  For being strong, for being vulnerable, and for being willing to spread the word that this is an enormous problem, one that touches far too many.  Let’s come together and talk about our experiences, sharing our grief, but also committing to shed light on the black cloud that is suicide.  And for you whose hearts are too battered and bruised to even comprehend the idea of talking about it, I pray that one day you will.  I have found an unexpected freedom in being real and truthful with my story. 

May our conversations provide help, and healing, and community for survivors of loss, with the sincere hope that one day there will no longer be a need, 

Kristin


Are you ready to share your story of loss with someone? We are here to listen. Reach out to us in the comments below, on social media @LifEdvice, or through our email: info@lifedvice.com.

*If you are in immediate danger of harming yourself, call 911.