Over the last few days, I’ve noticed many loss survivors have been posting their thoughts about suicide prevention campaigns on the Alliance of Hope forum. Their posts took me back to what I experienced after the death of my son, Mario, in 2019.
Mario ended his life in February. It’s difficult to describe the shock and devastation that followed in the early days and months. The emptiness and pain, so deep, left me void of emotion and full of self-doubt.
Seven months later, when September / Suicide Prevention Month arrived, I experienced something I will never forget. I was out running errands when I spotted a banner draped along the guardrail as I entered a busy intersection in my hometown.
It read, “Suicide is Preventable.”
My immediate thoughts were, “That must be true. They can’t put that out there if it’s not true.”
I was the first car stopped at the 4-way light, and in a surreal moment, felt as though all eyes in the cars around me were looking at those words and then looking at me, as if to say, “Why couldn’t you?”
Almost in an instant, all the things I’d been thinking – the blame and feelings of inadequacy that I’d been placing upon myself – all these things seemed to be public knowledge. I failed to protect my child, and everyone knew my secret.
I tried to hide behind the steering wheel but couldn’t sink low enough in my seat.
It was a year later that I encountered the phrase “Suicide is Complicated” on the Alliance of Hope forum. I saw that other loss survivors were posting messages in a forum called: “Rethinking Suicide Prevention.” In a strange way, it comforted me to know I wasn’t the only person struggling with so many mixed emotions – and it let me feel safe to share my thoughts.
For the first time, I wrote what I believed:
“Sometimes suicide is preventable, and sometimes it is not. As inadequate as it makes me feel, the sad truth is that I don’t believe my son’s suicide was preventable. I don’t think my hindsight knowledge of certain warning signs would have made a difference. I truly believe for him it was more a matter of when, not if.”
There it was. I said it. What I’d carried for so long as my horrible truth was met with compassion and understanding.
The following September, I submitted an article to my local newspaper in an effort to share the mixed emotions that loss survivors feel. I don’t believe I would have had the courage to do that had it not been for the safe place I found at the Alliance of Hope.
There are always two sides to every conversation, and as a loss survivor, I believe it helps tremendously to engage in both.
Mine is only one of many stories, but the common thread, and the message I now know to be true, is that suicide is complicated. Sometimes it is preventable, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes there are signs, and sometimes there aren’t.
And whether there are signs or no signs, whether there is mental illness or no mental illness, we are all blindsided, and we are all devastated by the loss.