Last night when I had gotten details of a recent youth suicide in our area I began as always to think about the family, and especially the parents.
It was brought to remembrance the shock of my own personal tragedy, the violence in which it took place...I was in total disbelief and yet I was not. I was thinking – am I awake, am I dreaming….it has to be a nightmare…this absolutely can not be true.
I remember the call that changed my life, it was my youngest daughter. She was so upset and trying her best to tell me what had happened with her sister, and that she had just done CPR on her till the ambulance had arrived. My mind was racing - I was trying to concentrate on what she was saying so I could help her while thinking of the other daughter at the same time, and I could feel the pain beginning before I got off the phone. She was not sure if she was still alive, she was telling me details that had her confused, but I tried my best to give her hope.
As my husband and I traveled to the hospital that night I kept thinking that Amber would be alright - this could not possibly be her time to leave…she was so young. We arrived within an hour and half and there was my daughter and son in law sitting in silence. I held onto my hope and prayed as I sat down and waited for news.
We had sat for quite some time when the Doctor came in to tell us that she could not be revived. They had her on life support equipment until which time the family was able to make decisions on her being an organ donor and we were told that we could go see her…I held her hand, I didn’t believe it. It was all a fog after that.
I remember calling my brother and a girl I worked with….and then the police came. They questioned me for about an hour and told me every gruesome detail there was…He said he didn’t want me to have any questions later. That may have been the only thing I remembered about the entire conversation, because I thought it was so odd that he “felt” that was what I needed. I remember many others arriving that night and especially her daughter who was just 10 years old at the time. I was at a loss for words, but went through the motions. When we got home that next morning I wrote an announcement to my friends and sent it out by email.
After sleeping a few hours I began to make my first call. I realized immediately that I was going to be asked how she died ….and to say she died from suicide - it just stuck in my throat. I was at a loss for words again. Not words that I had ever thought would pass from my lips and I was not prepared for what these words would mean to me or my family.
And that is the reason for me writing tonight…..I remember how it felt for me those first few hours, few days, few weeks. I did not have answers to the many questions that were being asked and I felt like my privacy was being invaded. I did not want to talk about the how, when, where, or why….none of that mattered-all that mattered was my child had died. I had not had enough time to answer those questions for myself.
I remember calling my employer and I talked with his wife. I asked her to tell him what had happened and then made her promise to discuss it with him so he would understand that I did not want him telling the employees or patients where I worked. I went on and on about my privacy and that it was my decision to tell who I wanted, when I was ready. She understood, and she did relay my message, and he did honor my wishes for quite some time. It was just so important that I be the one to tell people…that it was my choice of when and to whom.
There is no way to prepare for the reactions of others after telling them the truth. I was appalled at times at the questions from others. They could so easily ask how she did it. Why? How could she? What about her children? Was she saved? And of course, there are those that wanted to blame everyone around her.
I felt everything…shame, blame, fear, pain, guilt, and a gut-wrenching sadness that I believed would never leave.
I write tonight to remind those of us who have been in this journey for awhile to remember the privacy of those who have just begun. Remember the difficulty of having to discuss this openly and not yet believing it yourself. For those of you who may not have been touched by this tragedy personally, but know others who have….please just reach out in kindness and allow them to tell you when they are ready. There is a time when they will be ready, for they will have to share the thousands of questions running around in their mind. Be there for them then, when to them it seems everyone has forgotten about their pain.