Out of the Darkness: My Story on Losing a Loved One to Suicide

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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, approximately 123 people in the United States commit suicide each day. Although the rate of suicide is most common in middle-aged white men, 8.6 percent of high school students report attempting suicide, and the suicide rate among college students has tripled since the 1950s. Presumably due to the excess amounts of stress and pressure to conform to societal expectations, suicide has become the second leading cause of death for persons between 15 and 24 years of age. This epidemic is one I am passionate about changing, and increasing awareness is the first step to decreasing these numbers. 

On April 15, UMass Amherst will be hosting its 4th annual Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention. If you would like to participate in the Out of the Darkness Walk, you may register online or in person on the day of the event. Last year, I walked with the Active Minds team, a mental health awareness club at UMass that aims to beat the stigma surrounding mental illness. We raised over $21,000 in 2017 and came in 13th overall in the nation. The money we raised helped to fund research about suicide, support suicide survivors and connect to those affected by suicide. Last year, I walked for the friends and family members I have who had previously attempted suicide.

This year, I am walking for my father. 

My father took his own life on December 1, 2017. Many people didn't see it coming. He was the kind of guy who hid his pain well. He was funny, physically healthy, enjoyed helping others and always tried to have a positive outlook on life. Although my father lived in Florida and we had a complicated relationship, hearing the news absolutely devastated me. After he died, I was told by some that “it didn't matter” how or why he passed away, because regardless of the cause of his death, he was gone.

But it mattered to me. It mattered that he felt so alone and so hopeless that he put a gun to his own head. It mattered that he had access to a gun in the first place, because he always told me how much he hated guns. It mattered to me because it's possible he had been contemplating suicide for a long time, but he flew under the radar because no one knew what behaviors to look for. And it mattered to me that he could have been saved.

The night after my father's funeral, I went back to his house and sat at his kitchen table, looking through old pictures while my siblings slept. His phone was still plugged into the wall, as though he would need it again in the morning. I unlocked it and put it on my lap, staring at the last little gray bubble he had ever sent me. 

I hope all is well up there. Luv u. Dad. 

Then I unlocked my phone and sent him message after message, watching his touch screen light up with words and imagining he had received them. 

You could have called me

Why didn't you call me?

You always called me when you were sadHow could you

I was going to visit you soon remember that was our plan I'm sorry dad I hope it didn't hurt I love you too

People who commit or attempt suicide tend to believe that by killing themselves, they are doing others a favor. Nothing could be further from the truth. When a loved one kills themselves, a part of you dies with them. I don't think I will ever be the same, and there is nothing beautiful or heroic about that. Sometimes my grief is gently attached to songs, places or situations. Sometimes it's paralyzing. And sometimes it makes a home in my bones, burying itself underneath all the words I never had the chance to tell my dad.

If you would like to donate to my team, you may do so here

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If you are suicidal, concerned about a loved one or would like to find more information about how to detect suicidal behaviors, you can find tips here.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

For more information about the Out of The Darkness event, email [email protected]