“That old barn. The stories it could tell. No idea how many horses took up residence in here or cats, skunks, birds, and other critters. Had an old hay bale elevator in the back. The upstairs had old bales around the sides but in the middle was a big space. It was plenty of room for 2 boys 1 girl, 3 cousins to play in, imagination ran wild. But then on July 13, 1986, one of the boys decided that his troubles were insurmountable and took what he thought was the only possible outcome. He ended his life. At the age of 21. Any time of the year for this to happen is a horrible time, but this time for the whole family was catastrophic, gut-wrenching. The town where this old barn is located has produced a rodeo for nearly a century. This was one of the times the family got together, fellow-shipped, and all went to the rodeo together. The younger boy was always jealous of the older because he got to go to the rodeo all 4 nights and "help" out their grandfather. The younger boy loved going into town early on Saturday for the rodeo with his grandfather and older cousin. The girl still struggles to this day with the loss of her brother. Her pain is indescribable. The loss is still fresh to the girl and the other boy.”
Why is teen suicide such an important topic to me? The oldest boy in the story above, and the picture, is my cousin Jeff. I can remember like it was yesterday when we got the phone call that Jeff had killed himself. How do you heal from that? How do you go on? As I remember, his funeral was early in the week. Then we attended the rodeo that weekend. What was supposed to be a happy, fun time was excruciating, grief-filled. I don’t know if I got drunk, but I remember drinking a lot of beer. Nothing was the same. Nothing. Never again. Anything and everything we did from that point on with that side of the family, all the Christmases, rodeos, state fair trips, celebrating Memorial Day, WAS NEVER THE SAME. How do you heal? How do you get over it? Death is a tragic, painful loss, but when it’s from suicide, the hurt is worse. I remember Jeff’s mom, my aunt, and dad’s oldest sister saying “people act like he never existed. Nobody talks about him.” I couldn’t talk about him for a long time, it hurt too much. Jeff’s sister and I don’t really talk about it too much to this day. My aunt and I discussed it more. I never talked to Jeff’s dad about it, as he and my aunt had divorced earlier. How do you get through this?
How would things have been different had Jeff lived? There is no way of knowing. Would life have gotten better for him? Would he have started a family? How would his mom’s life have been different? His sister’s? Would our coping skills have been more positive? For me, would I have not relied so much on drinking to self-medicate? We can ask all the questions in the universe, but we are not, NOT going to get an answer. It’s not going to happen, at least not in this life on earth. I’ve heard it said when we start asking questions, especially “why” questions of God, we don’t really want answers, we want an argument. I am done looking for an argument, it hasn’t done me any good in the past and it’s not going to do me any good now or in the future. That’s just life.
When we have these catastrophic, gut-wrenching, mind-numbing, painful losses in life, we’ll go through the 5 stages of grief-google Elizabeth Kubler-Ross if you want to go into detail on these- The five stages of grief are:
This covers anything that causes grief, from a breakup to death of a loved one. And the most important thing to remember is that each stage doesn’t happen once and then it’s done, you don’t “graduate” to different stages, you WILL experience each stage over and over and over again, through the rest of your life, the feelings might not be as strong, but they will still be there. AND THAT’S OK. Each person has to deal with grief in their own way. “Don’t, DON”T tell somebody grieving to “JUST GET OVER IT, ALREADY”. If someone is really struggling, find resources that can help them. You have to be compassionate-Don’t be a “Sheldon”- when talking with them. And unless you have been through the pain of a loved one’s suicide, don’t PLEASE don’t say “I know how you feel”, I would include that for all type of losses. With 7 billion people in the world, there are others going through the same thing, but we each react differently.
“Will something good happen out of this?” That depends. WHAT??? That depends. On you. The person experiencing. The loss. Maybe the two of you had dreams, plans, hopes-they are gone now. Not necessarily. Can you take the dream, plan, hope and do something a little differently. Is there a way to honor them? You can let the loss influence you in a negative or positive way. Again, this will happen at a different time for everybody in their grieving process. I think when we are in the darkest part of our lives is when the lesson to improve appears. To paraphrase Psalm 30:5 “Weeping will last the night, BUT JOY will come in the morning”-(emphasis mine). This doesn’t mean that you’ll have joy the next morning, it’s basically talking about life balance. We all will have bad days, but will also experience good days. We won’t always be happy, but we can still have joy in the midst of the chaos.
How are you going to live in the chaos?