Two Years Down...
I dreamed of my sister last night. It happens frequently and she’s there, just like she used to be. We're at a birthday party, or sitting on my couch, or out to eat, or in her truck singing 'Cowboy Take Me Away' as loud as we possibly can. At some point in my dream though, I always look at her and ask, “are you really here?” She then hugs me and whispers, “no, I’m gone.” When I wake, I wonder if she was really with me in that dream, reminding me to remember her.
Today marks two years since my sister completed suicide. The grief is still heavy and unbearable some days, but those days are fewer and far between now. I think of her daily and remember even the tiniest things that I would have considered insignificant only two years ago. Now I try to hold onto every single shred of memory and never let go, afraid that one day, I will forget.
The thing about suicide is that it only ends the pain for one person. I understand that, in the moment the decision is made to complete suicide, nothing else matters. The person making that choice is in a place that most of us will never understand. They aren't thinking about the impact it will have on anyone else, just about ending their pain. I'd like to think that she would have stopped, if only she'd had the mindset to think of everyone she was leaving behind. I'd like to think that it would have been enough.
So my message today is for those who have been left behind; it's not your fault. The guilt of being a survivor, of not being able to stop the act of suicide, is excruciating. I will forever replay the 24 hours leading up to my sister's death. What could I have said differently? Why didn't I go over to her house when I knew she was upset? Why didn't I text her or call her to check in again, one more time, before I went to bed? Why didn't I stop it?
We are only human. The complex emotions, events, and situations leading up to someone completing suicide are often years in the making. Mental illness is cloaked in many ways, and often hidden well by those most seriously impacted. I'm going to say it again, for those who need to hear it, for myself: it is not your fault. Love the people around you the best you can. Be a good friend the best you know how. Allow yourself some grace in this life and know that you are not alone. And to my sister Carrie - I wish every day that things were different. I love you. I miss you. I forgive you.