The first days after my son’s suicide were punctuated with question marks. Words uttered in library whispers by well-meaning relatives or friends hinted at the questions that always swirl around suicide. None of them were answerable, except to say that my son was fiercely private about his inner struggles. He didn’t want to burden anyone by sharing his darkness, so he hid it all behind smiles and laughter.
I preferred the questions I could answer, the simpler ones related to the business of death.
Who is writing the obituary?
I am, with input from my family.
Where do you want…
My charming, brilliant, handsomely dimpled, fun-loving husband of 18 years and father of our three sons, ages 12, 13, and 16, killed himself on July 2, 2018.
He was 46.
Was it situational depression after nearly a year of unemployment following previous decades of professional ups and downs? Was it undiagnosed mental illness? Was it noble devotion? Sacrificial, as his letters suggested? Was it desperation?
Or was it, as our oldest son, Logan, said, “A lapse in judgment?”
Or, as our middle son, Grady, asked, “Did Dad love us too much?”
I think it was some combination of all of…
No one showed up to my 11th birthday party at King Arthur’s Castle the summer before I entered sixth grade, my last year of elementary school. My birthday party became the foreshadowing event of the loneliest year of my life and the beginning of my lifelong battle with obsessive thoughts and suicidal ideation. The combination of my parent’s divorce, abuse by my sixth grade teacher, and the subsequent neglect of the adults at my school created the perfect storm, a catalyst that unlocked a shadow within me, unable to cope.
There was a myriad of obstacles to avoid at the…
July 27, 2019, began as an unremarkable summer day. It was a day for visiting with my mother and doing some chores around her house, a day for walking her dogs, a day for idle conversation and shopping for my youngest son’s freshman dorm room. It was a late afternoon for a hilarious dinner with my sons. My mother spent the entire time commenting on the “atmosphere,” by which she meant the cute waitresses that she thought Ben, the oldest, should ask out on dates. …
My journey to becoming a counselor started with a suicide.
A student I’ll call George was in my math class the year before he took his own life at the age of 16.
He always came to class even though he didn’t like math — actually, it would be fair to say that he hated it, but he came all the same with big earphones over his head, a ball under his arm, walking with a bit of a swagger. We connected over our love of hip-hop and basketball. I tried so hard to get him to like math, never…
“But suicides have a special language. Like carpenters, they want to know which tools. They never ask why build.”
You never say the words; you write them. You repeat them to yourself like a song you can’t seem to shake, the lyrics of which you can’t remember. Maybe you can sing your way back to fine until you realize this is yet another promise you’ve made to yourself that you probably won’t keep. Over here stands your Babel tower of wants — the ground quaking beneath. Cracks in the fault. Over there lie the notes some of us…
My younger brother Jake* jumped in front of a train. It was his daughter’s birthday and the anniversary of our mother’s death seven years before. He survived, miraculously, and I’m with him in the intensive care ward at the hospital and feel like I am his appointed representative in the world of the sane. I’m one of the few people left who can get through to him, and it has been this way since he was first detained under the Mental Health Act 30 years ago. I don’t want him to die. …
When I was five years old and on a family vacation in Hawaii, my older brother Adam and I missed our sweet Sheltie dog, Charlie, so much that we refused to leave the hotel room. We were sneaky little masterminds and we had come up with a clever way to resolve our pining: We would stay right there inside our hotel room — foregoing the pristine beaches and perfect summer breeze for the starchy hotel comforters and artificial cooling of the air conditioning — and we would sleep. Going to bed would make the time go by faster. Plus, being…
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
— “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot
I often get texts at 9 a.m. that scare me. I live in London now and, depending on the time zone, that’s around 3 a.m. in the U.S.
While I soberly eat some Greek yogurt (and maybe a banana), my phone vibrates on the table.
“Michael, I want to fucking kill myself.”
It could be anyone.
My heart starts pounding in my chest. …
There’s not a day that goes by lately that I don’t feel like a failure. But I wasn’t always this way. I used to work hard and fail all the time. I was able to get back up and start all over again with ease. But then I started getting older. I saw the accomplishments of my friends plastered all over social media, and I looked at my life and into the void of nothingness.
I had failed spectacularly at life.
I had all the hallmarks of success. I attended private schools paid for by the sweat and tears of…
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