On a September night in 2004, when I was fourteen years old, I was awoken to my mother’s voice on the phone. I knew something was wrong immediately. It was well past midnight, she was talking a mile a minute, and she sounded close to tears. I ran out into the hallway as fast as my half-asleep teenage legs could get me there.
That was the night I found out I lost my cousin. He was twenty-years-old and he had taken his own life. I had never had any experience with suicide before; I never gave it much thought, to be honest. Yeah, I knew people killed themselves, but I thought those people were crazy and I would never have anything to do with that. But my cousin Jake was perfectly sane and also a good friend of mine. He taught me the best “dares” to use for people when playing “truth or dare.” He bought me my first alcoholic beverage from a gas station and snuck it to me while my mom was out of the house (It was a Smirnoff ice and I thought it was absolutely delicious).
He taught me what the term “hair of the dog” meant. He told me stories about people had gone to his high school, people who seemed so much older and cooler than me. I told him how annoying my parents and sisters were. He let me know that I wasn’t the only one in the family to feel like the black sheep, he felt that way, too. He told me the best dirty jokes that shocked my middle school boyfriends. I haven’t been the same since that night.
I lost my stepdad almost exactly a year later in almost exactly the same way. I was stunned. This was my stepdad, I lived with him since I was seven. He bought me my first dog for Christmas. He helped me buy movies online because I was too young. He took me to R-rated movies because he knew how obsessed I was with the actors. We went to martial arts class together. He told me about all the mistakes he had made as a teenager and why he didn’t want to see me make the same ones. There was a numbness that came over me that day, a sense of surrealism that stayed with me for months and months afterwards. Nothing seemed real anymore; life felt like some sort of weird video game or movie. Clearly people were just able to duck out whenever they felt like it. Contract terminated, game over.
It’s been about a decade since I lost both of my beloved family members and I like to think that I’ve learned a great deal about suicide since then. Not only that, I have learned that there is a community out there consisting of all the people left behind, the survivors of suicide. A lot of these survivors get slightly overlooked because most of the focus is on the deceased themselves. This makes sense, but at the same time, the people remaining are the victims. When someone kills himself, he by defaults kills a piece of every single person who loves him. And these people are the ones left to try to figure out a way to nurse this dead part of them back to life. Usually, it’s impossible for that to ever completely happen.
Being a suicide survivor means dealing with a plethora of complex and sometimes infuriating emotions on a day-to-day basis. There is a lot of anger that at times can be very hard to handle. It’s a confusing feeling because when someone dies, it doesn’t seem natural to be angry with that person, but this is just the thing that happens. And this is an anger that far surpasses any sort of Earthly anger; this anger is, well, out of this world. It is like nothing ever felt before, and the guilt that goes along with feeling angry just makes the anger even more pronounced. It’s not fair that they were able to choose when to leave, no one else is given that luxury, what makes them so special? Survivors feel an almost bitter resentment towards their lost loved one, a resentment that at times feels very similar to jealousy. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just thrown in the towel whenever we felt like it?
Survivors of suicide also have to carry around an enormous amount of guilt, even if they have accepted that there is nothing they could have done. The guilt never disappears, it just backs up into the dark shadows of our minds and presents itself whenever it feels like it. This can be an incredibly isolating feeling. Many times, I have felt like there was not a person in the world who could relate to what I was going through, or understand the true meaning of what had happened and what the aftermath was like. I used to wish so badly that I could just stand in front of everyone and try to make them see that suicide wasn’t just something dramatic they put in tragic plays and movies; it’s real. It’s so real, in fact, that it happened to me twice. It happens to everyone, across the country, around the world. People take their own lives every day, leaving behind a countless number of survivors like myself.
It took a long time for me to feel even close to normal again after losing my family members. Years later, I still have some bad days and whenever I read a news story about a suicide I can still feel the initial, raw pain. There are millions of people out there who have lost their loved ones to suicide and are walking around carrying the burden of being a survivor. People who are trying continuously to get their lives back on track after the unthinkable happened. People who feel like they have no one to talk to and no one who would be able to listen even if they tried. Suicide survivors are everywhere, hurting and trying to live with that pain. The best we can do is just try to be nice to each other.
Kaitlyn Seabury | News Cult