Suicide is this dirty little word we never want to talk about. It’s sad and depressing. It’s worse than politics or religion because you shouldn’t bring it up in polite company. But here’s the thing, suicide has affected far more people than you realize. On August 13, 2009 I found out that my cousin Jason had taken his own life. Today and every day since that event, I miss him.
The the best way I can honor my cousin’s life today is to tell you about him and to be a voice for those who are struggling right now. I’m grateful for a family that embraced each other then and now. I am grateful for friends that walked with me in my grief. I am also grateful for friends that have shared that they’re on this “survivor” path of grief with me. Only those who have lost someone to suicide know the depths of this pain, and we wish it on no one else.
Let me tell you about Jason
Jason P. Thompson was the cousin closest to my age on my mom’s side of the family. Our birthdays were almost exactly 18 months apart, and growing up, we did EVERYTHING together. Losing him was like losing a part of me. It was and still is hard to lose him; not just for myself but for his dad and two older sisters also. I could try and share why I think he took his life, but that’s something none of us will ever know. I do know that he dealt with much pain and heartbreak in the final years of his short life. I know that he battled a deep and dark depression. I wish HE KNEW how much he was loved and how much the world would hurt without him in it.
Today and every day, I miss him.
During the second week of August each year, I always feel off. In the first few years following Jason’s suicide, I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with me. Over time, I have become aware that it’s my grief and longing for my cousin to still be here. I know that there is nothing I can do to bring him back, but I can work to ensure others will not have to go through this.
Today and every day, we have people we miss.
I’m sure each of us has suffered a loss. We have people we miss and long for in our lives. With that longing comes an opportunity and we can choose to act on those feelings if we want. We can pick up the phone and call. We can send a message. We can mail a note or card. We can visit. And why shouldn’t we let people know when we miss them? I’ve seen first hand that we don’t always get another chance to share our feelings.
Sometimes what we do won’t be enough.
I and others in my family talked to Jason a lot about how much we loved him and that he mattered to us. We knew he was going through some difficulties. My uncle worked tirelessly to find Jason something that would help and tried his best to support him as any father would. Despite our combined efforts, Jason still took his life. He left us behind and we will always feel that. Anyone affected by suicide knows this all too well. We can’t change what happened; our love for those we have lost never ends. Unfortunately, neither does the pain. We move forward, but we are never the same.
If you are in your darkest, saddest, hardest moments…
I hope you know that:
you are loved
you are important
you will be missed
you should tell someone you are hurting and need help
If you know or love someone who is in their darkest, saddest, hardest moments…
I hope you will tell them that:
they are loved
they are important
they will be missed
that you’re here to help
Today marks ten years since…
I received the news that Jason was gone forever. Each year gets a touch easier in some ways. I want to encourage each of us to be vigilant and stay aware. Suicide is a really terrible thing. We have a tendency to believe it won’t happen to anyone we know, but there’s no guarantee. If we know of people who battle suicidal thoughts, we have an opportunity. We can reach out to those people, we can try to connect them with help, or we can call for help. Sometimes our work won’t stop someone from taking their own life, but if we will never know until we try…
On this day, please do this one small favor:
If you or someone you love (or like a little or maybe don’t even like at all) may be contemplating, struggling through, or living beyond suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.
Put this number in your contact list for that moment of need. Maybe it’s not for you, maybe you will never need it, but wouldn’t it be nice if you were ready to help someone else?
I want to end by saying that I am mostly okay, but I miss Jason today and every day. I want to celebrate him, you, myself, and the gift of life.