So it was with shock that I learned this week that another talented, gifted, and beautiful soul had convinced himself the world would be better off without him. Because this person was famous, there was a cyber-shockwave that reverberated through the social media world. But as palpable as that shock was, and the depth of the emotions being felt worldwide, nothing comes close to what those who were closest to him were feeling.
I know a little bit about that feeling. Because 30 years ago, a young man, full of life and a bright future, was found in a field, not far from his home, in the early evening hours. With a gunshot wound to his head.
That young man was my brother’s best friend. Athlete, class officer, with a smile that melted all the girls’ hearts. And despite how close they were, my brother still had no idea that his friend had slowly convinced himself that the world would be better off without him.
He was 14.
No matter how many years pass, and how many lives are lost, one never gets past the memory of that pain.
Along with those memories often comes a feeling of defeat, of resignation. “Not again.”
It is a resignation that creeps into the minds of many of us who work in the military and veteran communities every time one of our own loses the battle with their pain. Posts in social media in the wounded veterans’ community spoke of avoiding the news, of trigger alerts and warnings, of fears past and current. And sadness.
It is believed that 22 veterans take their lives every day in this country. Each one extraordinary, one of a kind. They leave behind shattered hearts and, often, more questions than answers.
But as quickly as it comes, that resignation turns to determination. A need to ensure this doesn’t happen again. And while it does, and it will, we can’t stop working towards the goal of preventing suicide among our men and women in uniform and our veterans.
So please, from someone who has experienced the indescribable pain that suicide causes to loved ones and friends, I ask that everyone hammer home that help is available. Sometimes it may seem you are shouting into the wind…but someone may hear you. It could be that 14-year-old teenager. Or 63-year-old. Or a veteran for whom war has taken the spark of the soul, and who feels that the only way to tend the pain is to end their life.
Here are some resources to share:
“Survival is your strength not your shame.” – T. S. Eliot