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My Story of Suicide Loss    

My Story of Suicide Loss

If you or a loved one is considering suicide, please immediately call 911 or The Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Artwork by Fisk

BY MEADOWLARK MONAGHAN 

As with most of my writing, my goal in opening up about my story is always to raise awareness and share what I’ve learned. Today, that is going to be in regards to dispelling myths about suicide, highlighting warning signs, and sharing prevention techniques. 

Covering suicide is a tricky subject. Media coverage has a large copycat effect - there have been copious amounts of research on this. Please know that I am sharing resources, prevention techniques, and tools to spread awareness in an effort to eliminate stigma and help to prevent future suicides.

Suicide is not your only option. There are always more ways to get help, take away the pain, and feel better - even when you can’t see them right now. Please reach out to a trusted person or any of the resources listed at the end of this post if suicide has ever crossed your mind. 

Artwork by Fisk

Let’s start with my story. 

I am a suicide loss survivor. When I was a freshman in high school, I lost my older brother to suicide. However, I didn’t find out the true cause of his death ‘til a year and a half later. You see, my parents didn’t want my younger brother and I to know the true cause of his death because by that time, my younger brother was already experiencing his own challenges with mental health. My parents thought that if they told us the truth, they would give my other brother the idea as well. 

This is why I have dedicated my life to eradicating the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Planting the seed” or “giving someone the idea” is the biggest myth about suicide prevention. What my parents didn’t know, what they quite frankly couldn’t know, since mental health was not nearly as openly discussed as it is now, is that they were perpetuating this myth. I’m not saying they did the wrong thing - I’m not a parent and can’t even begin to imagine having to make that decision in the first place. They chose to tell my brother and I that he died accidentally. I believed them. 

While visiting my older sister out of state the following year, I was flipping through her art journal one morning and read an entry about our brother and the truth of his death. It’s still hard for me to think back to the emotions of that moment to paint a picture for you today. That was probably my first experience of deep betrayal, anger, and sadness all wrapped into one painstaking blow to the heart. At first I took it out on my sister: she knew the truth and intentionally kept it from me. Then my parents: they lied. Then myself: how could I have never even known that my brother was struggling in the first place? 

My older brother had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and I never knew. To me, he was always just my big brother; we were over 25 years apart in age. He was my fun older sibling who took me to get fish tacos and make sandcastles on the beach. He was my daredevil big brother who drove motorcycles and put me on his shoulders and road as fast as he could down our long, winding driveway. 

Looking back at childhood photos now, my mom will say, “see how there are no plants around the front yard in this one? Your brother was manic and ripped them all out of the ground when we were on vacation.” Quite honestly, I’m still not used to this. 

To me and my experience of losing my brother, there is always that lingering feeling that I didn’t really know him. I can’t quite parcel out how much of that is a large age difference and losing him while I was young versus losing him in this way. It always feels like a recently healed scab. Not a gaping open wound that still hurts, but a precariously healed wound that you can still feel the original injury behind. They say time heals grief, it doesn’t. There is no healing from grief, time just gives you the space to learn how to live with grief in your heart without letting it consume you. 

My story has a happy ending though! 

Although I went through a myriad of other losses following my brother (including losing my father just a couple years later), all of these experiences collectively have given me empathy to my profession in a way that’s unparalleled. I dedicated my whole life to these causes. I went on to study psychology, conduct suicide prevention research, work with all types of people on their mental health journeys, train others in every mental health topic imaginable, speak publicly on the matter, and even share suicide prevention techniques that have actively lead to preventing suicide among people I know. 

I am so happy to have worked in mental health for the past seven years because it truly means so much to me. It’s my absolute honor to spread as much knowledge and information I know with you to equip everyone I can with the tools to be as mentally healthy as we can be. 

Recovery isn’t linear. Self care isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Know that even if you aren’t feeling as happy or healthy today, that will change. In the same way you didn’t always feel this negatively, this negativity won’t last forever either. You have options and you have support.

Artwork by Fisk

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t also share some basic Suicide Prevention techniques and information. We also have a Suicide Prevention Toolkit, so please check that out as well.

  1. Asking the question, “are you thinking about suicide” or “are you considering killing yourself” is NOT planting the idea in someone’s mind. Asking the question is actually one of the best things you can do if you think a loved one is contemplating suicide. By doing so, you’re giving them the opportunity to speak freely about what they are going through. And in turn, you are learning if they have developed a plan, and what steps you need to take next in terms of prevention. Furthermore, a lot of the time people are waiting to be asked. They don’t want to not be here anymore, they just don’t want to be in pain. By asking someone, you can take the necessary actions to get them help and get them feeling better quickly and safely. 

  2. Suicide does not happen without warning… warning signs just may be hard to see. Folks don’t want to die. However. People are in so much inconceivable pain that the only foreseeable solution to their problem is no longer living. But, there are many more options. Sometimes people just need a helping hand to find the ones that will work for them. For specific warning signs, please read our Suicide Prevention Toolkit. 

  3. Please use the term “die by suicide”. Folks are not “committing” a crime when they die by suicide. They are simply putting themselves out of unimaginable pain when they felt they had no other option. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not a crime. 

  4. When sharing our stories in an effort to destigmatize and encourage folks to seek help, avoid talking about direct means or methods used. While opening up conversation is helpful, when exact methods to complete suicide are discussed, that is what links to copycat behavior. 

For more specific information regarding warning signs, details on different prevention techniques, and a list of resources, please read the Suicide Prevention Toolkit

You are not alone and thank you for letting me share my story.