The Aftermath: Sarah’s Story

These are words from a victim of suicide:

I lost my boyfriend of over four years, Christian, to suicide on March 25, 2017.

His death has affected me in ways I didn’t even understand. He was in the army, so the prospect of death was higher simply given his career, and therefore it was something I did have to think about and determine what I would do if I lost him. I never expected it to happen, especially not the way that it did, but my reaction was definitely unexpected. I always thought I would just go into complete hysterics and not be able to function on a basic level. Instead, shock took over and I just became very logical and rational, making sure that I was busy and distracted every day following his death. In the weeks that followed, I ended up joining the army myself and have been very active in my daily life, filling my time with things to do. I have found that there is a resiliency within me that I was forced to bring out, and that was probably the least expected reaction that I’ve had to this whole situation, but I’m very thankful for it. That’s not to say that everything is peachy-keen all the time. I honestly think there’s still a level of shock that is keeping me together, but I take each day just one step at a time. Some days are great, some not so much. The ways I have learned to cope is to remind myself that I cannot let his death take over my life and stop me from living.

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I remind myself that I’m not only living for myself, I am now living for Christian, and that keeps me going.

For others who have lost someone to suicide, my first and biggest piece of advice is to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. At Christian’s memorial service just four days after he died, I gave a eulogy of sorts, and the first thing I said was that it’s okay to not be okay. When someone you love dies, it’s a shock to your system regardless of how they died. To lose someone the way that I did is even harder because of the unexpected nature. What’s important to remember is that you have to let yourself grieve and be a mess. If you go back to work and find that you just can’t do it, don’t become angry with yourself. Allow yourself to go through all the different stages that you’ll inevitably experience because that’s the only way you’ll be able to heal and move forward. Another piece of advice that I still have to give to myself is that it’s okay if you find yourself grieving the opposite way you imagined you would. I never, ever thought I would be so proactive following the death of anyone that I love. But something took over and I just had to accept that I was not the mess I thought I would be. And that doesn’t mean that I’m grieving incorrectly, it just means that I’m letting myself—my mind and soul— do what I need to do without trying to dictate what I think is the right way to grieve and heal.

When someone takes their life, they change the course of the lives of everyone who has ever loved them, without their consent or control. I used to think suicide was selfish, but I realize now that it is so much more complicated than what most of us understand. I could never be angry with Christian for doing what he did. Instead, I am heartbroken that he was in such a place that he felt taking his life was the best and only option. I urge people not to be angry with the person who has taken their life, but instead, I encourage the survivors (friends and family of a suicide victim) to become a voice of hope for others who feel hopeless and for families who have lost loved ones to suicide. There is no reason that anyone should ever feel like they shouldn’t be alive, happy, and healthy.

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