Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Brother From Another Mother

One week ago today, on Thursday night, my brother-in-law decided to end his own life. Actually, we're not sure when he decided to take his own life --we just know it happened on Thursday. But none of us knew it until Friday.

He went missing. From his wife's perspective, he didn't come home from work late Thursday night. He wasn't answering his cell phone, and so she called his brother (who he works with). His brother told her that he had left work before noon, feeling down. "In a funk" were his words. Panic ensued. His cell phone was located (GPS) and they found his car at a trail head. The search continued until about 2AM. The police were very responsive. The detective assigned to the case was brilliant, informative, kind, and very helpful. Nothing turned out that night --they resumed the search at 6AM. The helicopter found him a few hours later.

People I know who never knew him keep asking me questions, wanting to know these details. They have a morbid curiosity to know what happened and why. Suicide is never easy, never understandable. It's obvious that we --his family --wanted to know why he did it. How, even. What we could have done to have prevented it. Hoping it wasn't really our fault, and yet feeling guilty it was, anyway. I'm just not sure why everyone else wants to know these details. I think it's because they are emotionally removed from it, and yet, as human beings, they are attached somehow. They have similar stories. They have similar demons. They've thought about it themselves; they've never considered it. What would drive a soul to such torture that suicide seemed like the only option?

Like I said, it's a morbid curiosity, but it's understandable to have that curiosity.

No, they weren't having marriage problems. No, he still had a testimony of the Gospel. No, it wasn't a complicated thing. It was simpler than you can imagine. He was simply losing his mind. That's all.

He left a note in his car. It explained a lot to the family. It was short and kind, but it was enough.

We held a Memorial Service where people got up (almost like a Mormon testimony meeting) for 3 hours to speak of their memories and feelings about him. It was beautiful. It was sad. It was funny. It was solemn. Everything a funeral should be --but more. In fact, afterwards, many of us commented how this is the "funeral" we will want. Forget the pomp and circumstance --we want shared memories, laughter, and an overwhelming feeling of connection to one another. It was absolutely wonderful. Cathartic. Needed.

The hardest part for me was going to the funeral home with my husband to pick up his belongings --the things found in his car, next to his... person. And yet, it was oddly surreal. We read his letter, checked his phone --there is so much to do when a person dies, you know? Because the police were involved it made it more...of more. More details. More protocol --a system of events. Coordination with the police, the coroner, the funeral home, the families, the ward family. Papers to sign. More papers to sign. Phone calls. Late nights. Early mornings. And in the midst of all of these immediate, tangible, temporal details, the overwhelming, crushing power of grief.

It came --comes-- in waves. When we first know, find out, discover, realize --it pours forth from us without restraint. Tears never stop. Then comes numbness followed by more tears. Solemness, apathy --then more tears. It happens in cycles and when we least expect it. Laughter, too? Oh, yes! That's the irony. So much laughter and joy at the memories --such crying and pain at the loss.

My sister-in-law is doing pretty good, considering the situation. She has an enormous net of emotional and physical support --so many people reaching out to keep her steady. His family is handling it pretty well, too --but here's the terrible, overwhelming part: My brother-in-law's niece killed herself last summer.

How much grief can one family take?

Times like these make me want to put a protective bubble around my family. It makes me ask: How can I prevent this in my children? Myself? My husband? My siblings? I don't have all the answers, but there are some things I can do:

1. Educate. I think I'll be focusing more of this blog upon suicide prevention; not to mention how to get out of the downward spiral of mental disease.
2. Don't take cries out for help as cries only for attention. There seriously might be something going on. Something serious. The niece tended to cry out for attention in ways people got tired of --hindsight taught us that "crying wolf" can lead to the real thing. Hindsight also showed us that my brother-in-law was searching for help, too; he just did it more subtly.
3. If you feel like suicide is the only answer, please, please, please know that it's not! You will cause more pain than you can imagine. Leaving will not be helping. You are NOT a burden --you are loved! Reach out to someone. They will help you. It's worth the fight and struggle to find your way back to sanity, to peace.

Hug your kids today. Kiss your spouse. Call that friend you've been meaning to call --visit your neighbor. Reach out and serve. Help those around you.

I'm going to do my best to understand why everyone around me can go about their business as if nothing has happened. It's hard for me to give people the benefit of the doubt, to cut them some slack. Their worlds weren't turned upside down --how could I expect them to understand what we are feeling? What I'm feeling? So, I'm going to try to focus on my children and my husband and try to be happy again. Jared would have wanted it.

I will love you forever, Jared Parker Preston Ray Jones. You made my life better just by existing. Your absence will be felt for the rest of my life.

I love you, Tamra. You are amazing and strong, and I am here for you. I promise to see you soon.


Summer said...

Thanks for this post Cheryl. I have personally dealt with the effects of several friends suicides and have felt low enough to consider it myself at times throughout my life. Thankfully not for a long while.

Often times, those considering suicide truly feel that those they love would be better off without them and consider suicide a selfless act, while those who have never dealt with such feelings of self loathing consider suicide the ultimate in selfish acts.

It is a crushing blow to have someone you love end their life and you can't help but wonder what they disliked about being with you so much. But in fact, their thinking may never have been along those lines at all. You may have been their one bright spot all along but other considerations were too much and they felt that they were just dragging you down. I pray your sister in law Tamra does not blame herself for his choice.

Kim said...

Oh Cheryl, I am once again crying for you! I don't know your amazing extended family, but I know you, I know you well enough to know you love with all your might! You give fully to all those whom you love! I am sure the whole in your heart can't be explained to anyone on the outside, and that's ok you don't have to answer to anyone! My continued thoughts and prayers are being sent to you and your family! I love you!

Ginger said...

I am so very sorry for your loss and will be praying for comfort to be a blessing for you, your family, and your extended family.

Summer expressed many of my same thoughts in her comment. I too have considered suicide at one time in my life. I have struggled with depression since I was a child, but I am doing very well now. Thankfully, blogging has been a tremendous therapy for me in that department.

People who have never suffered depression have a difficult time understanding how it actually feels. When I was in that low period where I almost went through with it, it was mostly because I just wanted the pain to stop. I was tired of fighting the fight. It had nothing to do with my family, friends, or anyone else. It was all about me. I just wanted to feel better and that looked like my only way to find the healing I needed.

Such a difficult time for everyone involved. My prayers are with you all as you heal. {hugs}

Rebecca said...

Oh, Cheryl, I'm so sorry. Your poor family. God bless them.

SewSara said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. That's just so sad :(

Handsfullmom said...

Cheryl, once again, I'm sorry for your loss. Somehow, knowing some of the details does help, if only so those of us who are shattered by the news have something to latch onto other than just the "why?"

I don't know if you are back in town yet or not, and I had to skip walking today because of an appointment, but I'd love to walk with you on Tuesday, if you're up for it.

SilverRain said...

I think the emotion that comes with all death, but especially suicide, that is the hardest to deal with is anger. It is a natural part of the grieving process, but if people aren't prepared for it, it can send them into a spiral of guilt.

I am so sorry for your family's loss, Cheryl.

Cheryl said...

I haven't had anyone close to me take their life, but I can only imagine what a desperate and dark place they must go to in their mind to think that is the answer. The only one who can truly understand that is the Savior and thankfully he is the loving, kind judge of us all and we can lay our burden at his feet. It must be so hard to field questions about it, I still am thrown off when someone asks me how Brian do you even explain it to somebody? I am so sorry for the grief and the family he left behind, it is devastating.

pioneerfamily said...

How absolutely heartbreaking. I am so sorry for Tamra and your family.

Jason Porta said...

I'm trying to figure out if this was the same Jared I stayed with in 2002/2003 for a few months in Woodland Hills. Did he work at a restaurant back then? I think it was Black Angus.

Cheryl said...

Jason, I didn't know Jared back then, so I can't say for sure.