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.