I’ve always been the happy girl. Easy to please, generally positive, and always looking on the bright side. I believe in hard work and honesty. I like to earn the things I have and I am always working towards something bigger and better. I love openly and always see the good in people. I am passionate about giving and have spent the past few years as a volunteer firefighter and EMT. Helping others with their problems has always been sort of therapeutic in overcoming my own.
I had a good childhood, with parents who always did the best they could for me and my younger brother and sister. I moved out within a month after turning 18 because I felt my dreams were bigger than what could be achieved at home. I was highly motivated to become something great and get the most out of this life. Things were good, I smiled a lot. I felt ready to take on the world. I had my share of normal struggles and daily stressors, but I let the little things roll right off my shoulders and rarely let anything get me down. But then some things started to fall apart in my life when I was around 21 years old.
I’ll leave out some of the gruesome details and give just enough for you to get the idea but not enough for this to become a sob story.
In March of 2017 my dad died. My dad was the person that I could relate to the most, he was my biggest supporter, my reality check, and my voice of reason. We talked on the phone every other day, and the opposite days he would text me on his flip phone to check in, always signing his texts like a letter “Have a great day, love you, xoxo, -Dad”. We spent time together at least once a week, even if only for a few hours, but we always laughed so hard and talked about anything and everything. He was the one I would consult before any major decision-making. He was the one I vented to when something was wrong- and also the one that would put me in line when I was in the wrong. He was the first one I told whenever something exciting happened, because I could literally feel the energy in his voice when I talked to him about my accomplishments or adventures; he always said he loved living vicariously through his children. He was a family man and he loved us unconditionally.
He had recently been struggling terribly with constant pain from his back and his knees, and I knew he was feeling pretty inadequate and depressed. Honestly, it made him a little bit difficult to be around for too long because he wasn’t his usual bright and bubbly self. Within a few short years, I watched him go from a bull of a man, strong and energetic, the bread-winner, and constantly outside playing ball or working on something, to pretty much couch-bound from the pain, barely working, fighting a long battle for unemployment, and severe bouts of depression.
But even with those things going on, I never, not in a million years, would have thought he would take his own life.
I got the call from my siblings while I was at work… “Dad is missing”. Such a ridiculous seeming concept. He’s a grown man! I calmed them down and said he’s probably at his friend’s house or out for a walk to clear his head. He didn’t get out of the house much anymore and he often got frustrated and irritable. She called again later with an update… “Sarah, something isn’t right, the tire swing in the front yard is down and the rope is gone”. I knew what she was implying without her having to say it, but seriously? These things don’t just happen. This is some stuff out of a drama TV show.
I told her I’d come over after work and we would figure it all out. I felt a little uneasy about the whole situation, so I told her and my brother to stay inside until I got there, but I kept telling myself that this whole thing was completely irrational. I stopped at the park along my way home and banged out a quick two-mile run. It was a beautiful day and I had to clear my head before going and dealing with family drama. Literally as soon as I started walking back to my truck after my run, my sister called again.
She was sobbing. “There’s ambulances, cops, and a rescue truck at the trail entrance in front of the woods”.
I knew in an instant what had happened. I drove to their house so fast, passing car after car on back roads. I am still in disbelief that not a single cop saw me. I knew deep in my gut that my dad had hung himself in his favorite spot along those trails. And this was confirmed by the police when ran up the street and forced my way onto the scene. I kept myself from completely crumbling as an officer walked me back to the house where my mom and siblings were waiting, and he helped me give them the worst news they’ve ever received.
The years following, my mom struggled with depression and alcoholism and our relationship became extremely strained. In a very real sense, I lost both of my parents at the same time. I was struggling with the grief of losing my dad, the pain of watching my family fall apart, a broken heart from a mistake of a relationship, and living alone for the very first time. Life got very real, very fast, and I no longer could pick up the phone to call my mom or dad for guidance or comfort. My younger siblings went through their own form of hell and I felt helpless because I had too much going on in my own life to do much for them. They had to grow up even faster than I did. We tried to stand strong together and keep our relationships close while we went through this, but we were all in too much pain to really know how to support each other. I felt extremely alone for the first time, and had to learn to take care of myself and become highly independent.
And then, I fell in love a man who had been one of my best friends for years. He was the most amazing man I have ever met and I was fully convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. We loved each other fiercely and quickly built a beautiful life together. I moved in with him after a few months and we were so happy together. I took on the role of “step-mom” and loved his son like he was mine. I had a little family, and we talked often about getting married and having a child of our own to complete it. I had never loved anyone as much as I loved those two.
Most of the time, things were picture perfect, but he had a long history with mental health issues. There were some very bad days mixed in with the good. He could go to a very dark place without any warning, and it could be downright terrifying, but I knew he was trying his best and I put a lot of effort into supporting him even though it was hard. I started therapy to keep my own head above water while I was trying to help him, because in all reality, it can be exhausting living with someone with unpredictable mood swings and I was starting to burn out. I wanted so badly to save our relationship and to help him find peace with himself.
He died in October of 2019. We were at home preparing to go on vacation the next day when things took a horrific turn. He completed suicide with a gun in our bedroom. His beautiful heart of gold took it’s last beat that day, and when I saw his lifeless body, I wished mine would too. How could I survive this life without the one I love the most?
I called 911 and screamed hysterically for help even though I knew he was gone. I realized later on that at that point, the help wasn’t for him, it was for me.
For only a fleeting moment, as I sat there holding his hands one last time, I considered joining him and ending it all. But as quickly as the thought entered my mind, help rushed in and ushered me out of the house and the weeks of brutal chaos of life after a death began.
Within one blurry month I had to say goodbye to the person I was closest to on this planet, the life that we worked so hard for, and the home we used to share. I had to scramble to become financially stable, and start over living alone again in my new home, with minimal familial support. Thankfully, I have a small circle of very true friends to help. I had to rediscover my will to live and make the choice to not only survive, but live the best life I could manage.
Suicide has absolutely destroyed the life I used to know.
But, I’m healing, and I’m once again living on my own and figuring out how to navigate adulthood while also trying to make my dreams come true. I’m looking to the bright side and working hard to make the most out of every single day. It takes time, but it’s getting better.
I’ve had so many people ask: “How do you do it? How do you keep going?”
How am I supposed to answer that?
I wasn’t exactly given the choice.
Trust me, I wouldn’t have chosen the terrible things that have shaped my life as I know it. I wish I could remove the haunting images from my mind and sleep peacefully again. I didn’t wish for these losses, and it would have been very easy to fall into some bad habits and let my whole life apart, but I absolutely refuse to give in to that.
I don’t always know how I do it, and it’s often not easy. But giving up is not an option.
These events have made me stronger, more independent, and wiser. They’ve changed me and helped me become the person I am today. Would I change it if I had the option? Hell yes I would! But there’s nothing I can do about it, so I keep living on and I accept the life I have been given.
So I’m left with the raw facts, some brutal memories, and deep wounds that I have to tend to along the way. But otherwise, nothing is different. I have no other choice. I still have a life to live and responsibilities to keep up with.
How do I do it? I stand up, wipe the tears, and put my best foot forward, even if some days my best is not very much. I get dressed, eat breakfast, and drive to work, even when I’m exhausted. I come home, crank up the music, and take care of my house, even if I’d rather curl up under a blanket. I have bills to pay and people that depend on me.
I’m working on repairing my relationship with my mom, who is making huge strides in her recovery. I practice self-care by eating healthy and drinking water. Fuel the body right, it’s going through enough right now from the physical effects of grief. I exercise hard. I try to get enough sleep. I keep my nails painted and get my hair cut. I take adventures when the opportunity arises and I serve others whenever I can. And I write about my experience as I go, because unfortunately, I know I’m not the only one out there going through something like this.
I keep going.
It’s not always pretty. Grieving is complicated and messy. It brings out my worst and my best, and I can never predict which it will be. My patience is thin, I am easily worn out, and I cry at the drop of a hat; but I also love more deeply and feel genuine gratitude for so much more than before. Some days are amazing and I’m full of energy and light, and other days I feel like I’m dragging the weight behind me while everyone watches.
I. just. keep. going. The best advice I ever heard was “cry standing up”. It hurts, it sucks, but I just keep going and I try to make the most out of every single day. I can’t change my past, I can’t change the things that I’ve had to endure, so I choose to learn from it and to try to help others with my experience.
I hope to resonate with at least one person out there who is going through a hard time and needs a little boost. I hope that I can help you to believe that there is more to life than the pain you might be feeling right now.
This life is beautiful if you choose to see it that way. It wont be easy, but there is a light at the end of every tunnel, and we all deserve to see it.
Come with me. Keep going. We can do this together.