This past Monday, a University of Michigan freshman committed suicide in his dorm room on North campus. His room mate, upon returning home after class, is the one who made the unfortunate discovery.
People are shocked. People are whispering. There is a strange atmosphere at times in the dorm building and the dining hall. It’s a strange concept – someone who was just here a moment ago all of the sudden isn’t here anymore…and all by their own choosing.
Suicide is a touchy subject. And one that I am all too familiar with. Although my grandfather committed suicide before I was ever born, it has left a trail of disaster that I have been faced with and it has forced me to confront questions and seek answers that I never imagined I’d be chasing down.
Just this afternoon I saw a fellow classmate showing her grandfather around the music building and introducing him to her friends. It was an innocent enough act, but it made me cringe with a mixture of regret, anger, and guilt. This simple experience is one that I will never get to have.
I used to think that you can’t miss something that you’ve never had, but working through my grandfather’s suicide has taught me that that is definitely not the case.
I wasn’t even aware that my grandfather had taken his own life until I was in the 7th grade. The way in which I discovered the truth about the situation was…less than satisfactory. It created a lot of hurt, anger, and left me with so many unanswered questions. I don’t blame anyone for the way things played out – everyone involved was doing their best to protect me at the time.
But once I found out I felt such a huge wave of a variety of different and extreme emotions that I had no where to put them all – so I turned them inward and spiraled down into a sea of self inflicted anger and hatred.
I was angry. I was hurt. I felt shame and guilt. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why didn’t he stay around to get to know me? Why was he so selfish? Why, why, why? It’s not fair.
And then as I grew older the feelings shifted from anger to jealously. As I began wrestling more severely with my own demons the questions morphed into, why did he get to take the easy way out and I have to deal with these emotions? Why did he get to make that choice when I can’t? Why was he capable of doing that to himself and I can’t bring myself too?
And now? Now it’s just a sadness that hits me sometimes. Some days I think about him, but he doesn’t pop into my mind on a daily basis anymore. Even though I wasn’t alive when all of this transpired, I still have questions…and I still carry a lot of pain.
My grandfather never got to attend a violin recital, a middle school musical, a high school orchestra concert. My grandfather never got to sit down to a holiday meal with me, see me off to prom, or watch me graduate. My grandfather won’t get to see me walk down the aisle and he wont ever get to meet the man of my dreams. My grandfather has never heard me sing or watched me play guitar. My grandfather has never witnessed my joy at church or laughed at jokes with me over a cup of coffee.
It’s easy to say, “My grandfather never…” and phrase it as though it’s his loss that he never got to know me. It is his loss…but it’s my loss too. And the loss of that relationship is something that I have to come to terms with never fully knowing or understanding.
My heart mourns for the family of the boy who took his own life last Monday. He will never get to meet his soul mate, get married, or have a family of his own. He will never get to graduate from college, attend another football game, or spend time with friends. He took his own life because of an unbearable pain he was feeling that he couldn’t see past – I get it, I’ve been there too. But he didn’t just end the chances of his life getting worse than it was feeling at the time…he ended any hope of it ever getting better, and that is what’s most painful. He took his own life in an attempt to end the pain he was feeling and in doing so, he left an earthquake of unbearable pain for everyone around him to clean up.
There have been times in my life when I’ve viewed suicide as weak or selfish and times when I’ve just viewed it was heartbreaking. The truth is that, it’s all of those things. It’s pain, anguish, hopelessness, darkness…it’s not being able to see the people standing right in front of you reaching out arms of hope and love because you are so consumed with your own pain. Suicide isn’t anyone’s fault. But it can be prevented.
My grandfather has missed out on so much because of the permanent decision he made. But he’s not the only one who has missed out – my entire family has missed out too.
To my grandfather…I love you and I forgive you. Some days I’m still angry, and that’s okay. To those who struggle and suffer….do not ever give up. Dont be afraid to ask for help. Youre voice matters. Your story matters. You deserve to be heard. You deserve love.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts/tendencies, or any form of mental illness, please seek help! Tomorrow could very well be the best day of your life – but you won’t know until you live it, experience it, survive it.
“If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here. If you feel too much, don’t go. It this world is too painful, stop and rest. It’s okay to stop and rest. If you need a break, it’s okay to say you need a break. This life –it’s not a contest, not a race, not a performance, not a thing that you win. It’s okay to slow down. You are here for more than grades, more than a job, more than a promotion, more than keeping up, more than getting by.This life is not about status or opinion or appearance. You don’t have to fake it. You do not have to fake it. Other people feel this way too. If your heart is broken, it’s okay to say your heart is broken. If you feel stuck, it’s okay to say you feel stuck. If you can’t let go, it’s okay to say you can’t let go. You are not alone in these places. Other people feel how you feel. You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.There is still some time to be surprised. There is still some time to ask for help. There is still some time to start again. There is still some time for love to find you. It’s not too late. You’re not alone. It’s okay –whatever you need and however long it takes- its okay. It’s okay. If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here. If you feel too much, don’t go. There is still some time.”
― Jamie Tworkowski