It was a cool, crisp fall morning when I entered the school 10 years ago. The morning progressed rapidly from class to class and soon I was sitting in the teachers’ lounge getting ready to enjoy a quick lunch. The conversation was lighthearted as everyone was enjoying the break. All that was about to change as my cell phone vibrated and I reached to see who was calling. A call from 219 or 708 area code certainly meant trouble in the region. I expected to hear some bad news about one of my parents who, at the time were in their early 80’s. Instead I heard the most unexpected news that my older brother had committed suicide that morning. I felt like every ounce of blood left my body at that moment. I closed the phone, put it back in my pocket, stared into a crowd of teachers waiting to hear the news. “My brother died,” were all the words I could muster as I walked out of the room. I walked to the office to inform them that I was leaving, and did not know when I would return.
I started to drive home, not really knowing what to do. My father informed me there was no need to come up north just yet. There was nothing I could do at the time and driving a few hours in my current state of mind was probably not a reasonable decision. So instead I went home, put on my work clothes and boots, hopped in the truck and drove down my in-laws driveway. There was wood to split and I needed to get out my anger and frustration in some way. I stopped by their house, but they were not home. There was a fridge full of beer, so I popped a top, walked over to the wood pile and started splitting wood. I split wood for hours, never stopping, filling the truck bed two times and stacking the wood. I just knew that I couldn’t stop until there was someone with me and my wife was not going to be home until early evening.
During that time I just couldn’t stop thinking about every conversation I had had with my brother. Was there a sign that I missed, was there something I could have done to stop this? More and more questions went through my head as I split each piece of wood.
I don’t think we ever know the internal struggles and pain those around us carry. The outer shell we wrap around us is there to protect others from our pain. We fail to show or display our full emotions, we hide behind that shell, and all the while our own pain eats us up from inside.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. Be there for others but more importantly, if you are feeling the pain and you have thoughts of suicide, reach out to others and get the help you need. Sometimes reaching out to those we love may not be an option so make a call to The Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 and get the help you need.