This past weekend I spoke with a friend of mine.
He told me that his 22-year-old nephew had just committed suicide a couple days before. My friend was distraught and told me he was having a very difficult time dealing with the grief.
As I listened, I remembered and shared my experience of suicide loss in hopes of offering him some comfort. I would like to share my story with you readers as well. I promise not to preach or tell you how to get help. I will just share.
Darryl and I went to junior high school together. He was my best friend; we hung out every day. He came to my practices, we shared secrets, he walked me home, stayed for dinner, knew my family, studied with me, everything a couple of best friends will do.
I can remember the day he showed up at my volleyball practice absolutely glowing. He was ridiculously happy and told me, “We’re going to get a Slurpee when you’re done, and I have to tell you something!” So after practice, I got dressed and ran to him grilling him for the news.
He told me he had met a girl the night before. I was so happy for him. Darryl had not smiled like that in months, not since before his parents had divorced. His laugh was infectious, he went on and on about her hair and her beautiful eyes and how pretty she was.
“Finally,” I said, “something to put a big smile on your face!” After our long chat, he walked me home like he always did and promised he’d come get me for school in the morning.
Like clockwork, Darryl walked in to my house at 8:15 a.m., said hello to my grandma and walked to the cupboard for a bowl and sat and had some cereal with me, this was our ritual every morning before school.
Darryl was like family; our home was always his. My grandma would tell him to comb his hair if she felt the need. He was always respectful and would do whatever she told him.
As we walked to school, he spoke of his new girlfriend and how they had gone to a movie, “I picked her up last night and took her to see a movie then I walked her home. She’s so awesome, you have to meet her, I told her all about you!” I agreed. Once again I watched his smile and shared his happiness.
We arrived at school and Darryl told me he’d see me later, he and Jane planned on playing hooky and that he had to go to her school to pick her up. I was surprised, Darryl was practically a Straight A Student, he never missed day, but I shrugged it off and went to class.
After-school practice wrapped up that day and Darryl wasn’t there to meet me like usual. So I made my way home, did my homework and called it an early night.
The next morning Darryl showed up for breakfast, he was still going on about Jane and how they spent the entire day together and that he got into trouble with his dad because he didn’t make it home and had also spent the night at Jane’s.
Apparently Jane’s mother slept all day and worked all night as a nurse, while her father worked in some mining company and was gone for weeks at a time, so Jane was seldom supervised. When I grabbed my school bag and motioned him for us to get going he asked if it was OK that I walk to school alone. He and Jane planned on meeting downtown to spend the day together again. I remember feeling a tinge of worry, but then immediately dismissed it.
This went on for weeks and I seldom heard from Darryl. He only called to tell me when he got into trouble for staying away from home with Jane again. I was no where near understanding what young love could do to a friendship so I always dismissed his absence as normal behaviour.
Although I wondered why she had told him she didn’t want to meet me, I always thought ‘He’ll come see me when he needs me.’
One evening, Darryl called while I was at home and about to go to bed. He told me that he and Jane had broken up. He was crying and heartbroken. I listened to him for almost two hours that night as he told me that she had a new boyfriend and that she was done with him.
“I just don’t want to live anymore,” he said.
Yes I felt sorry for him, but I was also a bit angry when he said that awful statement. I was tired and practically falling asleep, but I listened until he said, “Well, you go to sleep. I’ll come for breakfast in the morning and we’ll go to school. My dad’s pretty mad with all the school I’ve missed. I’ll get over this.”
I yawned and said, “OK, get some rest, things will be better tomorrow. Good night.” So I hung up and his words kept ringing in my head. I debated calling his dad, but I thought Darryl would be okay in the morning. I fell asleep.
The next morning there was a knock at the door, it was almost 7 a.m. and my grandma said, “Holy this kid never comes this early and he never knocks?”
I groggily stood there curious. It was a police officer and he asked my grandma to step outside. I stood there waiting. My grandmother came in a few minutes later with the officer; her eyes were watered as they both stared at me with pity in their eyes. “What?” I asked.
The next few minutes were blurry as I fell to my knees in grief. Apparently Darryl had taken his life with his dad’s shotgun during the night and his father found him after he’d heard a loud bang in the basement.
The grief was a heartbreaking whirlwind. Darryl was my best friend and I used to think I didn’t listen closely enough and that I was too busy to see the signs. After many months of counselling that year, I finally stopped blaming myself.
I cannot begin to describe the pain one feels when they lose a loved one in such a way, my heart goes out to all survivors of suicide.
Sharon Thomas is a Saskatoon freelance writer. Her column appears every fourth Friday in rotation with Jessica Iron Joseph, Lori Q. McGavin and Kevin Joseph.