Needing to Breathe

Trying to decide what to tell your kids, if anything, about suicide is horrible. The brother who passed away? He took his own life. And I’m still waiting for the blast waves to wash over this already fragile family of mine. My husband and his mom are flying to burry their brother/son; the ache and sadness are beyond words. It’s coloring everything I see and feel- including the sunrises I’ve been watching because I cannot sleep. I just cry and cry, and I wasn’t even close to this sibling. It’s unfathomably sad he felt suicide was his best choice. Those left behind are fractured and devastated.

A friend and I were talking quietly in the hallway at church today, and she commented that if I were writing a story on this year, my editor would suggest I tone it down- I mean, really- so many crappy things don’t happen to anyone all at one time, right? It was hard to argue with her. Instead, we sat in the cavernous gym for Relief Society and somberly talked. It’s a good thing, too- the lesson was on dying.

I’ve noticed a ton of sychonicity the last few days. Maybe it’s always around and I’m only noticing because the bundle of raw nerves that passes for me these days has no walls, no defense, little protection, less barriers, no dividing anything. So I notice.

Once, when I was a girl, I drifted into the deeper part of the pool. Never a strong swimmer, I didn’t appreciate being in water over my head. The clear deeper blue and cooler currents gave away my drifting and I pressed my legs down, reaching and stretching and yearning for the solid touch of the bottom. Arms swaying, nose bobbing barely in the air, the fluid rolling edge of the water circling my upturned face, I could almost feel the rough blue surface, just beyond reach.

I know it’s there. I just have to give something up… only this time, I don’t know what I have to give. The rolling silver edge of the water is all around me, and I can’t figure out what I need more- to breathe, or to touch the Bottom.

25 thoughts on “Needing to Breathe

  1. They leave more questions behind than answers; I’m sure if he were around he would be sorry for the pain and grief he leaves behind.


  2. Tracy, I have honestly been thinking about you and praying for you daily now for over a month. Each time I read your posts, I hope that it’s good news you can share with us, and every time it’s another setback, I have to ask God why? I’ve even thought about making my husband find your husband a job, even if it meant you’d have to relocate.

    The worst part, though? It’s how your trials are making mine seem so insignificant. It’s “worse” because I don’t want you to have trials that seem harder than my trials, because I don’t want anyone to have to face trials that are this hard.
    However, because of my own setbacks, I did have a thought this weekend that didn’t necessarily give me comfort, but gave me a little bit of hope:
    It’s always darkest before the dawn.
    Yeah, I know –it doesn’t really help, but perhaps you do need to touch bottom first? What’s frustrating, I’m sure, is not knowing where the bottom is; how could your family go any lower? Be any more humbled? But at the same time, do you see how strong you are? Realize how much you can endure? If you couldn’t, you wouldn’t have been at church talking with your friend in the gym; you’d probably not be at church at all. I think that’s an obvious sign of your Faith and your strength.

    Here’s some more prayers coming your way…

  3. It’s definitely a time for casting your burden on the Lord. Make sure you’re letting Him help you. I know my mom has a hard time with that when things get rough. She feels like she has to do everything and protect everybody from reality.
    It’s also a wonderful opportunity to be thankful for the commandment to judge not. You don’t have to make sense of everything that doesn’t make sense. God does that, and He can do it so much better than we can. The sadness is inevitable, but don’t try to make sense of anything. Trust me. Just be grateful you don’t have to. That’s one burden you can let go of.
    I was 10 or 11 when I had my first exposure to suicide (luckily a failed attempt), and even at that age I couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea of not wanting to live. So while you don’t need to lie to your kids, I don’t think it’s worth stressing over trying to explain details to them either. They wouldn’t get it and it would just cause you undue stress.

    Thinking of you constantly. Remember to allow yourself to be buoyed up in the water by all these people who love you so much!

  4. This will all end at some point, Tracy. Things will get better. Believe me, I know. I’ve been through enough horrific experiences to be able to say that the most amazing thing about life is that it’s indestructible. It goes on.

    I hope your husband is holding up OK. Hug your kids and let the little amazing things they do bring you some comfort.

  5. I am so sorry this sadness is in your life right now when it’s hard for you to muster more strength. I agree with Em’s advice to cast your burden on the Lord. This may be one of those times when really you’re not able to handle it on your own, but I believe the Lord is there for us during those times. You may not be able to reach the surface today–you may need to float through a bad place for a while. I’m so sorry. Hang in there.

  6. Tracy, I don’t even know what to say. You’re going through hell right now and I hate that there’s not much I can do. You’re getting nice comments, though, so take them to heart and know that many, many people are thinking about you and love you and just want you to be happy. I know that doesn’t offer a job or bring back David’s brother but it is something.

  7. No one can go into the mind of another so there is no point in trying to figure out where your brother in law was at the time of his decision. Guessing leads to blind allies, guilt and blame, and in the long run the Lord is merciful and will figure it all out for everyone. He is safe, you are also.

    I agree, that for right now, explaining suicide to young children is probably not a conversation they could fully understand, or adults for that matter. I would try to explain the process of the plan of salvation and that death is a part of it, that the Lord knows our hearts and minds and is our Advocate with the Father. Heavenly Father loves ALL His children and so He (God) has provided for their uncle.

    If the suicide question does come up, keep the answers basic and simple, reminding the children of all the good that their uncle did, what kind of a man he *really* was and that for just a short time he wasn’t thinking clearly and that no one knows why, except Jesus and Heavenly Father. Again remind them that Heavenly Father and Christ love their uncle enough to provide for him and that he is safe now, and that you are sure they will see him again; and when that happens, he will be fine.

    Remind children also that their uncle loved them and they have no responsibility in their uncle’s death. That if he could redo things, he most likely would change his decision. He misses them as much as they miss him and that no one is to blame. We will miss him, but trust in Heavenly Father’s plan, and hope to see him again.

    Many good thoughts and prayer sent your way. Find some light, embrace it.

  8. How beautiful and touching to read from the comments of all of you. S’mee, especially your advice on explaining suicide to young children. What a painful experience.

    Sorry that so many crappy things are happening at the same time. Big hugs to you and the family.

  9. Your description of touching the bottom or breathing hits home. The last week I’ve been telling Heavenly Father I’m ready to swim to the surface, I give up trying to touch. He keeps whispering back to hold on a little longer. What a little longer means to him I don’t know, but I’ve trusted him before and I know he loves me.
    I hope you’re feeling love from your Heavenly Father too (thinking about the post at Segullah). Wish I could be there to talk in the cultural hall, the two of us could throw quite a pity party.

    PS- Give tons of unconditional love and support to your DH (its hard to summon when you’re feeling empty yourself) between the no-job situation and his brother’s death I would imagine he’s set adrift.

  10. Oh Tracy, not more setbacks! I have read and re-read your posts this week, wanting to comment, not knowing what to say. It’s easier to say ‘hang in there’ when you’re in the shallower end of the pool, able to touch the bottom safely. Having been flung back to the deep end, I have spent the past month trying not to drown and asking the same questions you are asking. When is ‘enough’ enough?!? Maybe we need to quit struggling to reach the bottom so we can kick ourselves to the surface, and instead just swim with the currents until we can reach the edge of the water…

    May you know that you are not alone. You have an online support group who appreciate you and are cheering you on. We are crying with you, aching with you, praying with you. You have divine help. You have the assistance of friends at church who are willing to talk and listen to you, whenever and wherever. You have your kids and DH.

    Don’t give up! Look for some small thing each day for which you can be grateful. Maybe it is those sunrises you are watching because you can’t sleep. Maybe it is the smile on Abby’s face. Maybe it is your boys giving each other a hug. Maybe it is the return of David after such a tragic trip. Hold each other a little tighter and be grateful to be together, whatever your life’s circumstances might be. For me, looking for those tiny moments of sunlight helps when life is very dark.

    (( Hugs, Prayers, and Tears ))

  11. Hi, love you, dont tell you enough. Miss you horribly. I wish I could be there for you right now, talking this out in the dead of night like so many times in the past. Always here for you, no matter what time of day or night.

  12. I’m so sorry!

    My husband has been dealing with the suicide topic a lot lately, and it’s really a “last act of revenge” more than anything else – a way to get even with the world. And it works – it hurts those left behind terribly. (Though I’d suspect that some people are so depressed and down at the time that they don’t realize what they are doing.)

    Prayers said for your whole family – that you’ll make it to the surface soon and capture some fresh air.

  13. My heart and thoughts are with your family, you’ve had so much to deal with and I can’t imagine having this happen too. I will be thinking of you–and your whole family. Death is difficult enough to deal with without having the added sadness and tragedy of suicide involved. I’m so sorry!

  14. M.E.’s Mom, no disrespect, but that is pretty harsh.

    Many suicidal people realize that they are leaving a big mess for their family and friends to clean up, but in their *mentally incapacitated* state during their time of stress, many feel they are actually “saving” or “rescuing” their family from having to deal with more of a burden by their staying alive.

    Unless the victim left a note specifically stating their intent was one of revenge, it is unfair to speculate as to why a person chooses to take their own life.

    The survivors have enough to deal with without presuming their loved one is out to get them personally for something they did or did not do. This is laying guilt on the survivors as well as the victim; and such blanket statements are not only broad, they are cruel.

  15. In our case, our brother was very clear in his notes he left. This was about ending his pain.

    Esme and S’mee, I’m sure you are both correct; the gamut of human emotions is indeed deep, and both are certainly possible.

  16. Tracy,

    My cousin took his life in January. Although I didn’t know him very well, it was still a difficult experience for me. It shook up my whole picture of my family. I am so sorry for all of you.

    You might find this link helpful (It is an article by Elder Ballard about suicide from the October 1987 issue of the Ensign).

  17. I wonder if sometimes the Lord “gives” us experiences that we are completely unable to understand so that we will come to Him for the answers. I know that when both of my parents walked out on my seven brothers and sisters and myself, we were left wondering how that could happen. I was 24 at the time and left to raise the youngest that were still at home. Then when my dad passed away 11 years later and we found out that he had spent those years writing letters of love to us that he never had the courage to send, it brought up even more questions.

    Throughout all of those years I was ever so grateful for my knowledge of my Father in Heaven. So many, many hours have been spent on my knees seeking the comforts of the atonement. It is in those quite hours of confusion and disarray that I personally heard the voice of the Lord whisper the “truth of all things” to my heart. I understood the thoughts and feelings of my parents in a way that I never could of in this life and then felt the light of the gospel enter my mind and my heart again as the atonement cleansed my pain.

    These experiences don’t happen over night but they do happen and will for you as well as long as you seek the Lord through diligent prayer. He loves you more than you will ever know and He will heal your heart and mind as well.

  18. I know this is late.. but I still wante dto say I wa sthinking about you, your hubby, and the families effected. I can’t imagine…. and I agree with your friend.. I know you have a silver lining, I just pray that it comes so very soon.

    Much thoughts.

  19. I lost my dad to suicide in April, so believe me when I say I know what your family is going through. I don’t know what you have told your kids but we were honest with my 4 cousins (all aged 12 and under) and encouraged them to ask questions. My dad had been suffering with psychosis, and my youngest cousin (9) seemed to understand that this was a sickness that no one could see.

    My heart goes out to you – suicide is devastating. Much, much love.

  20. My heart goes out to you all. I also lost my father to suicide and even ‘tho it is over 25 years ago can still remember the utter desolation that hit the whole family – and the ripples continued to spread out for so many years.
    Yes, he’d been long term ill, yes, we all tried to give him as much support as we could, but no, it just wasn’t enough. For him it was the only alternative he could really recognise. There’s no blame, there was simply not enough anyone could do do alleviate what appeared to him a hopeless situation with no other means of escape.
    S’mee, I know where you are coming from – Dad couldn’t see ‘life’ ahead, only existence, not just for himself but he saw how difficult his illness made things for the rest of the family. He’d even lost his faith in the Lord.
    Try to be honest with the kids if you can bear it – it will give you all strength in sharing. The alternative (for our youngsters, at least) was not a good choice, even ‘tho it seemed kinder at the time, learning about Dad’s suicide many years on has had some damaging effects – something of a loss in trust being strongest amongst them.
    Have faith that things will get better. It’s never going to stop hurting altogether but it will hurt less and, one day, become accepted as a part of your life, however sad.

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