Even though it has been almost two years since Steve took his own life, there are those who still do not agree with my talking freely about his suicide. Yes, the embarrassment and stigma associated with suicide is still alive and well.
I have done a lot of soul searching and sometimes question whether publicizing the cause of Steve's death is the right thing to do. In the end, I believe Steve would have wanted it this way. He was a firm believer in helping others as was evidenced by his career choices as a lifeguard, a coach and applying to FDNY to become a firefighter. Now, Steve will continue to help others even though he is no longer with us. Bringing the cause of his death out in the open has already helped many.
Whether it was from reading Steve's memoir, my Facebook and website postings or my blog, other suicide survivors have thanked me for my openness and said it has given them some small measure of comfort knowing they are not alone in feeling what they are feeling. Other survivors have shared with me they now feel empowered to talk about how their loved one died, even though it may have been years since their loved one took his or her own life. Keeping it a secret or denying it for so long had weighed so heavily on their shoulders. Then there are those who have shared with me that they have contemplated suicide, but after reading about the pain and collateral damage left after a loved one takes their own life have told me it has given them pause as they have said they would never want their friends and family to have to suffer the pain of their loss. They told me that they had previously thought their loved ones would be better off without them, a sentiment expressed by Steve in some of his final writings. However, my writings have convinced them otherwise.
The burdens carried by suicide survivors are way too heavy as it is and having to hide the cause of our loved one's death, is way too much for anyone to have to bear. Who better than a suicide survivor to articulate the pain and sorrow that results from the suicide of a loved one? I have been given a gift to articulate my thoughts in writing, so, I will continue to tell Steve's story so long as I feel people are helped by it. I believe Steve would have wanted me to choose this path so that something good may come out of his pain and suffering.
The cost of telling Steve's story has been high in lost relationships and I have sacrificed my own privacy. Now when you Google my name, you will find all sorts of references to me, something a few years ago would have caused me to freak out. Now I look at that in a positive light in that Steve's story is reaching more and more people.
Is it worth it? Yes, and I will end with two quotes that continue to inspire me in my mission to raise mental health and suicide awareness in spite of what others think or say:
"Be the change you want to see in the world" -- Mahatma Gandhi
"When we deny the story, it defines us, when we own the story we can write a brave new ending" - Brene Brown