15 November 2012

Why Suicidal Ideation Shouldn't Stay Private

A lot of things have happened since I last posted, and it's been a while since I have, but I feel moved to share something I just wrote for an assignment. If you have thoughts of suicide, please talk to someone.

The importance of identifying and addressing suicidal ideation in others cannot be understated. I personally have lost a close person to suicide. For me, it was my godfather – the man who delivered me when I was born. This was someone who could have been a major influence on my life, but instead was lost to the world when I was only six years old.
There are two ways in which I look at the tragedy of my godfather’s death. The first is this: it is important for us to be able to talk about suicide on a variety of levels. As I was six years old, my parents chose to tell me that my godfather had died of natural causes and did not discuss the true manner in which he died. However, I found out how he had actually died around a year later, and from a friend of my own age; I can remember it very distinctly, as it felt to me as though I had lost him all over again, but this time my memories of him were tarnished by the taboo of suicide. I think we as social workers need to understand the implications of death and of suicide at a variety of ages, and feel comfortable discussing this with children, adolescents, and adults. I would have benefited from a better, if maybe not fully detailed, understanding of how my godfather passed, despite my being so young.
            The second way I view this tragedy is this: it is madness that a man with a medical degree who was currently practicing in a medical field did not feel as though he could seek out help, and that no one saw the signs of suicidal thoughts in him. It seems unreal to me that he could hide his severe depression and suicidal ideation from so many. My godfather had a long and early history of trauma. I do not doubt that these traumas fed into his depression and his inability to handle certain stressors, like having a newborn son of his own. However, that his wife did not seek help for him, and that his friends and colleagues did not either, points to the overwhelming fact that seeking help for suicide continues to be too stigmatized to be accessible. Until we remove the stigma from seeking help, we will continue to see wonderful people take their own lives. 
            The pain of losing someone has long impacts. My godmother has had many of her own issues, many of which I feel relate to the traumas of losing a loved one to suicide. Their son has lost a lot in not having a father. My parents and our community lost an amazing friend and doctor. I lost a wonderful relationship with an intelligent man. How can these losses be preferable to banning the stigma of seeking help? 

05 June 2012

In Honor and in Memory

My grandfather recently passed away, and as I was working this evening I found myself thinking about him and his wonderful ways. The following is a list of just a few things I miss about him.

  • his hugs, which were all-encompassing and warm; 
  • his amazing and toothy smile, which he rarely went without; 
  • the way he would sing hymns and other favorite songs as he walked around the house; 
  • his laugh, which was rich and full of joy; 
  • the way that he embodied the idea that you can take a man out of Texas, but you can't take Texas out of the man;
    • His mantle was decorated with two shotguns, and a pair of spurs hung from them.
  • his humble nature, which was paired with a vocal and constant loving praise of others; 
  • his love of good stories, which was visible in his collection of books and movies; 
  • his faith, which was strong and deep; 
  • his jesting nature, and his ability to tell tall tales right along with truthful ones;
    • He told me one Thanksgiving that he had seen a turkey walking past the house, and that he had wished desperately that I had been there, because he was sure I would have been able to catch it for dinner. I bragged about this for much longer than I should have.
    • He gave me a Tarheel pin once and told me he had received it from the governor of North Carolina. I thought I'd caught him in one of his tales, only to find out later from my mom that he'd told the truth.
    • His escape from an MP when he was caught wearing a yellow-with-white-polka-dots bow tie with his military greens is legendary, and though the tale is true, his excuses to the MP were not.
  • his deep love for me and my family, and the bright joy he took in not only my engagement, but in the man I am to marry;
    • When I called him to tell him Stephen proposed, he could not contain his excitement. He could barely finish a sentence for the "Praise God" exclamations. In the middle of telling me his joy, he spontaneously went into prayer, and blessed the union of two wonderful families and praised the wonderful family we would have and become. It was intensely powerful; my mom, who was with him when we spoke, can't talk of it for tearing up.
    • In his last week, my parents were sitting on either side of him, holding his hands. My dad asked him if he could get my grandfather anything, and my grandfather's response was to squeeze their hands and say "I have everything I need right here."
  • his complete and generous love, which was shown for any and everyone;
    • He went into the hospital for a while last year, and he had all of the nurses charmed within a matter of minutes.
    • Even when he had lost the ability to speak more than a few words, and could only really answer "yes" and "no" questions, he still used "ma'am."
    • His last words were "love" repeated over and over again, said with joy and not tinged with fear of death.
  • the way he popped out of his armchair when he got up (his wooden leg hampered him standing up normally) and was an act showing his strength, which he kept for so long.
These are just a few things, and I'm sure I will add more as the days pass. For now, I just need reasons to focus on the good in missing him, and not on the pain I feel at knowing I will never see him again.