Letters to Chris. May 22nd. Day 44.

Hey Buddy,

“Suicide” was never a word that was really in my vocabulary. I’d obviously read in papers and books about it. I’d seen it on the news and TV shows. I had known a girl in my middle school who was rumored to have killed herself. But now it defines me. After you, suicide has become a massive part of me. I honestly can’t verbalize how that makes me feel. It’s not something I had ever expected to become such a huge part of my world, of my identity. And definitely not because of you. But now, after suicide has become part of my daily life, I see it everywhere. Now that the word has entered my vocabulary, it refuses to leave. Just last week, Chris Cornell commit suicide by hanging himself in his hotel room. His last tweet, much like your last Facebook post, seemed happy…carefree. He, like you, had children. Then my boss’ friend commit suicide. Not too long ago he had sent out a happy email to their friend group, cracking jokes about their annual golf trip. He also had kids. My friend’s friend threatened suicide last night…A high school here in Colorado is experiencing so many suicides it is being called an “epidemic.” Zack Snyder’s 20 year old daughter killed herself back in March. He only just went public with it because he’s taking a break from directing to be with his family.

It’s f*cking everywhere. It makes me ill and breaks my heart.

What can we do to stop this? I have decided to make it my life’s mission to bring awareness to a subject that has been taboo for far too long. With the pressures society places on us, the financial, workplace, family demands we all experience, mental illness is on the rise. And that scares me. We still know far too little about how the brain works. I remember how I felt about suicide before you. I had obviously tried it before, but I then picked myself up. Mom says that’s the difference between men and women. Women often use far less drastic ways to end our lives, which often allows us to survive and realize we don’t want to die after all. Men are more prone to violent ways, like you were. But anyway…I had understood it. When Mom had called me back in October to confide she was terrified you would shoot yourself, I became angry. Not at her, but at the possibility of losing you. I didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility of losing you. I was ignorant. As a psychologist, she knew the warning signs. So we begged you to get help. She sent me a text the other night after reading my last letter to you:

Chris, why did you lie to me last summer about getting counseling help through the guard? Were you purposefully misleading me? I found out yesterday that never happened. They would have helped you! And someone could surely have helped you manage finances better. If not Mom and Dad would have been glad to guide you.Why didn’t you ask for help, Chris???

Chris, WHY???? Didn’t you care what happened to you? Didn’t you care what losing you would do to us? I can’t even breathe without it hurting. I know we are going to survive this, but we shouldn’t have to. This should never have happened. It should never happen to anyone. Ever. So I’m going to fight for you. Always. For the rest of my life. I have no idea what I can do to help. But I have to try. No one should have to live without their brother the way Nikea, Bethany and I now have to. No one should grieve a son like Mom and Dad are. I feel so powerless, but I can’t just sit by and watch this happen. I couldn’t save you, but maybe I could help someone else. I tell myself if I can help one person, that’s all that matters. One person. It won’t bring you back, but I think it could help the heartache you left behind that refuses to abate.

I’ve been reading a book Dad got for us, called Finding Piece Without All the Pieces by LaRita Archibald. Her son took his life at 24 years of age. Her experience makes me grateful, if that’s possible, for ours. The people she dealt with through the police department and hospital that night were awful and uncaring. We were so lucky. Everyone our family worked with during that hellish first couple weeks were amazing. They knew you were someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father, and treated you and us with so much love and compassion. When Dad went to get your things, people went out of their way to help. I think I told you about this already…how your landlord packed up your things and cleaned up, how your boss’ ex wife helped Dad load the truck, how Viking not only held a get-together in your honor but also donated to your son’s education fund. The funeral home was so patient as we made decisions…and completely understanding and not pushy when we decided against buying a fancy urn since we knew you’d want an artillery box for your ashes. God, we were so lucky, Chris. Nothing can bring you back, but the empathy of others has made this a little bit easier.

LaRita brought up something interesting in her book. That when you first hear about a loved one’s suicide, your grief over his loss is first overshadowed by the manner in which he died. It’s so true. Just knowing that you took your life almost destroyed me…I thought it was going to. Even though I knew you were gone, it was hard to wrap my mind around more than the simple fact that you had purposefully taken yourself away from us who love you. Now, over a month later, the reality that I’ll never hear your voice or hug you again is hitting. I’ve started having panic attacks. I think you help calm me when they start, because they abate fast. I’m just so tired of you being gone. I’m ready for this to be over. I’m ready to have you back…where I can call you anytime I want. It still doesn’t seem real. How can it, when someone who has always been there just ceases to exist in this world? I say this world, because I know you still exist. That you are as alive as me if not more. This helps get me through the days and nights, but it doesn’t keep me from hurting. I keep looking for other signs from you. And maybe that’s not fair to you. After all, I’m sure you have a lot going on right now. More than your high-maintenance sister.

I found a bunch of pictures of you on my computer last night. Remember the day we celebrated yours and Dad’s birthdays together? I even took a video of us singing to you guys. Dad had a blast with that….As we’d sing “Happy birthday to…” he’d keep interjecting “us!” I got you the two other Twilight books. Yes, argue all you want but you DID like those books. You had asked for them 🙂 And then there are several goofy pics you and I took together. I wish, I wish, I wish that we had taken more like that as we got older. I stopped taking selfies, and the silly sibling pictures stopped. And that breaks my heart. But at least I have these. Then I was randomly going through some pictures from my old Instagram the other night, and found a pic I posted of our grocery cart from when Mom, Nikea and I went shopping at Shnucks for our Christmas Eve celebration five years ago. There were like six huge wine bottles, and my caption read, “To say my family simply likes wine is a serious understatement.” To which you responded, “So very true! LOL love you sis!” Actually, you wrote, “love you you sis!” which makes me giggle. I wish there were more silly responses like that, but we didn’t comment on each other’s stuff all that often. I’m grateful for the things I do have…the photos, the voicemails, your texts…although I’d give anything, absolutely anything, to have commented on all your posts, to have texted you every day, called you every day. It f*cking sucks realizing your shortcomings as a big sister when it’s too late.

I talked to Grandma and Grandpa on the phone last night. We would only occasionally talk before you left us, but now we chat pretty often. They are doing well. Grandma talked about how they drove to Hermann to the wineries. According to Grandpa, there is some prime people-watching there. He said one time they drove up just to sit in the car and watch all the craziness unfold during one of Hermann’s festivals. I thought that was adorable. Such a cute date night. Grandma’s 90th birthday is in July, so I’m going to try to get home for that. I’m already coming home in June and August, fingers crossed I can take one more day off for that. It’s getting harder and harder to be away from family. I’m doing my best right now, but it’s not going very well.

Anyway, bedtime. I love you, Bud.

Jenn

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