Learning to Live After Suicide

By Kevin Eberle, Survivors of Suicide Support Group Facilitator

Scan0001We all have days/dates that we remember for whatever reasons, birthdays, anniversaries, any special occasions.

For me, my most remember able date will always be Oct. 31, 1986. That day changed my life forever. It is the day my best friend Connie chose to end her life. For whatever reason she felt she needed to do that, I will never know. I did speak with her the night before. I told her I had just picked up our train tickets for Florida. We were going to Disney World that up-coming Thanksgiving. We had a great talk and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Then the next day I get a call saying that her father had found her in the garage, she had died by carbon-monoxide poisoning. Words cannot express what I was feeling or going through at that moment. The drive down to her house was a blur. My last sight of her was under a sheet the paramedics covered her with. I tried so desperately to get to her, I wanted to see her, hold her, but I was stopped by the police. I was told to try to remember her the way she was. Seriously, my best friend is lying there…dead….and I can’t see or hold her. But I understand now why they wouldn’t let me.

October is my birthday and Halloween was our favorite time. As soon as October gets here, it brings a sadness that I can’t quiet grasp to this day, an anxiousness that gets you deep inside. To this day, my birthday is never the same and it was years before I could even go out for Halloween again. Many times I wish I could just skip the whole month of October. But I know it’s coming and I know I have to deal with it.

That is one of the hardest things to cope with after a suicide…. trying to get your life back together. It’s like the Elephant in the room. It’s big, you can’t avoid it, you can’t miss it, it’s there. But I can honestly say the Elephant no longer takes up the whole room, it is now small and sits on a shelf. You know it’s there, it doesn’t ever go away….just not as noticeable.

I have many good, funny memories of Connie and our times together. And they help greatly this far ahead. Now when I think of her, I do feel sad, an aching I can’t describe, but now those memories bring a smile and a fond remembrance of our times together and the great person she was. She was so much more than the way she died.

It was two years after her death that I ran into someone who lost their father to suicide. We shared how difficult it was trying to cope and deal with it. Back then there was no-one to talk to about suicide, it was a taboo subject.

I realized, right then and there that this just couldn’t be. I knew I needed to do something about this. No one should have to go through something like this alone. We found a church that was willing to donate a room for us to meet…and that is when we started the Lancaster Chapter, Survivors of Suicide. I found that by not only helping others through this terrible loss I was able to help myself also. I became almost obsessed with reading and finding out as much as I could. I attended conferences, read as many books as I could…not only for me, but so I could have the right information to help others. I like to think that by helping others through something like this has somehow turned her death into something positive.

I am grateful to the church for still letting us meet there….. I have been facilitating the support group for over 20 years. I feel so sad when I see new people coming to the support group, because I know why they are there….and I know what they will and are going to go through. ..… I also know that they will find the help, support, comfort and understand in trying to put their lives back together again. And to let them know they are not alone. Suicide is nothing you get over….you just learn how to love with it.