This piece mentions the topic of suicide and suicide loss. Please use your discretion.
A friend texted me, wondering if she could ask a personal question. Nervously, I replied, “Sure!”
I’ve been asked all sorts of questions, but this one actually took my breath away: “If you could have told Eric anything if you had known what he was thinking, what would it have been? I feel horrible asking you this, but I’m in a bad place in my mind. And I just keep thinking, ‘what would someone say?’”
My brother Eric died by suicide on January 4th, 2019, after battling an opioid addiction while pastoring at multiple churches in Texas.
I’m sure Eric had several mental health issues, but he couldn’t stick with counseling or rehab long enough to get a diagnosis or to take the necessary steps to heal. We would talk when he wasn’t doing well and he’d be honest. He was angry. Hurt. Confused. Distracted. After he died, I wondered and still wonder if I could have done more. That’s why suicide is such horrific trauma to walk through—because while you know that person made their own decision, you are left wondering what you could have done to prevent it. You will think back to every negative conversation, all the times you thought about calling or texting and didn’t, the opportunities you had to spend time with that person and you just couldn’t, you will go back over every scenario.
Right after Eric passed, I was in a session with my counselor, and I told him there were so many things I would have said and done differently. So he had me tell him what I would have told Eric. The process was therapeutic. And what I told my counselor, what I wanted to tell Eric, was what I shared with my friend…
“E, I love you so much. You need to know that you are not your demons. You are battling some dark stuff because you feel broken, just like me, just like everyone. And while I know people expect a lot out of you, you don’t have to pretend anymore. You can get help and heal and I will be with you every step of the way reminding you that who you are is not what you do. People shouldn’t be surprised that you aren’t perfect and don’t have it all together.
We grew up in a really restrictive, harsh environment where you got the brunt of people’s judgment and anger. You never felt like you could truly be yourself. You never felt the freedom to make mistakes and to learn from them. The condemnation was too much to bear sometimes at our ages, and so lying was a form of escape. You, like me, learned that pleasing people and being well-liked was a way to avoid judgment and feelings of worthlessness. I don’t know that you ever truly knew who you were. But I know you. I’ve always known you. You love Jesus, you love your wife and kids, you love people. You absolutely love people. You will do just about anything for the marginalized—I think because you personally know how it feels. You are so freakin’ funny, and thoughtful, and kind, and intelligent. I know you have big dreams to help people just like you, who need to know they aren’t alone and that they have second, third, and fourth chances.
You’ve told me you don’t know how you’ve gotten here. But I know: You’re hurting. You don’t feel safe. Just tell me how I can help you feel safe. I know this isn’t the end for you. You can climb out of this dark hole one step at a time, and you don’t have to do it alone.
You are hurting and you feel so exhausted from fighting. You don’t think you have a fight left. But there are people who are willing to fight with you. There are people who want to fight with you.
The enemy knows you have a story worth telling, and it wants you to give up. To give in. Please don’t do it. I know you can beat this. I love you more than you know.”
If I had the chance, that’s what I would have said to my brother. And if you are contemplating suicide, remember: Your story isn’t finished—but you have to make the choice to keep writing it.
Whatever you are facing, there is always hope. And we will hold on to hope until you’re able to grasp it yourself. If you’re thinking about suicide, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.