“This can’t be good.”

My wife and I were sitting in our kitchen early on a Friday morning. When my phone rang and showed the name of my friend and neighbor, those were the words I (half-jokingly) said.

“Can you come over here, right now?” my friend asked.

“Sure,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Ryan committed suicide.”

Ryan? Their 19-year-old son, Ryan? Our middle daughter’s best friend since kindergarten, Ryan? The same Ryan who was finishing up his first year of college? Ryan, who had a job teaching the gymnastics he had loved since he was a toddler? RYAN??

We spent the next several days sitting with our friends not knowing what words to say but knowing that no words would be enough. We’ve spent the years since then trying to help keep Ryan’s memory alive and sitting with our friends when the inevitable bouts of grief reoccur. Mostly… we just do a lot of sitting.

I once told someone that suicide can be a little bit like a star dying in space; one moment the star is there shining bright, and the next moment – poof – it’s gone, leaving a black hole of a vacuum that sucks in everything around it.

Over the past few years, we’ve also watched our friends display an incredible amount of personal resilience. They found an amazing therapist at Family Counseling Service and learned how to breathe and walk again, in spite of the grief. They’ve leaned on each other and their friends and family in new ways. They’ve shared Ryan’s story with anyone who will listen. A couple of weeks ago, we were at our friends’ house for dinner. Ryan’s mom was telling a story about him; she teared up of course. But then she got quiet and just smiled a little bit.

Our friends share their full story of grief and coping with losing a loved one to suicide in the video below:

I’ve spent my career fighting against suicide and other mental health issues. Some days, like that Friday, it feels like a losing battle. I’d give just about anything to have the families I know personally and professionally not have to go through that pain. But they’re going to go through it no matter what I want. And, every once in a while, that little smile shows up, and I’m reminded that while they’ll never “get over it,” they’re getting through it. And maybe that has to be enough.

If you are struggling yourself, know someone who is struggling, or are coping with losing a loved one to suicide, please reach out to us at Family Counseling Service. We are here to help – hope starts here.