About ten years ago, I lost a family member and a good friend to suicide, fairly close in timing together. Both were unexpected. Both left a hole I don’t think can ever be filled. In both cases, the loss was terrible, amplified by the question, “What could I have done?”. Both are people I think about often and who continue to have a positive impact on my life, even though they are not here anymore. In the one case, I had been completely unaware that this person I loved was even hurting. The shock of learning how much sorrow I had missed, felt almost unbearable. How did I not know the pain that he had been feeling?
The week before, I had been feeling a sense of melancholy and asked my Bishop for a blessing. It came with a powerful sense of comfort and when I got the news that this person had passed, I felt like I had been given a preemptive blanket of comfort to protect me at the time. This helped me focus on the good memories for a few days, until the tears came pouring out at the funeral. I still can’t visit this person’s grave without a good cry. I will miss him forever and look forward to the day we get to talk once again.
Suicide is something we mention often in this world of trying to make the world a better place for our beloved LGBT brothers and sisters. I have been thinking maybe it would be good to share some of my perspective, having had these experiences, but also because I myself have confronted similar thoughts of hopelessness and despair.
I have been wanting to somehow capture what these feelings are like, so that people could perhaps feel some empathy, but also to describe what a powerful impact some kindness and love from supportive Latter-day Saints have had on this one gay Mormon. I was going through some old journal entries from last year and came across an entry talking about some poignant feelings, which I’d like to share.
During a particularly dark period, I went for a walk in a state park. Walking outside, I reveled in the beauty all around me. Then when I stopped, with the sun going down, to turn around and head home, I felt a piercing sorrow I had been trying to hide from. This is what I wrote later that night.
“My heart still hurts quite a bit. Today was a better day. It’s been a pretty rough couple of weeks (again). This time I’ve been down worse than I have in a long time.
I haven’t told anyone yet, but last week, I was back to wanting everything to end. I didn’t know there was so much pain a heart can feel. And, I never thought it would just keep happening.
I felt so hopeless, so overwhelmed, starting almost ten years ago. (when I finally acknowledged I was gay)
So many glimmers of hope, but last week, even out in the beauty of God’s earth, amazed at the magestic view, I just wanted to die.
Thankfully, with some sleep…I started feeling better, and yesterday and today, I’ve been feeling more like myself, more able to find hope.
Last week, I just felt so tired. so numb. and so alone again.
I feel pretty alone, although it is better being here at home.
I miss my friends. I miss having a group of friends I feel totally comfortable with… maybe I’ve never really had that. But, I have had people I felt close to. Now, I feel like there are walls up all around in so many different forms…”
Things got much better after I wrote this, and although some of that has eroded now and then, I have continued to find hope and strength to keep me going along the way, sometimes in what feels like the last few minutes of those desperate moments when I’ve felt like there’s nothing left to hold on to.
I wish I could capture the sleepless nights or the volume of tears and somehow communicate how desperately we gay Mormons need our families and friends to find some understanding. I truly believe that if they could understand my pain, they would find a way to bind my wounds, that we could walk side by side, comfort each other, and move forward towards some happy journey. At times I rage how so much misinformation, fear, and criticism has kept some of the people closest to me from finding that understanding, but I try to hold on to hope that someday they will be able to see.
Thankfully, I’ve found people who have supported me through this. Particularly, two professional psychologists, at different times in my life, who I can’t thank enough, and also recently newfound friends and fellow Latter-day Saints who have managed to be there in the moments I’ve needed them. Lately, I have been counting my immense blessings in finding these people, because I truly believe they have been the buffer that’s kept me from the brink of total despair.
Like I wish I could capture and describe some of the dark, I also wish I could capture the feeling when in those moments of dark, some kind Latter-day Saint has been a ray of light bringing hope to somewhere it was forgotten. An invitation to dinner, a call, an e-mail, a word of encouragement, a simple hug – there are so many ways to show someone you care about them, and over the last year I’ve been so blessed to have all of those.
I want to share how, for me, suicide isn’t just a theoretical situation we need to help people avoid. For me, it’s a danger lurking in the darkness and the pain, sometimes for days at a time, sometimes very present, but something most people don’t know hides behind the smiles and strength I put on for the world. I want to share that each of us can make a difference. I think we do this best by letting people know we love them and trying to understand the pain that people feel. When we do this, we find ways to bring the power of healing and protection in their lives.
Life can be demanding, especially as we seek to grow and learn, sometimes it brings heart wrenching change. I do pray that in these sorrows we come closer to God.
We often can’t do anything to change the challenges we or others face, but we can find ways to be there for them and find ways to bring comfort. For all the wonderful people who have found a way to be there for me, I’ll be eternally grateful. You don’t know how many times I stood, thinking there was no way to go on, and you carried me on.
May we continue to encircle our fellow LGBT brothers and sisters in the arms of our love.
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”