November brings up a lot of tough emotions for my family and I. This November will mark the one year anniversary of my father in laws suicide.
To think that it’s been an entire year is baffling. This year has been one of the most challenging years of our lives. Navigating suicide isn’t something that’s spoken about much, and I think that’s because it’s such a hard topic to talk about. There aren’t many words to describe how it feels to lose a loved one to suicide.
A lot of conflicting emotions come up around suicide. After we lost my father in law, I had to leave my husband with his mom and head home to take care of our son. It was an hour and a half long ferry ride, plus another hour transit ride to our house.
That’s two and a half hours to contemplate what had just happened. Two and a half hours to fight back the tears that had been streaming down my face for the past 48 hours. Two and a half hours to figure out how I’m going to support my husband through this, show up for my son who had just lost his grandfather, and figure out how I was going to handle my own grief.
During the ferry ride I researched suicide like my life depended on it. I needed to know how I could support my husband through this. I needed to learn as much as I could about the grieving process, because I had never gone through this before.
I’ve lost 3 of my 4 grandparents to cancer, so I’ve dealt with loss before. Losing a parent, a father, is so much harder for many people. I don’t even like to think about losing my dad one day because it breaks my heart just thinking about it. Losing someone to suicide adds a whole other layer to the greving process, because you don’t have anything or anyone to blame. When someone passes from cancer, you blame the cancer. When someone takes their own life, you’re lost.
You feel guilty blaming the person, because you know that they must have been in the darkest place imaginable to do something so horrific.
Your mind is searching for something, anything to blame.
You start to blame yourself for not doing more, for not knowing. You feel guilty, you feel like you should have done more, you feel like you should have known. You go over every situation, every stupid thing you said or did, every fight; replaying it all and wondering how you could have done things differently to avoid this pain.
It’s a vicious cycle, a terrible place to be in.
There are no words of comfort when someone is lost to suicide. There’s only emptiness where that person used to be. Your heart is ripped out of your chest and curb stomped, over and over again.
It’s incredibly painful, and yet, suicide is preventable.
Men are more likely to commit suicide, they account for about 75% of suicides.
90% of people who commit suicide have mental health problems or illnesses.
Mental health is a serious thing and yet it’s still looked down upon, especially with men. Men are berated and made fun of for being sensitive, for talking about their feelings. Men are raised to be strong, to not show any signs of weakness, and emotions are looked at as weaknesses. Men are raised to brush it off and suck it up.
Men account for 75% of suicides.
As a woman, I’ve grown up to accept that I am emotional and sensitive, it’s considered normal, yet even I’ve been made fun of and looked down on for that sensitivity. I’ve been made to feel guilty for having and showing my emotions. Being called sensitive is often looked at as a negative attribute, especially if you’re a man. If a man speaks about his feelings, his struggles with his thoughts, his mental health, he’s called weak.
Men account for 75% of suicides.
Why aren’t we talking about this? Why are we still condemning men for having feelings? Can you see the disconnect? Can you see how we’re raising men to fail, raising them to never feel like they’re good enough, strong enough?
I’m grateful to have grown up with a father who was openly emotional. I’ve seen my dad cry more times than I can count, even though he was raised by your typical tough man’s man of a father. My dad taught me that being emotional isn’t a bad thing.
Emotions aren’t bad. Emotions aren’t weak.
Showing our emotions, feeling sensitive, being empathetic, are not signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.
Being open with how you’re feeling, talking about your struggles, allowing people to talk about how they’re doing, makes you strong.
When this all happened with my father in law, I told my husband that I never wanted him to be “strong” in front of me. I never want him to feel like he needs to hide his feelings for fear of being seen as weak.
Being “strong” by suppressing your emotions is dangerous.
We need to change the dialog for men. We need to provide them with safe spaces to explore their emotions. We need to stop telling them to suck it up and be strong.
Men are dying.
Fathers, sons, and brothers are dying.
This November I will be participating in Movember; now, I could grow a mustache, but I don’t think anyone wants to see that. Instead, during the month of November, I will be walking, hiking, or running 60km for the 60 men who lose their lives to suicide every hour.
I am accepting donations that will go towards men’s mental health research and support, as well as prostate and testicular cancer research and support. You can donate HERE. If you can’t donate, I encourage you to reach out to the men in your life and ask them how they’re doing. Really listen to what they have to say and encourage them to give voice to their struggles.
It’s time to change. It’s time to support the amazing men in our lives by creating safe spaces for them.