The People They Leave Behind

"He killed himself", three words that will be burned in my mind for the rest of my life. I can remember the exact moment that I heard those three words. I was taking a nap before I had to go to work that afternoon and my mom came in my room to tell me that my cousin killed himself earlier that morning. Since that day, almost a year ago, I have not been able to take a nap during the day. When someone decides to kill themselves it is usually because they can no longer handle the emotions that they are feeling or because they feel like a burden to their friends or family. What they don't think about when they tie that rope around their neck or fire that gun is the people that they will be leaving behind. They are not solving any of their problems they are simply passing the emotions on to the people closest to them.

The week following that fateful morning in November was very much a blur of people offering their condolences to my family and trying to put the pieces together as to why a bright, smart sixteen year old would do this. How was he this unhappy for that long and no one realized it? Why didn't he just speak up and say something? Anything. When someone close to you commits suicide you feel a mix of emotions including sadness, anger and confusion. During my cousins wake hundreds of teens from his school came to pay their respects and I remember sitting in the chair staring at all of them one by one wondering if any of them felt guilty because they saw something happen in school that we didn't or maybe one of them were the ones bullying him and thats why he did that. How many of these tears that these kids were shedding were genuine? How many were simply an act because that is what you are suppose to do when someone dies? A lot of the time when someone passes by suicide the guilt that you feel will eat you alive and so you look for any way to pass it on to someone else, that this is what I was doing when I was staring at all of these kids. Most of them were only sixteen, when you are that age you are both fragile yet oblivious to the world around you. You don't realize that your actions, even small ones, have consequences.

Most of them time, even when someone leaves a note, you will never truly know what was going on in their mind when they finally took the final step and chose to leave this world. I found that it is best to move on and grieve on your own time instead of trying to act as Olivia Benson or Elliot Stabler on Law and Order: SVU and cracking the case.

Sometimes it is easy to see that someone is suffering and once you think back you will begin to see signs that you didn't even recognize before but other times its a complete blindside. For example, a few months ago the lead singer for the world famous band, Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, killed himself. From the outside looking in it seemed that Chester had everything that anyone could want, five wonderful children, a record breaking career, money and a loving wife but on the inside he was suffering. Recently, his wife shared a video of him laughing with his children just hours before he committed suicide. She shared this in order to bring awareness to depression and shine light on the fact that it is not always someone sitting in a dark room all day. I think this video had a powerful impact on a great deal of people and needed to be shared.

Almost 7% of the United States population suffer from depression and every year 44,193 Americans die as a result of suicide. I never in a million years thought that my baby cousin would be included in this number but it happened and has started a fire in me to spread awareness about suicide that will not be extinguished. After reading this story I hope that that same fire ignites in all of you so that hopefully suicide will be a thing that kids learn only about in history class.

By Kristen Catalano

Reflection Magazine