Facebook Twitter

Arianne Brown: Reading an obituary mentioning suicide gave me hope

SHARE Arianne Brown: Reading an obituary mentioning suicide gave me hope
Dani and Denny Bates pose with their two daughters. Denny died from suicide in March of this year.

Dani and Denny Bates pose with their two daughters. Denny died from suicide in March of this year.

Dani Bates

Earlier this month, I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed and happened upon a post that caught my eye. It was an obituary of a man just a year younger than me, who had left behind a wife and two young daughters, having died by suicide.

I don't normally make a practice of reading the obituaries of people I don't know, but there was one time in my life when I did. It was a time when I felt alone and needed a connection with anyone who also felt the pain and sorrow I was feeling.

It was in 2006 that my older sister died by suicide. It was a time when that word was not spoken of, the act ignored, and the feeling of isolation so great. With each obituary I read, I never found what I was looking for, and it only added to the feeling of loneliness.

Were we the only family who was having to endure this? Certainly, I didn't want any other person or family to have to feel the pain, sorrow, guilt, shame and utter turmoil that losing someone to suicide causes, but I didn't like feeling alone either.

It was in 2013 when I decided I needed to open upand break the silence that had suffocated me for so many years. It was then, when I realized that silence was not the answer, and that others needed to know that this does happen to normal, everyday people like my sister, and families like mine. It was then when people started to open up to me about their losses, and when I felt like real healing began to take place.

When I read the obituary of the young father, Denny Bates, that was written by his wife, Dani Bates, it was gut-wrenching, while at the same time, refreshing. In it, Dani Bates did not leave out the cause of her husband's death, nor did she hide many of his struggles. At the same time she let readers know what a wonderful husband, father and person he was, and that suicide did not define him.

She opened up about her feelings on her husband’s death, writing (and used here with her support), “This was not a selfish act; he truly believed he was doing the only thing he could to protect his little family. … As Denny’s loved ones, we are sharing this openly and encouraging others to reach out, in hopes of helping others. Before you get to this point, please talk to someone. People love you and they want to help. Please don’t allow this to happen to even one more family.”

Over the years, I have bounced back and forth between wondering if my own opening up about suicide was helpful or not. I’ve wondered if my openness has caused suicide to be thought of as an option to those contemplating it, because it is everywhere these days. So many people, it seems, are choosing to leave. Whether as a logical thought due to unfortunate circumstances or under the influence of mental illness, so many people are leaving behind loved ones to wonder why for the rest of their lives.

Yet, when I read accounts from loved ones left behind like Dani Bates, it confirms to me that we need to keep the conversation going and not hide the realities of suicide. Individuals contemplating suicide need to know that life after they leave is not a better one for those left behind. They are not a burden, and they are not only loved, but needed. And if the choice to leave is made, and suicide is accomplished, those left to cope with the tragic loss of their loved one need to feel like it is something they can talk about openly with others who understand.

I applaud Dani Bates’ bravery. I thank her for letting people like me know they are not alone by opening up about the terrible tragedy of suicide that no person should die from, and no family should have to endure. It is people like her who give me hope for a world of understanding as this important conversation continues.