Sunday, September 8, 2013

Suicide Prevention Blog Hop: Her name was Regina

I guess, in a way, I’m fortunate that I’ve only known one person in my life who committed suicide.

Regina was my cousin and, when we were sixteen, she hung herself in her grandmother’s garage.
We were best friends when we were younger – spending summer days together eating homemade snow cones, watching scary movies and talking about what we would be when we grew up. But then something changed when we started high school. Regina changed.

She started getting into trouble at school, she ran away a few times and there were whispered mentions of drugs.
A few months before she died, Regina came to live with my great-aunt and it seemed like she had turned her life around. She'd even started attending church. Although we were strangers by then, she asked me to come with her to a teen youth group meeting so I could meet her new friends. I went and, for a few hours at least, I had my cousin and best friend back. When it was over, we promised to keep in touch and see each other more.

But we didn’t.
I remember the day my mom told me about Regina. She was crying and it was hard for her to get the words out. I think she was more afraid of how I would react. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember this – I didn’t cry. Maybe my eyes watered, maybe my chin quivered. But I didn’t cry like you're supposed to cry when you lose someone you love.

Looking back now, I think I was more angry than sad at that moment. Thoughts of what this would do to her mom and grandma and little sister kept that anger brewing for days. It wasn’t until the funeral that I finally allowed myself to grieve for her.
Me, left, and Regina
As a writer, it was inevitable that I’d tell Regina’s story in some way. The first time was back in college when I wrote a first-person account of her funeral. The second time was last year here on this blog. I wrote a short story based on my college essay, but I fictionalized it by changing the plot and the names.
However, the emotions of betrayal, loss and guilt are the same. If you’d like, you can read it here.

So, how did her suicide affect me? Until Regina, I’d only experienced the death of older relatives. And the fact that she chose to die continues to haunt me even to this day. I’m hyper sensitive to my 16-year-old daughter’s moods and I’m always trying to reassure her that she is loved and treasured. She probably thinks I’m crazy and overprotective. She would be right.

I told her once about Regina. She’d confessed to me that she was worried about one of her cousins because of some things he'd said. After crying together for about an hour, she did one of the bravest things she’s ever done.
She called her cousin’s mom and told her that he needed help.


Special thanks to Louisa Bacio for organizing the Suicide Prevention Hop. Make sure you stop by the other blogs to show your support for this very important cause (links below).

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  1. Your post brought tears to my eyes -- that anger. Oh, I can relate. But, hearing it come from a young teen, too. Thank you for sharing your story, and taking part in the hop.

    1. I just read yours too and all I can say is "wow". Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to share our stories.

  2. My son spent over 4 years struggling to deal with severe PTSD and TBI from his 15 months in Iraq. On Jan. 2, 2011, he decided he could no longer do it and completed suicide. He was 25 and my oldest child, my sunshine, my pride and joy and my friend. We tried for many years to get him help, he was surrounded by loving family and friends, but I think sometimes he felt like a failure because he wasn’t able to handle it on his own. My sister and her husband are both psychologists so there was never any stigma about getting help. To say that his death devastated all of us is an understatement. I will never be the person I use to be, a part of me will be broken until I’m with him again. Thank you for bringing this subject out in the open, I talk about it often. My son didn’t do this to hurt us, he just wanted the pain to stop, I know that if he had been thinking clearly, knowing all the pain that we would be in, he never would have done this, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. We talked about suicide often, the extra hurt that came when someone chooses to take their life and he promised me that if he ever felt like that, he would come to me. But one night after not sleeping for days and tired of the sounds and smells of battle assaulting him, he broke his promise and my heart. His last words were "I don't want to die" he just wanted the pain to stop. Suicide needs to be taken out of the closet, held like a dirty little secret, a brand of shame that only adds to the ones that attempt and the survivors. Only taking it out into the light of day and talking about it loudly instead of whispering in disgust will we then start to put a halt to this overwhelming tide of suicide.


    1. I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your son. I appreciate you taking the time to share your story. And you're right, the louder we talk the more people will listen and, hopefully, lives will be saved.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and taking part in the hop.

  4. I'm so sorry for the loss of your cousin. Your daughter sounds like a wonderful person. Sometimes being crazy and overprotective is a good thing.

  5. I remember that day. She had spent the a day earlier in the week at my school as part of a drug abuse prevention presentation. She spent time with me after the presentation, and like you I thought she was better and back. It was two days later that my mom told me she was gone. I kept asking , "Why Regina wasn't better?" I didn't understand at 14 what difficulties she faced trying to recover, and even today as an adult I still don't understand how difficult things were or her decision to leave us