OUR STORIES

Five years ago, my world stopped. My calendar didn’t get changed or updated for months. Laundry and dishes piled up. Five years ago I experienced the worst pain in my heart. There’s a piece of it that will always be missing.

Five years ago, I lost the person who gave me life — a good life, that I never gave her enough credit for. Five years ago, I realized that my life and my children’s lives would never be the same, and I still don’t even know how to explain it to them.

Five years ago, I saw my stepdad’s world and heart completely shatter. He is one of the strongest hearted men I know. Five years ago, I met a police officer at my mom’s apartment for a wellness check. He walked out with one of the saddest faces I’d ever seen and will never forget. Five years ago, I had to pick myself up off the apartment parking lot ground to make phone calls that I never wanted to make. Five years ago, I had to break my brothers’ hearts. As their older sister, I would do anything to protect them from pain.

Five years have come and gone so fast, but the pain is still here. They say time heals all, but I don’t think that is true. We may get stronger with time, but everyone experiences grief in different ways at different times. The pain doesn’t need to be numbed; I just wish it didn’t hurt so badly.

There’s really no way to know someone else’s pain or suffering. I will never fully understand the hopelessness and pain my mom was experiencing before she took her own life. I cannot imagine what drove her to do what she did. It leaves me with more questions than answers if I even think about it. She overcame so much in her short life. She was so resourceful, resilient, adaptable, and strong. She’s the last person I would ever think could take their own life.

Why?

In hindsight, maybe there were signs. Maybe there was something I could have or should have done to help her. Unfortunately, I will never know. I did, however, learn that she was suffering from mental illness before she passed. She did not disclose much information about her mental illness and/or what she was doing to manage it.

Suicide itself is not a mental disorder, but one of the most important causes of suicide is mental illness. If I would have learned more and helped her more then, would she still be here? Losing a loved one to suicide leaves such an overwhelming amount of unanswered questions, guilt, pain, sadness, grief, etc.

We are all so unaware of tragedies until they affect us personally. Unfortunately, it seems that these tragedies awaken our desire to help and make a difference. Never did I think I would become awakened and so passionate about suicide prevention. Never in my worst nightmares did I ever think suicide would affect me. Never did I ever think it was such a common cause of death. And never did I ever think that I would lose a parent to suicide.

Little did I know, it is more common in rural areas. Between 2002 and 2016 there have been 146 completed suicides in Tuolumne County. Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally among 15- to 29-year-olds. It is the tenth leading cause of death in America. If each person who completed suicide had at least 10 family members and friends, think about how many people are really affected. 

- SERENA ORMAN OCHOA

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