This is a space for people to leave their own stories about loss, grief and recovery. While Our New Lives edits out basic spelling, grammar and language mistakes, these pieces are written voluntarily by survivors around the world. If you would like to share your story, please contact us. For interviews by Our New Lives, please check out our interviews page.
By Rebecca Chapman, 19, Bathurst, Australia
My journey began when I was just 9 years old. On 11.12.2002 my only brother Benjamin successfully took his own life. I say successfully as days before he had attempted suicide, failed and was then admitted into a mental hospital where he stayed for just 48 hours. He was just 19 years old. The last memory I have of our time together was when we were sitting around the dinner table, joking around and laughing. We were all unaware that that was the last time we would see him. I didn’t deal with losing him all too well. I remember going to school the following week and having to go home as I was very upset. As the years passed, I learnt to take one day at a time. Some days were painful than others, but that’s all I could do. I was too shy to talk to strangers about it and my parents and sisters were dealing with their own grief.
It was in high school that I decided I wanted to become a social worker. I was asked by a mentor what I wanted to do and at first I said I wanted to work with horses, and that I would become a trainer or something. As we got to know each other, I told her about the loss of my brother. It was from then on that I wanted to share his story and help others. All I want to do is save lives so that other families don’t have to go through the feelings of emptiness and despair that my family and I had to go through. I gathered information on careers that involved helping people and agreed on becoming a youth worker. Being so young when I lost my brother I figured would be able to relate to others of the same age. Many people I went to school with aspired to go to university but I didn’t think i would be smart enough for it, but I spoke to my careers adviser about it. He gave me the motivation to strive and aim for university. When I didn’t get in i was devastated and went to him about it. He informed me that there was a program I could apply for and help me to gain entry into uni. My application was successful. Just before my end of year exams I hit an obstacle I thought would end my goal of going to uni. A week before my exams my relationship of one year ended and I didn’t cope with it very well. It mucked up my studying abilities and I was sure I was going to fail, but I did the best I could. I was debating whether or not I would put a bachelor of social work as first preference, as there was a certainty that I wouldn’t receive the marks needed for that degree and I would only be successful for an arts degree. The day I received a letter from the university I was doubtful. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I read that my application to study social work was successful. Whenever I am going through a rough patch, I remind myself not to give up. I tell myself this is to help others, to save lives. I could not have come this far if it wasn’t for my brother. He is my inspiration, my motivation to keep going. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.
By Melinda Furch – San Diego, USA
I’m 29 years old. At 16 I lost my mother to suicide. I, unfortunately, am the person who found her. It’s taken me this long in my grieving to finally move forward enough to get into therapy and say, “I need help.” Maybe it’s because I have a family of my own now. Maybe it’s because I have the same illness that caused my mom to take her life (schizophrenia). Maybe it’s because it’s just time to allow the grieving to come full circle. I’ve received a lot of flack from people about mourning and allowing myself to have time to grieve. Grieving is a personal issue. It’s not a one size fits all situation. It’s one that, for some, takes time to take place. Without grief we’ll never have clarity of our full potential as a person. Grieving takes a lot out of a person and can make the person seem like they’re obsessive, when they’re really just trying to make it through the undertow that is keeping them in the grief process. It’s taken me 12 years to finally say, “I need help.” Finding my mom to a completed suicide (I hate the term committed suicide, because it makes it seem like one has committed a heinous crime) has changed me for the rest of my life. I swore to my oldest (who is now 10) that I wouldn’t do to him what my mother did to me and that I will be there for him. I lost my mom before she could see me graduate high school, drive for the first time, finish my pharmacy technician degree (which she also had done) and have her first and only grandson’s. She won’t see me continue on this journey here with me, but I know she’ll continue on this journey with me in spirit.
By Joseph Robinson – Kentucky, USA
My sister, Emily, had a car crash four days before my tenth birthday. Emily was on her way to school when she had a head on collision. She passed away the day after my birthday. I made my sister a promise that I would do my best to help anyone in need.
My dad joined the fire brigade not long after Emily passed and I then decided I would do the same. My brother also joined the fire brigade once he turned eighteen and soon thereafter became a certified emergency medical technician (EMT). I made the mistake of dropping out of high school at the age of 17. I did go ahead and get my General Educational Development (GED) though. School was just not for me at the time. I didn’t like it and couldn’t focus on it. I did however do great in agriculture classes mainly, because I grew up on a cattle farm and knew how to do it. I was good at working on farm equipment. I wanted to be a farmer for as long as I could remember because that was what dad did before and after his job in town.
Life moved on pretty fast and before I knew it I was taking an EMT class with a friend. I excelled in it. Passed all my tests on the first try. I past the Nationals on the first time and became a certified EMT in 2003. I was thrilled! Mom and Dad were excited too. I tried working for an EMS provider in a nearby county but got burnt out by their attitude and thought this isn’t what I wanted. I tried a few other jobs here and there but nothing excited me the way I wanted it to.
I had met a girl and thought I fell in love in 2009. We moved in together and before I knew it, I was a daddy to a wonderful little boy! We called him Leland Clay. Once I looked into his eyes I knew I wanted to make him proud. So, I went to college. I went for an associate’s degree in Fire Science. I moved to another county with my new family. After a month I was on the local fire department with my brother. Besides having my son and becoming an EMT, it was the proudest day of my life. Before I knew it, I was putting all kinds of certifications on my wall, but during the process, I lost the girl I thought I loved. Turned out, she didn’t love me. I was able to get full custody of my son and start off with him alone.
I was lucky; I had my parents and my brother who helped me along the way. Matter of fact, they are still helping me. I was able to get certified as a fire fighter in the 150 hour class with in a year of joining the department. Before I knew it I was hired in a paid department. I hunkered down at training working and raising my son. So far I have been able to fulfil my promise to my sister that I would do whatever I could to help people. I am keeping that promise till the day I die. I now have a new passion for life. It’s to make my son proud of who his daddy is the way I am proud of who mine is.
I do what I can to make my sister, my son, my brother and my parents proud of me. As of today I am a certified EMT, a 150 hour and a 400 hour certified firefighter, a National Animal Control Officer, A Hazmat tech, storm spotter, certified incident commander, an Ordained Minister and many many more. I try my hardest at everything I do and I don’t back down from a challenge. I’m pretty sure that my sister is smiling down at me from Heaven for what I have become. I know she would have rather been down here cheering me on, but I know she is happy and not in any pain in Heaven along with the rest of our family and friends that have passed on. I know that my brother is proud to have me working right alongside of him on scenes. I also know my parents are proud of who I have become as well. My son tells me that he wants to be a firefighter too, so I know he is proud of his daddy.
I have dealt with life-changing tragedy in my personal life and continue on. I’ve dealt with low blows but never stopped fighting back. I have dealt with heart ache and low points but continue on. So I have learned that if this country boy can loose a sibling and then end up dropping out of school and still fulfill his promise to his sister and become someone who is proud, then anyone can!
I’m going to leave you with a saying that I tell everyone who is having a hard time and needs a pick me up…KEEP CHASING TOMORROW!