Sept. 8, 2017, 8:26 p.m.
TRIGGER WARNING: the following material may be triggering for some individuals – please read with caution.
He was my uncle. A man, strong in stature and rugged in appearance. His strawberry blonde hair would glisten in the sun on our hikes through the Bruce Trail, the Cheltenham Badlands and Niagara Parks and Reserves. His hands, rough in texture, used to grip my hips tight as he lifted me up to reach the apples that skimmed the tops of the trees in Chudleigh’s Apple Orchards. When my phase of porcelain doll collection reached its pinnacle, his sick sense of humor found me opening a Christmas gift box of a doll that I can only describe as chilling and Chuckie-like in appearance – he was never a fan of my shelves upon shelves of Victorian figurines. He made the most delicious mussels – with cream and white wine, his sauce was something that only he did to perfection. With no doubt in my mind, I could go on and on describing memories and moments with my uncle that I know will forever have a place in heart. He was a loving father, brother, son and uncle, as I’m sure he was also a loyal friend and colleague – his name was Dave and he died by suicide.
Because I was young at the time, my parents thought it was in my best interest to tell me that it was just a sudden death. It was only years later that my mom went into some of the details about my uncle’s disappearance and COD. For the purposes of this piece, these details are not important. That being said, I can say that everything surrounding this period of my uncle’s life came as a surprise. No one in our family was aware of how depressed my uncle was and how much he was struggling to keep himself afloat. No one knew because my uncle was, and I say this with the upmost respect and love, the best con-artist to ever live. He was always present, always involved – when his son (my cousin) had a baseball game, he was front and center cheering him on; when my Nana needed groceries or a ride to the doctor’s office, he was at her doorstep an hour early to make sure she got there in time; when my great-aunt was going through financial difficulties with her son, my uncle was the man that brought her to lawyers and courts to ensure that she wasn’t taken advantage of. He took more care of his family than he ever did of himself. We were ignorant to the demons that haunted him because he wouldn’t let us see them. My uncle lived and died on his own terms and though I was deeply distraught by his death, I know my uncle was uncompromising – he was always a man that took control of his life and that was something I always admired him for. Do I blame my uncle or resent him for the decision he made? God no! Do I think any less of him? Absolutely not! Do I think he was weak, a coward, or that he identified with any of the other outrageous stereotypes associated with suicide? Excuse my language but $#@& no!!!!
There’s a type of survivor’s guilt that people experience when someone close to them dies by suicide. I can’t speak for all people but I know that I wish I could have done something, that my family could have done something, that SOMEONE could have done something to help my uncle. We should have recognized the signs, whatever they were. He didn’t have to go through his depression alone. Did he know how much support he had? Did he know how loved he was? Does he know how much we miss him?
There’s a children’s book by Nancy Tillman, it’s called Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. My step-mom gifted me with this book a few years ago. Though it’s supposed to be a book about a parents love for their child, when I first opened it and read its pages, I thought of my Uncle Dave. “It never gets lost, never fades, never ends…”she writes. “And if someday you’re lonely, or someday you’re sad, or you strike out in baseball, or think you’ve been bad…just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair. That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.” Everyone in this world deserves a love that’s annoying, persistent and uncompromising. And whether it is depression, an eating disorder, negative self-esteem, etc. there needs to be a line of communication whereby the person in need feels like they have the world’s entire human race behind them, defending their back and present to support them if and when they fall. To those living in darkness and doubt, there are resources and there are people to talk to – you are never alone! Call. Don’t feel comfortable doing that? There are instant chat services with professionals and peers waiting to listen to you! And to my uncle, as much as I miss you and wish you could be here today, I hope you are happy and at peace and please know, “You are my angel, my darling, my star…and my love will find you, wherever you are” (Tillman, 2010).
Tara Fiodorowicz, a student recently graduated from Humber College’s Addictions and Mental Health graduate program, is the Blog Coordinator at NEDIC. Still on her journey to recovery, Tara is a firm believer in the power of connection and positive reinforcement in the recovery process and advocates for all who have had or who are currently struggling with their mental health or addiction concerns. Providing support from a client-centered, peer, harm reduction and feminist framework, she believes that, though self-motivation is the key to recovery, it takes a good listener, authenticity and genuine investment from a supportive figure for some to unveil their motives and positive intentions for their future. Contact Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org.