Dear Sean

DEAR SEAN:

Today I will lay my husband to rest, he died from sudicide which happened while our daughter was home with him, I don’t know what tomorrow, next week, or the next month will bring, I know I have to be strong for her, I want to just crumble into a ball, I don’t know what to expect, she is very angry, I just keep thinking of the word “Steel Magnolia.”

I don’t know what to do.
HELPLESS

DEAR HELPLESS:

The morning after my father took his own life, I sat on our porch to watch the sunrise. I was a boy.

Inside our house, all the “Steel Magnolias” were buzzing around, cooking funeral food. The smells coming from the kitchen were beautiful. So was the sunlight.

Why is it that sunny days come at the wrongest times?

Don’t get me wrong. I need the sun. I have an addiction to sunlight. Without it I am a miserable mess. And I am not exaggerating.

A doctor once told me this is a real condition. He said that when some people become sun deprived, they go through a kind of biological depression. Some have it so bad they have to relocate to Florida to deal with it.

Well, I already live in Florida, and this is not a sure-fire cure. Sometimes we don’t see the sun for weeks in the Panhandle.

Once—I am serious about this—we went eight days without the sun. And worse, this overcast spell happened to coincide with the funeral of my friend’s mother. My friend’s mother took her own life.

It was bad. My friend’s father found her in the bathroom.

When my friend called, it was almost too much for me to hear. It took me back to childhood, to a time when the preacher said my father had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

My friend’s mother’s funeral was in Tennessee. I drove all the way to Nashville to attend. My wife had to work that week, so I brought my dog along for the ride.

My dog sat in the passenger seat because I couldn’t stand to be alone.

It was a nice service. But there was one common word circulating throughout the funeral congregation. “Why?”

That’s always the main question with suicide. “Why?” It is a question for which there is no response.

After the funeral, I made the long drive home. And I cried. Not just for my friend, but for my father, my mother, my sister, and my messed up life.

Something came over me. I couldn’t seem to drive straight back to Florida. I started taking back roads that led me on a wild goose chase, I don’t know why.

My wife was worried about me. She kept calling my cellphone, but I wasn’t answering. I needed time to think. About what, I’m not sure.

I checked into a motel that night and snuck my dog in. We ate peanut butter and potato chips for supper. I watched a baseball game. And I cried some more.

That next morning, I awoke before sunrise, I called my wife. She was a wreck. I felt badly that I’d made her that way. Still do.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“I am now.”

“Please come home, you’re worrying me.”

“I’m on my way.”

“Where are you?”

“Tennessee.”

“I love you. Are you sure you’re okay?

“I think so.”

There’s a point to this story, I promise.

While I was driving that morning, the sun began to rise over the interstate. It came through my windshield. It shined on my knees. I got so overwhelmed that I had to pull over.

The sun. My God. The sun. Have you ever looked at it? It can stab through an overcast hell that lingers above our world and make everything brand new.

I’m not going to mince words. My life has been pretty screwed up. After my father’s end, it all went downhill. Before his death, I was a smart kid. After his funeral, I grew up to be a fool who never went to school. My future fell into the mud. So did our family. So did our finances. So did everything.

But the sunrise. That glowing ball, rising high above the trees, making long shadows on Earth, and painting everything with light. Go outside and look at it.

It’s okay to be messed up. It’s okay to be hurt, tired, confused, lost, and angry. It’s okay to be afraid of the dark, to be full of regret, or scared, or plagued by bad dreams. And it’s okay to ask “why?”

Because darkness doesn’t last forever. It can’t.

I know this because I am proof. You have to believe. I’m begging you to believe. Just hold on for a little while longer. And one day, not long from now, you will see it. The sun will rise.

And when it does, it will blow your mind.

37 comments

  1. Tina Harman - June 15, 2019 10:51 am

    Dear Sean, this is one of the most heartfelt pieces I’ve ever read. You’re right, the darkness doesn’t last forever, we just have to hold on for that sunrise. Not always easy, but we just have to hold on. Thank you for putting this out for all of us to read and share with anyone else who needs to read it. God bless you.

    Reply
    • Melanie - June 15, 2019 1:21 pm

      @Tina ❤️

      Reply
  2. Jean - June 15, 2019 10:54 am

    Hi Sean…I think having to deal all of this terrible stuff in your life has made you the wonderful person you are. You have been to the other side and came back a better man. Sorry it happened to you and all the others. Life is never fair but you have overcome the bad and came back into the sun again. I hope the sun shines again for this lady.Love you!

    Reply
  3. Connie Havard Ryland - June 15, 2019 11:32 am

    You write with such compassion and empathy. I believe that everything that happens shapes us, for good or bad, into who we ultimately become. You came out the other side strong and caring, and you have a wonderful ability to share that. Today’s column is proof. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  4. Edna B. - June 15, 2019 11:43 am

    I haven’t had to deal with suicide (thank you God) but I have had to deal with the death of my child. You are right, eventually the sun will come out and help to chase away the depression. You have a wonderful day Sean, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  5. Judge Jimmy Pool - June 15, 2019 11:45 am

    There is help for those who are having suicidal thoughts. Call someone and talk. Tell someone, get help. Suicide is NEVER the answer. It is too traumatic for the ones left behind. There is hope. Seek it. May our Lord lead you to the right help.

    Reply
    • Noah Funderburg - June 15, 2019 1:50 pm

      You are so right Jimmy.

      Reply
  6. Beverly Mathias - June 15, 2019 12:02 pm

    My love has cancer, and it has spread to the bones. We need a miracle. Add us to your prayers please.
    Thank you for writing this. Needed it today.

    Reply
    • Nancy - June 15, 2019 1:12 pm

      Praying for a miracle for your Love.

      Reply
      • Beverly Mathias - June 15, 2019 1:15 pm

        Thank you so much for prayer. It means a great deal to me. I believe strongly in the power of prayer.

        Reply
    • Linda Moon - June 15, 2019 7:58 pm

      I will be praying. I am a 15-year cancer survivor, still dealing with some of it. Small miracles from people who care, pray, and understand are already here for you, if only to let you know you are not alone.

      Reply
      • Beverly Mathias - June 15, 2019 8:02 pm

        Your reply brought tears. Thank you for your kindness.

        Reply
    • Jody - June 15, 2019 8:13 pm

      Praying

      Reply
  7. Naomi - June 15, 2019 12:05 pm

    I am almost afraid to post this because some members of my family are on FB. A few years ago, I had surgery for colon cancer and my surgeon sent me to an oncologist. One of the questions my doctor asked me was, “What is the primary cause of death in your family?” I wanted to say, “Suicide” but was afraid he would have me put away. My mother was suicidal for the entire time that I was in high school. My grandparents had her put on the psychiatric floor of the hospital. While she was there, she tried to strangle herself with the belt from her bathrobe. During her lifetime, she had many “shock” treatments for depression and suicidal tendencies. While I was still in high school, my aunt, my mother’s sister, committed suicide when she was 53 years old. She was divorced and living with her father, my grandfather. He found her dead in her bed; she had overdosed on drugs. In 1984, my mother was taking so many drugs, mostly prescription, that I had to put her on the psychiatric floor of the hospital to get her off of all of these drugs that her doctor had prescribed. I thought that she was better so I brought her home, but it was too late; she died in her sleep the next night. I couldn’t even cry at her funeral. Two years after my mother died, her older brother committed suicide. No one knew why; he was very wealthy, had a wife. two daughters, grandchildren and many friends who adored him. It destroyed this family. Now, my younger brother is in a very dark place and his doctors have told him that there is nothing else that they can do for him. He also is very wealthy, has 3 sons, a 5-year-old grandson and a lot of people who love him. He told me that none of this matters to him. I am just waiting on my sister-in-law to call me and tell me that he has committed suicide although he assured me that he is not suicidal. No one ever completely gets over a close family member’s suicide. It haunts them until the day they die, primarily because they think that they might have been able to do something to have prevented it. But, if someone is intent on committing suicide, no one can prevent it.

    Reply
    • Janet Mary Lee - June 15, 2019 5:27 pm

      Prayers, Naomi. Just be there for him. Do not deny those feelings, but just remind him you love him, and it is something one does not get over, but can get through. It takes time. Print out Sean’s post, and Sean’s letter writer should too. Give a copy to those in need. He could not have said anything better. Continued prayers for all those in need. Sean, (hugs!)..you ARE amazing!!

      Reply
  8. Karen - June 15, 2019 12:08 pm

    God Bless you, Sean. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Nancy - June 15, 2019 1:13 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for being the sun in our lives.

    Reply
  10. Shelton A. - June 15, 2019 1:17 pm

    Thanks, Sean.

    Reply
  11. Melanie - June 15, 2019 1:19 pm

    omg. there are no words ❤️☀️

    Reply
  12. Faye - June 15, 2019 1:23 pm

    Wow! What a message you have for all dealing with life’s heartaches, and what a gift you have with your ability to speak to those who need your message.
    I truly look forward to reading your message every day!! Thank you!!

    Reply
  13. Bobbie - June 15, 2019 2:40 pm

    So much I’d like to say, but most has been said in all the previous replies. Suicide, along with addiction, alcoholism, touches everyone …even those remotely involved and once it does, we are never the same. Thankfully it changes some of us in positive ways..as one of your readers says, you’ve been on the other side and come back a better person. Beautiful words! I had someone tell me once had it not been for what I went thru in my younger years, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I truly believe that. God uses all things for good for those who believe.
    Thank you Sean for your understanding and heartfelt words to the lady who wrote you. I pray the sun will begin to shine in her life…that she’ll be surrounded by the light and love of family and friends. May her experience one day be used to help others.
    God bless you.

    Reply
  14. Joe Patterson - June 15, 2019 5:39 pm

    One of my friends lost a love one recently to suicide .There is no real answer to why thanks for your story.

    Reply
  15. Colleen Snow - June 15, 2019 6:12 pm

    I lost a friend to suicide several years ago. It was less obvious because he had taken pills and it was awhile before it took him. He collapsed while doing the laundry. It seemed more likely that he had had a heart attack but the autopsy ruled that out. It took a couple weeks to get the full toxicity report that showed it was pills. His partner was a mess waiting for those results, hoping it would show something else. There was no note. We’re all still wondering, “Why?”. I love what you’ve written Sean. His partner did pull his life back together and moved on. He’s found a new love. I’m just not sure I would have ended this particular blog with “It will blow your mind.” Thanks.

    Reply
  16. Sara Bosch - June 15, 2019 7:20 pm

    Please let the daughter be angry—she has every right to be angry! I am still mad at my nephew for such selfishness!

    Reply
  17. Stephanie - June 15, 2019 8:04 pm

    My brother died of self a inflicted gunshot wound. He shot himself in the mouth. He was only 30, soon to be 31. I was 34. This happened in 1985. I remember my (then) husband came to my job early in the morning to tell me. I literally crumbled. I screamed when I asked the question, “He’s going to be OK, right?”, and my husband just shook his head. I screamed and screamed and didn’t stop. My brother and I had just lost our mom 12 weeks prior. The last time we spent together was during mom’s funeral. My brother had plans to come see me (we lived in different states in the northeast) in July for his birthday. 1985 was THE worst year of my entire life. My world became dark, empty. I wondered ‘why’ and know that the answer will never be provided to me, at least not while I am on this earth. But I am a suicide SURVIVOR! Today many things remind me of my brother, and today I can smile again when those memories come. It will take time. Cliché thing to say, but it’s true. You, too, will become a suicide SURVIVOR. God Bless you and your daughter and may your journey become peaceful and awe inspiring.

    Reply
  18. Linda Moon - June 15, 2019 8:17 pm

    Your circumstances became messed up. They happened TO you, not because OF you. You did nothing wrong. Father’s Day will be hard for two young men in my family because of similar circumstances. Sunshine doesn’t blow my mind, but a rare and good snow in the South does. You often blow my mind, Sean of this South, when I read what you have to say. If you ever get a rare snow down there in the Panhandle, go make some Snow Angels for those two young men and me! And I will happily think of you in these Sunny Southern Summers.

    Reply
  19. Edy - June 15, 2019 10:08 pm

    Joy comes in the morning?

    Reply
  20. angie5804 - June 15, 2019 10:41 pm

    I’ve not lost anyone close to me to suicide.Yet. But my husband and I have lost three parents in the past five years. His mother died on the day of the eclipse. https://angie5804.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/betty/

    Reply
  21. jstephenw - June 17, 2019 2:47 am

    As you well know by now, your wife is the first cousin of one of my good friends. But today that is irrelevant. Thank you for so honestly answering a letter from someone in deep pain that only you can relate too. The reason I read all your books and read your columns every day is because you care and try to help those who are struggling like I do (and so many others) every day. I know you are not perfect, but you give a damn. That is more than most people can ever say. Keep it up. Never stop, never explain and never back off because of editors or financial backers. Thanks.

    Reply
  22. Ken Dunn - June 17, 2019 2:57 pm

    The universal question on suicide is always WHY. What scares me in these crazy times is the upsurge in the younger generation of them taking their lives out of desperation. If we could just remember “this too shall pass” and live looking to a better future.

    Reply
  23. Dawn Wilson - June 17, 2019 6:54 pm

    June 19 will be one year since my son took his life by suicide. He was 32. It’s been the worst year of my life and still I wonder how I will make it one more day without him. He was the happiest, most joyful person I knew.. He loved to laugh. He was a father and left behind his wife and son and his family who love him so much. I will always wonder why and what I could have done that would have/could have made a difference. We are striving to make sure my Grandson knows how much he is loved. I will be in prayer for the woman and her family who wrote to you and for you, as well, Sean. You have a ministry here on this platform and you’ve helped so many with your words and insight. Thank you for being bold to share. God Bless!

    Reply
  24. Mary - June 17, 2019 7:00 pm

    Exquisitely said.

    Reply
  25. Martha Black - July 16, 2019 6:44 am

    “Storms never last do they baby
    Bad times will pass with the winds
    Your hand in mine steals the thunder
    You make the sun want to shine”

    Jessie Coulter

    Reply
  26. Jerry - July 16, 2019 1:07 pm

    According to John Eldredge, there are two things that have the power to pierce our hearts. Affliction and beauty. The beauty of that sunrise obviously pierced your heart, and began to heal your pain.

    You often write about beauty in a child’s smile or an old person’s eyes. Taking the time to appreciate beauty where we find it – a sunrise or sunset, a beach, a flower, a butterfly, a pet – wherever we see beauty, can ease the pain of a broken heart.

    Reply
  27. Teena - July 16, 2019 2:17 pm

    Around 25 years ago, shortly after my youngest son, 4years old, spent 4days in our local Childrens Hospital from being mauled by the neighbors dog,
    ( over150 stitches to his face & neck) I found out their father was having an affair. Literally just days after bringing a miracle home to recuperate. It was clearly one of the worst years of my life at the time. I had some pretty dark moments, 3 months after the divorce was final & first Christmas without him in 12 and a half years, didnt think I could do it.
    Somebody was praying, I ended up checking myself into intensive therapy, it wasn’t long before that “Sun” appeared, surely as I sit here today. Remarried 17 years come September, thankful I had four little Blessings to pull me thru, help me see their need as a mother. I also have 13 Granblessings blooming.

    Reply
  28. cheryl sexton - July 17, 2019 1:23 am

    Thank you Robin for coming to Harrison Brothers Hardware store in Huntsville, AL and buying Sean’s new book! It was delightful visiting with you and sharing our love for Sean!

    Reply
  29. Mary Ann Massey - October 3, 2019 11:02 pm

    My friend Sean…..for you NOT to be an advice giver, you do a REALLY GOOD JOB! Love it!!! ❤️❤️❤️

    Reply

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