Breaking my silence about suicide


I wrote this in 2017 but feel it is so important, so I am republishing it. 

I have been waiting 9 years for the right time to tell my story. There have been times when I felt I was ready, but my kids were not. I have waited to be in a space where we are healthy and healing and realize we are all on our own journey and healing will be over a lifetime. When a friend of mine asked if I would write my story for his book, Oola for Women, I thought about it long and hard. It felt like the time was right to break my silence about suicide. Only a tiny portion of my story is in the book and now I am writing more. Many close family and friends have asked why I would want to do this now or ever. My answer is I am compelled to. I am following my gut and it says now is the time to be vulnerable, open, and honest. In doing so maybe I can help someone who is suffering. I pray as I write this that those hearts that are hurting may be given a glimpse of hope. My heart understands and I want you to know you are not alone.

On July 30, 2009, my husband Jay went hiking and never came back. For days searchers looked for him and finally on August 2nd, his body was found. We thought it was a hiking accident where he fell off a 65′ cliff. Telling my kids was the worst part- especially the one who was in Sweden on a religious mission and had no idea he was even missing. This was a very interesting time, that first week. I felt sick. I couldn’t eat. I cried and cried and watching my kids cry tore my heart apart. But this was also the most spiritual time in my life. I could feel the presence of angels all around my home like an army of warriors protecting me. I felt my husband near me and could hear these spirits whispering comfort to me. At times my brain couldn’t think- all that would go through it is, “I can’t believe this is happening.” Then miraculously I could process everything so clearly- like the funeral program, everyone’s name who came to the funeral, and all the little details I had to decide. Simply a gift.

Marcie Lyons | Jay's funeral 2008|

The weeks after the funeral grew harder as we realized this truly happened. He really wasn’t coming home. I would smile through the mornings getting my kids out the door to school and heading directly to the gym where I felt most at home with friends who understood me to the core. But then I would come home after being so exhausted at the gym that I just couldn’t stay any longer, and break down. I would listen to music that soothed my soul and cry it out. I had a bunch of people who would show up to help me by bringing food, helping my kids with homework, and cleaning my house or anything else I needed help with.

Then the day came when I hit bottom. Rock bottom. About 3 weeks after the funeral I went to visit with my highest church leader whom I knew fairly well. He had spoken to my father-in-law who had gone to Jay’s work to get his remaining items and was told that a suicide letter was left in his boss’s desk. I asked my church leader what I was supposed to do with that information and he said, “Go home and think about it, this may have been your fault.” Feeling absolutely sick, I left and went home to think about it ALL. NIGHT. LONG. My lungs wouldn’t fill. My heart beat faintly. The tears wouldn’t stop. I called my church leader early the next morning and he had already left for the gym and work. I asked his family member to please have him call me. Nothing. He never called back. I just couldn’t get out of bed to help my kids get ready for school. I called my neighbor and she helped them. A bad day was an excuse. I’m not sure if I can ever tell anyone the truth. He didn’t die in a hiking accident. He took his own life. I called a different church leader, my bishop. He hadn’t heard my voice so disturbed since this had happened, so he dismissed himself from the meeting he was in and talked to me. I told him what had happened the night before. He said I have a question for you, “Were you at the mountain with your husband?” I replied, “No, you know I wasn’t there.” He then asked, “Did you push him off the cliff?” Easy for me to answer, “No. I didn’t.” He then stated, “Then this is NOT YOUR FAULT. He made a choice. Not you.” He then left work and came over to my home with his wife and said a prayer with me. I felt the guilt lift.

Jay and I had some things happen last week, well quite a few times during our marriage, but last week after some things happened with his schooling, finances, etc I told him I wanted to be separated. But this week we had some really important things happening, so we would go on like we had the past 23 years and deal with this the following week. Of course, lots of other things happened, but Jay made a choice. I believe he lost hope in life, to end his life. I have gone over this week and the 23 years leading up to it to see what I could have done differently. What could I have done to help him? I didn’t realize his low, and sometimes high moods were probably a sign of depression. He had diabetes and always chalked up his moods to that. He had talked about suicide throughout our relationship, but I didn’t really think it was an option. So yes, I could have done something different. I could have become more aware and begged him to get help. I had suggested he talk to a doctor, but who wants to say you don’t feel right in your head? Of course, he didn’t feel good with diabetes, marriage, financial problems, and everyday things. 

I do think talking about what you are feeling is the answer. At least for me. That’s how I became aware. That’s how I received help. I felt I wasn’t enough for him and I wasn’t worth staying for. I felt I didn’t love him enough, but I don’t believe that’s true. I didn’t know that I wasn’t the one who could fix his problems. Only he was. I had put it on my shoulders to lift him each day and there are better answers than me. I couldn’t love him better. For 23 years I had tried it and what it did was wear my spirit down so much that I couldn’t do this anymore either. I just chose a different way to deal with it. I hadn’t lost all hope in myself or God. All I knew was it couldn’t go on the way it always had.

A few days after Jay died I heard him say to my soul, “I am sorry, Marc.” It has taken me years because of what our family has gone through to be able to say back, “apology accepted.” But now I can. I studied suicide and depression and understand it so much better now. If anything, I feel bad he suffered for so long. It’s like having cancer that nobody in this community will talk about. There’s a stigma surrounding mental illness so much that even going to ask a doctor is not an awesome idea. If he had cancer the community would have surrounded him in support, but thoughts of suicide- nope, don’t tell anyone that. I know because I didn’t tell people either. I didn’t tell anyone at age 17 when he told me he wanted to kill himself, but didn’t dare. For sure I didn’t tell anyone after he had done it 23 years later. I didn’t tell hardly anyone for years after. It’s not embarrassing now. It’s just plain sad. 

I didn’t tell my kids the truth for three years. In 2011 my son was 16 and taking psychology in high school and figured it out. He came home and asked my new husband, Matt, if he ever thought his dad, Jay could have killed himself. Matt talked to him for a little bit and said he should ask his mom what she thought. Matt didn’t want to be the one to tell him, of course. So I did. I told him he was so smart and had figured it out. My son had signs of depression himself and that was why I didn’t tell him for years. I thought he may consider getting out of his situation like his father did and I didn’t want that to happen again. But for my son to know what his father had gone through saved his life, because my son asked for help. Awareness saved one of my own. I told the other kids in our family after I had talked about this with my son. This was not easy. It’s like telling them there’s death all over again. 3 1/2 years later the grieving started all over again.

What added to my pain was keeping a secret. I couldn’t get close to my kids when I knew I was holding something that was important to the whole story. The story didn’t make sense without knowing this critical part. But knowing this hurt. It was embarrassing because our world doesn’t know enough about suicide yet. I know some people asked me if I thought Jay was in hell. Well, I knew that for sure. No, he isn’t. I have felt him many times and there was a peace about him. I feel like he is in a learning, loving place that most people call heaven.

It has been 5 years since I told all of our children and the healing keeps coming. Piece by piece we have put our hearts back together. I can thank my husband Matt for much of that- he has patiently listened to me, picked me up, and helped bandage and care for my wounds. This has definitely changed all of us who knew Jay. It doesn’t take away what we thought of him as a person, but the secrets and stigma surrounding suicide have hurt us. It’s been really hard and felt like chaos, loss of understanding, and communication. Guilt, shame, anger, and people pointing fingers at whose fault it is surrounds me. I don’t talk to many members of Jay’s family or even one of my own children. It hurts, but then I do remember all the positive things that have come out of this. There is always good if you look for it (my mom taught me that :-). I am very aware of depression and mental illness and watch for it in my family and others. I now talk freely about suicide with church groups, at conventions, and at schools with kids. I have become a much more compassionate person and learned a ton about myself. My kids have helped friends who suffer and have told them to seek professional help. If you know of someone who needs help don’t take it into your own hands as I did, tell them to find a doctor or a medical professional to talk to. There is help out there.

Suicide is NOT something that would ever be my choice to promote awareness about. It’s not fun, it’s devastating for all involved. But here I am placed in this situation for some reason, so here I am telling you that the people who suffer are good. They didn’t ask for this trial either. As far as I know, Jay never asked a doctor about what he was feeling inside- he just suffered through it until it was unbearable. Depression or hard situations may not go away, but if you are feeling this way or have a loved one who is, there are people out there who care and want to help you succeed in finding an answer to be the best YOU.

If you have someone you know who has died from taking their own life, there is help out there for YOU as well. Info for the suicide survivor is really hard to find. That’s one reason I wanted to create this website. What helped me the most was for a year or two I studied suicide and depression. Yes- those were hard years, but now I know he didn’t want to hurt others, he was in so much pain and this was the only way he felt he could get out. He thought we would all be better off without him. That’s a sad way to look at life and I wish nobody ever had to deal with that. But it’s not your fault if your friends or family members killed themselves. No matter who tells you it’s your fault (yourself, family, friend, media, or ecclesiastical leader!) IT’S NOT. Everyone has choices so with that, fill your head with awareness.

The one thing I want you to know is YOU ARE NOT ALONE. No matter what situation you find yourself in – the widow, the one who has depression, or a family member/friend of these-  YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is help out there for all of us.

Here are a few…

CRISIS TEXT LINE:  TEXT “START” TO 741-741  free and confidential


– suicide awareness voices of Education

– suicide prevention