*Trigger Warning* February 28, 2014
A part of the healing journey is to slowly let go of the painful stories.
Please do not read if the topic is a trigger. Very graphic content ahead.
(Graphic: Justin Ladia)
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I was six when my uncle hung himself in his basement. I was too young to attend the funeral. I didn't even know what suicide meant until one day a family member had mentioned it by accident. I was in a daze when I heard the meaning and my young brain could not wrap itself around the idea.
I grew up watching his daughter deal with her father's death. As a teenager she let me read the note he had left behind. I would also be breaking down doors when she had a knife and was suicidal.
As I got older my mother would tell me the story of how that night he had called her and told her to tell everyone he loved them. I remember the house where they used to live. Every detail etched into my young memory. She said there were claw marks all over the wall.
It was a few years later that a family friend had shot himself on the reserve. An uncle had found him laying on the front steps of the rez house. His head was blown off. Someone had to run after my uncle who went running into the field in horror. No one ever talked about this, not my uncle, not my family.
The third time, I was twelve, at home from school eating lunch, my mother received a phone call. She burst into tears and the sound of pain coming from her was something I will never forget. I instinctively dropped my food, ran to her, knelt by her side, silent, as she cried on the phone.
An older cousin had committed suicide. We had to take the bus to go and tell his mother. I remember walking into her home and she was so happy, smiling, laughing, completely unaware. My mother had to tell her that her son was dead and how it happened. I will never forget my aunties reaction to such devastating loss.
It happened on the reserve. They were all drinking. He went downstairs with his brother who were arguing earlier. The bullet shot straight through the floor upstairs - missing my uncle by inches. I didn't live on reserve as a child but I grew up with that bullet hole covered by tile that didn't match the others. I grew up with the blood stain on the basement floor.
My auntie was first to get to the basement. They tried to stop his sister but they couldn't. Years later she recounted a horrifying memory that he had no head. She whispered this to us in the truck at a party. She repeated it louder and louder until she was hysterical. Me and my sister got out of the truck and ran to her side to pull her out. We stood there crying and hugging.
My sisters said that our auntie washed bits of his brain, skull, blood, off the wall.
If you're experiencing emotional distress and want to talk, call the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310. It's toll-free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more long term care, contact a First Nations and Inuit Health Regional Office.Jun. 12, 2021
In my 20's, I received a phone call that my cousin, from my father's side, had committed suicide. I fell onto my chair, gripping the side of the table, pain striking my heart...it was a year after, that his brother did the same. I remember that fall day.
I was walking to university, through the leaves, and thinking it was so beautiful. Later my aunt had called and was sobbing uncontrollably.
At the funeral, some of us went to the prairie field where he shot himself. One auntie looking around saying how beautiful the spot was and I think it gave her some comfort. Earlier my other aunt said they went with my one cuzzin who was close to him. He got on his knees, frantically digging on the ground, clawing in the dirt. Sobbing.
These were some of the deaths my family endured. I felt I had to share, not to gain pity/sympathy, but to show some of the truths in life. My childhood, my teenage years, my early twenties.
I am here to tell you that we can survive through our traumas. My family is here as a testament of healing through cultural ways. Please find a safe person to always talk with about how you feel.
From my First Nations perspective.