On Monday morning, I attended one of my favorite local meetings in Ypsilanti at Parkridge Community Center, where local leaders from the community come together and discuss happenings within their organization, business, school, or just the community at large. It is a great place to network, meet people, and experience a wonderful sense of camaraderie.
This Monday, I highlighted that this is National Gun Violence Survivors Week and directed the community to visit our website at everytown.org/momentsthatsurvive, where they can see personal stories of those impacted by gun violence. I am so honored that my story is one of four that is highlighted on the main video, which I told the Parkridge Community about while again reminding them of my dad’s suicide by shotgun.
Another important community member in the meeting was a young student named Jasmine who stood up to read to all of us about the history and importance of Black History Month. I soaked in her words and appreciated the time she took to educate us (or perhaps mostly just me). After the meeting, she actually walked up to ME and thanked ME for the work that I am doing. She told me that she recently had a discussion with two young people (fellow students, if I remember correctly) who have confided their suicidal ideations to her. She asked them the important questions about whether they were thinking about completing suicide and if they actually have contemplated a means of doing so. Thankfully it sounds like the final answer is no, but it is so important that she keeps in touch and ensures that these people have the help that they need. She is clearly being a kind, compassionate, caring friend and wanted to tell me about it.
Inspired by Jasmine and her bravery, I dug up all of my old poetry on Monday night. I came across some poems that made me cringe. However, it is important that I share my thoughts that I experienced as a young teenager to shed light on mental health and the struggles that it can bring, especially in teenagers. Having access to a gun while having suicidal ideations or even just mental health struggles in general can be the difference between life and death.
The reason why we honor survivors the first week in February is because we have more gun deaths in America by the end of January than any other industrialized nations have in their entire calendar year. This statistic always makes me sick every time I state it, think about it, or type it. This is unacceptable. Two thirds of the daily 100 gun deaths are suicide – that is roughly 66 people in this country per day who take their lives with a gun. I hope that by sharing my poem here that it can shed some light on the crisis that we are facing and also inspire parents to get help for their friends and families if they are in danger of harming themselves or others.
What if I Kill Myself Photo by AJ Kahn
What if I kill myself?
Will people mourn me &
Show up at my funeral?
Will they put roses on my grave,
Or will I become only a distant memory
Looked back upon only on holidays
And perhaps my birthday….
Will it hurt my mom like she says it will,
Or will it just give her less pain?
Will she actually be content,
Not being burdened half so much,
As when she did by her pestering daughter?
What will my father do?
Will he cry for me?
Or will he be pissed at his “fucked up” daughter
Who took away her life partly at his expense?
What will everyone else think?
Will my cousin actually spit on my grave
As she said she will?
Certainly there could be nothing less degrading,
And I would roll over in my grave,
Yearning for everyone’s embrace once again….
No, maybe killing myself is not the answer,
But if I can’t die, how can I go on living
With this heart left shattered?
Typing this was painful, especially since my dad is the one who ended up taking his own life. The interesting thing is that I can’t even remember the circumstances around writing this poem. I DO remember my cousin telling me that she would spit on my grave if I took my life, and I have no doubt that she would have. She told me like it was, and she still does – I respect that about her (love you Lib).
My point is that I was merely an insecure, upset teenager at the time. I am so grateful that I didn’t have access to a gun. Please make sure that your children and loved ones do not have access to a gun either by safely and securing locking up your guns and storing the ammo separately. Do it for us survivors and to honor all of those who have died much too soon. Honor us in National Gun Violence Survivors Week and never forget that our journey is lifelong. Be kind, for you never know where someone is on their journey. As I state in the video on the Moments that Survive website, grief is not linear. We just take things day by day. Self care is key. On that note, I am going to take some deep breaths right now and feel my feelings. The only way out is through.