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By Tim Chitwood – email@example.com
For family and friends left behind, suicide is a deep wound that leaves the injured bewildered and burdened.
People here are dealing with such pain after two men shot themselves at a local firing range. People all over the country are dealing with it, as suicide threatens war veterans and those who’ve lost jobs and homes. And suicide still plagues the elderly, who have the highest rate of all.
Those who kill themselves leave others to deal with the aftermath. Some have dealt with it for decades.
Some survivors of suicide, as they are called, don’t claim their pain is worse than that suffered by anyone else who loses a loved one. But they do believe it’s different: They forever wonder whether they could have saved those who died.
“The effect is would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, I think, which is a normal reaction in probably every death, but especially suicide, because in most cases, the writing’s not on the wall, and you don’t really think that could ever happen to you or your family even when you’re going through treatment for depression and doing all that you can do to help the individual,” said Debi Dinwiddie-Johnson of the local support group Survivors of Suicide.
She lost both her husband Gregory Dinwiddie and oldest son Tim, who shot themselves.
From her son’s death she learned a tragic lesson too late.
“When individuals are dealing with depression or a mental illness, and they are suicidal or high risk, and they take medication and they’re getting better, you feel like you’ve got a break ‘Oh good; the medicine’s working’ that’s when you really need to pay attention,” she said. “There’s a high risk, statistically, of suicide for people who finally feel like they have the energy to do what they want to do.”
She feels that was a factor in 15-year-old Tim Dinwiddie’s death, but she was never warned of the danger. “I didn’t know not to leave him alone,” she said.
Three months before he died in Tennessee on July 2, 2000, Tim Dinwiddie was released from a facility where he had been treated for depression. That Sunday in July he declined to go to church. His mother and younger brother Tyler went out to breakfast and came back to see if he had changed his mind.
He shot himself while sitting in a living room chair.
His father, Gregory Dinwiddie, shot himself Jan. 26, 1989, in Denver. Dinwiddie-Johnson was just 24 years old then, left with two children ages 3 and 1.
“In my husband’s case, I had no idea even what suicide meant or depression meant, because I was so young, and never even knew that existed. I guess I was just so naïve to the fact that somebody could even do that,” she said.
By the time her older son began showing symptoms of depression, she had learned a lot.
“I took all the precautions and did all the things I needed to do to get him the help that he needed, and still was blindsided,” she said.
When Tim killed himself, she was 35. Now she’s 44 and tries to help others deal with the emotions she knows so well.
When a family member dies by suicide, it’s hard not to share the blame. “You feel such guilt and shame, and that guilt and shame have to be dealt with,” Dinwiddie-Johnson said.
What advice would she give other survivors?
“Reach out to others that have gone through this,” she said. “They’re the ones who understand what you’ve gone through.” And don’t expect to put this behind you, she said.
“It’s never, ever, ever anything you get over. You work through it, but you don’t get over it. … It’s like being forgiven for sins: You can be forgiven, but it can’t ever be forgotten.”