Carrie is a local family survivor of suicide. Her passion and bravery can be seen through her Instagram blog, where she often writes about her experiences from a real, raw, and totally honest perspective. She uses her voice not only to break down stigmas, but also to let others know they are not alone.
When my brother Ben was more quiet and introverted growing up than my sister and me, I didn’t ask. “He’s a guy,” I thought.
When Ben spent a lot of time submerged in the fictional world of video games, I didn’t ask. A lot of his friends did, too.
When I was on the phone with Ben and he started getting uncharacteristically loud and upset when I talked about a girl, I didn’t ask.
When I figured he was hurting, feeling rejected and alone, I didn’t ask.
When he told us he was donating some of his clothes, I didn’t ask. I thought, “Good job, Ben!”
When he said “I’ll see ya at Thanksgiving”, I didn’t ask.
When Ben died by suicide on November 11, 2014…
I started asking.
Why would he feel like he couldn’t tell any of us how much he was suffering?
Why would he do this?
How could he do this?
What could I have done…
When you don’t know the depth of someone’s suffering, it’s hard to notice all the little signs. It is even harder when you, yourself, don’t want to believe someone you love is suffering deeply. Sometimes we make excuses for our loved one’s actions to put our own minds at ease. Sometimes that can make the signs that much harder to recognize. That is what happened to me. Hindsight is 20/20, so let my hindsight guide your foresight.
When a loved one seems… off, ask. When you feel uncomfortable bringing up “mushy emotional stuff” because you are a guy and guys don’t ask, ask. When you know someone is hurting, you probably don’t know how deep that hurt goes, so, ask. When you hear someone’s language change, it may be a cry for help, whether literally or metaphorically, so, ask. You can simply and intentionally start the conversation with, “How are you, really?” Now I ask, and I am encouraging you to do the same.
Losing a sibling to suicide is not something that can be justly put into words. Growing up in the small town of Platteville, I had witnessed the suicides of schoolmates. I stayed as far away from the topic as I could, I never talked about it and I didn’t want to even think about it. And rightfully so, this is some big, scary stuff. But so many survivors suffer in silence. While we do not have it all figured out, it’s up to us to open the conversation surrounding suicide, help break the barriers of stigma and let people know they are not alone. There is a loving, supportive community in this small town that understands what you are going through. We are all here for you.
Find more inspiring posts on my personal blog by searching Carrie Cullen on Facebook or @carrie.cullen on Instagram. My parents, Patti and Terry Cullen, co-founded BENS Hope, an organization to raise awareness, education and support in our small community. They offer a Survivors of Suicide Support Group that meets once a month for anyone affected by suicide. You are welcome there. We will be hosting our 3rd annual BENS Hope Suicide Awareness 5k run/2 mile walk event September 23 here in Platteville. Please check out BENS Hope on Facebook and bens-hope.com for more details. Because Everyone Needs Some Hope.