Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

Suicide Among Veterans: One Survivor’s Story


Katherine’s Reflections on Becoming A Survivor

“Suicide is complicated. As with the level of complexity and pain that dwells within those who complete suicide, survivors are left with a sea of emotions that are impenetrable. Sometimes I do not know which way is up or down and if this is reality or a horrible nightmare. Well, the reality of this is being a survivor is MY new reality, MY new nightmare.

I lost the love of my life to suicide May 10, 2015. May 10 not only changed the direction of my life, as his best friend, lover and as indicated in his final words to me “soul mate,” but those around us. Friendships have strengthened and my family has become so much closer to me. I have all the support in the world, but still feel alone. I say “we” on my tippy toes because I’m not sure if they were really his dreams, but “we” were supposed to get married, have a family, run away together, and spend our lives together. He has run away and now it’s just me here with a hole in my heart. That’s what the loss of a partner feels like. The world can be holding you up and helping you breathe, but it cannot ever fill that void. The need to feel “normal” is overwhelming. I try and try, but grief… It always resurfaces. Shane left this world a little over seven weeks ago and everything is still so new.

 Life Together

Shane and I had been living together over a year before he displayed any mental health concerns. He had struggled with chronic pain due to a back injury he sustained in the Air Force. This caused him to struggle with some depression, but nothing that was out of control or alarming. In October of 2014, Shane started talking to me about suicide and his depression. His first attempt was November 7. I brought him to CPEP (Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program) in December and they did not admit him. Shane said “I will kill myself, it will not be today” and they released him. In January, I called the Mobile Crisis Unit and Shane was mental health arrested. They held him for less than 24 hours due to his refusal for treatment or medication. At that point, I would not let Shane come home until he agreed to treatment. With that, he agreed to see a psychiatrist and eventually counseling. Shane outwardly presented better, his physical pain was under control, and therefore he wasn’t depressed. Shane most of the time did not believe he had mental health issues. He believed that if his back was “fixed” a.k.a. he had a new spine, then there would not be any reason for him to be depressed. In the meantime, he would say “I can’t do anything, what is the point of me being here?” Shane was very active. He participated in indoor football, liked to lift weights, hike, and be outside and active in general. He was able to do all of these things, occasionally with limitations, but that was not often. A week or two before his death, he started experiencing numbness in his shin. He believed that this would require another surgery and apparently that was not an option for him. He took his life before we could explore these options. He felt a burden on me and his family. When I left him on May 10 he was laughing, told me he loved me and he would see me when I got home from work. I was pulled from work that evening by County Sherriff’s telling me they had found Shane. I was shocked, terrified and in denial…. I still feel that way today. I have to remind myself all the time that he is dead and not coming home. This is my worst fear and my nightmare.

Reconciling with The Grief Cycle

Outside of being a survivor of suicide, I am also a mental health professional working on a suicide hotline and own a private practice. Based on that disclosure, I feel people looking at me and saying “Shouldn't you have known then?” Did I know that Shane was thinking of suicide regularly? Yes. Was he in treatment? Yes. How did I not know that day? I ask myself that question all day, every day. Could he have been saved? Ultimately, not if he didn’t want to be. Shane did not want to live with his physical and mental anguish anymore. He ultimately became his own worst enemy. Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief end with acceptance. Of course the stages of grief are fluid and constantly jumping around, but my goal is for acceptance. I do not believe this was God’s will, but it was Shane’s will. I love and respected him more than any man I have ever met and my goal is to continue to do that by respecting his decision to end his life. I will never stop loving Shane. He was gorgeous both physically and emotionally. I hope Shane finds me soon because every day is a struggle without him.”

                                                                 Katherine E. Sargent

Sargent, Katherine. "Suicide Among Veterans: One Survivor's Story." Our Side of Suicide. 2 July 2015. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.