"My first experience with suicide was as a little girl.
I recall going to my grandpa’s house on Sunday afternoons and playing in the yard. Across the road lived an elderly man, whom we were always afraid of because we thought he was watching us. This man--someone we did not really know but made assumptions about--died by suicide in his kitchen.
I had no idea how much that memory would impact me in the future, but I now recognize that he was longing for someone to help him.
When I was 15, my cousin, Doug, was struggling with issues that became too much to handle. He shot himself on his family’s farm when he was only 23.
I remember people writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper. They were questioning if he left a note and saying how sad his death was, but suicide was never really mentioned.
A few months later, my brother, Gary, was devastated when he received a call that one of his best friends, Craig, took his own life at the age of 22.
In 2012, I knew my oldest brother, Randy, was struggling with some depression because we talked about it. I remember a particular conversation where he told me he did not know how much more he could endure and I remember stating to him that we were all there for him, and that he just needed to take things one day at a time.
Randy did check himself into a hospital, took medication, and went to counseling.
On May 26, however, he could no longer endure his pain and he hanged himself.
A week later, he was taken off life support and was set free from his pain.
I miss Randy immensely but I now recognize that everyone you meet may be going through something and they need support.
I have also gone to that dark place and struggled to get out of the hole that was swallowing my existence.
After every session with my counselor, he would end with these words: 'Keep your light shining, even if it is only a flicker.'
It has been five years since I lost Randy, but I want him to know that I am carrying his light for him.
Currently, I run a support group for survivors of suicide called 'Keeping Our Light.'
I talk openly about losing my brother to suicide. I am educating the community. And I am giving permission for people to talk about this taboo subject so we can stop the stigma and assist others in keeping their lights shining."