My flip phone says 3 missed calls
2 from home
1 from him
I assume her phone died so she used his to call me
and I quickly relive the night before
up in the wee morning hours
listening to her tears
it’ll be okay
get to yoga
you only want to be with someone who loves you no matter what
so I call home
and my dad’s voice utters
Miya killed herself
like if he gets the words out faster it won’t be true
and the wind is knocked out of me
like a bat smashing into my chest
flesh and bones spewing in every direction
ricocheting from incredible force
I hang up
I call him
maybe she’ll answer
but it’s not her and he utters coldly
What do you want to know, Sabrina?
How? I ask
followed by a quick No, no, I don’t wanna know!
my voice unnervingly powerful
And I realize looking at my missed calls that he called me first
he wanted me to call my parents to inform them
that their first born just hung herself
he wanted me to do it
not he who didn’t try to hoist her body up and out of the noose
not he who ran out of the house screaming
not he who showed up to the police station with an attorney
not he who wouldn’t let us in the house
not he who didn’t fly to Michigan for her funeral
he called me first
but I don’t know these things in the 3am moonlight of my Baltimore apartment
all I know right now are my tears and snot have soaked the sheets around me
and my chest is heaving
so I call home again and hear my mom’s voice followed by the thunder of my dad
rampaging through the house a thousand miles away from me
smashing walls with his fists
bellowing with anger and fear and hurt
so big his 250-pound frame feels like it might die from instant grief
and I’m rocking myself hoping my breath returns
I too feel like I’m hanging
This is suicide from the other side. The side that survived, that isn’t supposed to talk about it, that is left to pick up what’s shattered and demolished, those who scare the others. But talking and sharing is exactly what we should do.
This is why The S Word is so consequential. The film invites others into this unknown, unspoken world that we, the survivors, experience every day, trying to make sense of a reality no one wants.
It’s been over 9 years since I received the phone call that would disrupt my life.
I wasn’t prepared for what was happening, how I would be forced to change. No one teaches us how to behave, how to support, how to grieve. It’s an education no wants wants firsthand.
Many of my friends felt uncomfortable. A month or two or three after, they’d wonder why my family and I were still struggling. She’s gone, you’ve got to move on. What we don’t understand until it happens to us is grief intensifies over time. You transition from one stage into the next, seamlessly, and before you know it, you’re no longer in shock but angry as hell and wallowing. Literally watching yourself drown. Often with very little support. Add mental illness, addiction, and dysfunctional relationships into the mix and you’ve got quite the disaster.
Even the family therapist I was seeing didn’t know how to handle it. I’d speak and he’d cry in his arm chair.
I want us to start talking about loss, to talk about what people’s needs really are, to expose how truly life-shattering death can be, and with that understanding generate a level of support none of us expect we need until it happens to us.
When “we'” suddenly become “they.”
And it starts with The S Word. With greater understanding comes greater empathy, awareness, connection, and love. With greater understanding comes the hope that we, as a unified community despite all differences, will save even just one person.