On the Other Side of Suicide

by Dana Boyle on April 19, 2012

 

 

I have a beautiful friend who teaches in the area of grief coaching and counseling, and she’s much more of an expert in this topic than me, but I’ve had my share of grief and loss in the past six months and I’ve learned a lot about the process.

Our brains are wired for survival, and when something awful happens we want answers and logical explanations.  We want to understand how everything happened so we can better survive if it ever happens again.  We are so hard wired for this that when we are deeply affected by a loss, we even dream or have nightmares about it because our brains are trying to figure it all out while we sleep.

I have been through grief since October from losing a baby, and then another in January.

Then last week my friend chose to end his own life in a tragic and shocking way.

It is a monumental loss.  He touched so many lives and was loved by hundreds of people.  I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that, “Tim was my best friend,” since his passing.  I think that’s because Tim made everyone feel like he was their best friend.

Last night I went to a gathering in his honor to raise a glass and toast his life, to remember all the good stories about him, to laugh and comfort each other.

On my way to the gathering, I arrived early, driving over the bridge where his life ended.  I couldn’t help but take that route, with a sick stomach the whole way.  When my car reached the end of the bridge ramp into the city, realizing I had another twenty or so minutes, I drove to the part of the city where the bridge peaks and parked my car.  I sat there and looked up.  I looked all around.  I tried to make sense of how it might have happened, what it might have been like, and prayed that it was swift and painless.

I watched the seagulls and birds fly all around the bridge and dive down into the water.  I noticed two other cars sitting there with people in them, just looking up and around like I was and I wondered if I knew them, or if they knew Tim.  I wondered if I was the only person who felt the need to visit the site and say goodbye.  I wondered if they knew why I was there.  I wondered if I was strange for being there.

At the gathering, there were lots of stories shared, mostly happy ones.  But everyone talked about how they heard, who told them, what they heard, where they were…and as I hugged one of Tim’s best friends, I said, “You know, when I heard, I called his phone because I wanted to hear his voice one more time.”  His friend welled up with tears and shook his head, choking back the urge to break down and cry, “Me too.  Me too.”  And we hugged again.

Someone else there told me that they drove to the top of the bridge, stopped their car and got out to stand and look down and say goodbye.  She didn’t know why she did that, but she felt she had to.  We’re not the only ones.  It’s a common experience.

I read (in my quest to understand the unfathomable) that a typical suicide touches six lives.  I can’t imagine that is true in most cases.  I know Tim was special and well networked, and outgoing and he had a lot of friends and connections due to his nature and to the fact that he was a well-known attorney in a metro area, but suicide affects a lot of lives.  Hundreds of people were affected by this loss.  Not only were his friends and family affected, but our friends and family are also affected.  It’s a ripple effect.

People who never met Tim feel the loss through our loss and our mourning.

I met some people at that gathering who said they didn’t know Tim that well, but they just can’t stop thinking about this.

Being together with everyone who shares this experience helped create some peace for us all, I think, because talking about things like driving on the bridge, calling his phone, or how they felt when they heard normalized what we’re all feeling and struggling with, however we are doing it.

I’ll never know why, even though I know why.

I said last night that Tim’s life was like drinking out of a firehose.  He never learned how to adjust the flow.  It was either full force or completely cut off.  If he wasn’t at the firehose, I don’t think he felt like he was doing what he was supposed to be doing.  But when he had to lean into it to keep from being knocked over, he was overwhelmed.

For me, I just can’t stop thinking that his life was too big for the body he was given.  HE was too big for the human life he was leading.  So he took the same firehose approach and went full throttle to escape the body that couldn’t contain the largeness that he was.

As I drove home last night, on the long drive from Milwaukee to Chicago, after hearing the details that I heard about what he did in his final days, I talked to Tim.

I told him that he always did everything exceptionally.  If he was going to do something, he was going to do it well, and better than everybody else.  Not only that, he always did the right thing by other people, and it seems he didn’t miss that detail even in taking his own life.  So I congratulated him on a job well done.

Even in death, you were an overachiever, Tim.  You seem to have done every part of it right.  And that makes me so, so sad.

 

(Printed with express permission from the family of Tim Schumann.  May God’s grace hold them and bring them peace in this excruciating time.)

 

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Vildberg April 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Dana, This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with everyone. I now have better idea of things I could not understand. I pray for Tim, his family and all his friends that are hurting. I hope we can all find some peace and always Tim the beautiful person that he was.
Lisa Vildberg

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Dana Boyle April 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Lisa,

Thank you for reading and commenting. I wish we had the answers, but none of us really do…and answers won’t bring him back. We’re all trying to understand. I do know you’re right, that we will all hold Tim in our hearts and remember the amazing guy and beautiful soul he was…and still is. I know for certain that big soul still IS.

xo,
Dana

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LuAnne Hughes April 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Dana, this is beautiful and touching. I could not bring myself to come to the gathering last night. I cannot shake this awful feeling we all have. Thank you for your kind and beautiful words. I am also sorry for your personal loss.

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Dana Boyle April 20, 2012 at 7:14 am

Hi Luanne!

It’s so nice to hear from you. I’m very sorry for your loss as well. None of us can shake it. My personal best coping mechanism is to write it all out and talk to others. Take good care of yourself.

Dana

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ann griffiths April 19, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I worked with Tim at Crawford Evaluation Group. Our “Crawford family” has been devastated. I have been searching to try to find the Friends of Tim Schumann facebook page that I think is out there and, in my search, came upon your website and your very eloquent thoughts. I don’t have any answers, I don’t even know the right question. I do know that a quiet, gentle presence has left this space and we are the less because of it.
Dana, thank you for posting your
thoughts. It was very helpful. Ann Griffiths

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Dana Boyle April 20, 2012 at 7:20 am

Hi Ann,

My FB address is http://www.facebook.com/InspiredCoach. Go there and friend me, and then I’ll add you to the group. It’s actually Friends of Schumann. You can find it there as well.

Gentle and quiet is a facet of Tim that I saw as well. The beauty in all of us sharing how we knew him and what we knew in him is that we all get to know him a little bit better, even after these circumstances. It’s as my friend Cath Duncan put it…after a suicide, those left behind get to choose what to take forward of the person they’ve lost. Every one of us who knew and loved Tim should make sure all the positive and beautiful qualities he had and all the good stories go on.

Thanks for reaching out and I’m glad you found the post.

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Sarah E. Wilson April 20, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I called my nephew’s phone as well.

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Dana Boyle April 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Sarah,

It breaks my heart. <3 Sending you love and prayers.

Dana

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Jessie Nickel April 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Hi Dana:

I am so glad I saw you at The Harp. Your right we get to choose what to take forward of the person we lost. I have one text saved from him, simply with my nick name tailpipe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I won’t ever forget Tim and will never be mad at him for his choice. He brought more to my life than I could ever expect. Thank you for your post.

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Dana Boyle April 23, 2012 at 9:37 am

Hi Jessie,

It was so nice to see you there as well. It’s been such long time. We really have to keep in touch more frequently now. Make sure you let me know about the dinner club details. I’d love to join sometimes.

I will never be angry with Tim for his choice either. He was always hard to stay mad at, anyway, and in this circumstance, there’s not really a way to be angry about it…with him, anyway.

Thanks for visiting my site and commenting, Jessie. I have my last email from Tim as well, which was simply, “Danaboyle!!!!!!!!” Seems another common experience. And I have a previous one that says, “Danaboyle, you’re a good girl.” Awww…

Hugs to you!
Dana

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Wendy November 10, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Dana,
I am one of Tim’s friends who just found out about his suicide. I am deeply saddened by his death. He was a special man and indeed always made me feel like the most special person in the world. Bi-Polar disorder is a diagnosis that is sometimes impossible to cope with and gain control over. When I learned of his diagnosis the puzzle came together for me. I look back wishing I could have done more.

Wendy

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Dana Boyle November 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Wendy,

I’m sorry you’re just finding out. I’m so sorry for your loss…it is a huge loss for us all. Tim was a wonderful person who touched so many lives. Bipolar Disorder sure is extremely tough to deal with…I know several people affected by it and I talked with Tim many times in our friendship about his struggles. I always felt for him and wished I could do more, too. I often offered to do more. I think many people did. He was a loved person and he loved many.

Much love to you,
Dana

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Wendy November 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Dana,

Do you know where Tim is buried? I feel the need to visit and pay respects.

Thanks

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Dana Boyle November 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Wendy,

I have sent an email to Tim’s sister, Kristi, asking this info. Tim’s service was a memorial service after the fact. The arrangements for his body were private, but I will let you know what I find out, if anything.

Warmest,
Dana

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Dana Boyle November 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

Wendy,

I spoke with Tim’s sister, Kristi, last evening and she said that Tim’s wishes were to remain in Milwaukee. He loved the city so much. They had his remains (ashes) scattered at Forrest Home Cemetery in a garden they have for that purpose. She believes there should now be a memorial stone there with his name on it.

The location is:

Sunset Garden
Forest Home Cemetery
2405 West Forest Home Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53215

I hope that helps and that you are able to pay your respects in a way that feels good to you.

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Nicole Ward February 16, 2013 at 12:07 am

Tonight, what began as an excited search to reach out to a friend I haven’t talked to in over a year, ended in unexpected sadness. I used to work with Tim as a Workers’ Compensation Examiner. I was calling to let him know that I finally sat for the LSAT and will be going to law school in the fall. He saw this potential in me and he encouraged me to take this huge leap. He changed my life and it is a shame that I never got the chance to tell him so, that I appreciate his belief in me.

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Dana Boyle February 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

Hi Nicole,

I remember Tim mentioning you. The first year I knew Tim, I was his legal associate – a young lawyer working for him. We became very good friends after. I’m so sorry you’re just learning of his passing. I know it’s painful.

Know that he knew, or knows. He touched so many lives, and I think he does know that. Congratulations on taking the LSAT and good luck in law school! Tim was an amazing lawyer, as you know, and he’d be proud of you taking that leap and doing what you’re called to do!

Are you attending Marquette?

Much love,
Dana

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Sean February 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Tim defended our company for a period of time. We liked him a lot. We understood he was having some problems and left work for awhile. We are so sorry to learn of his passing just now. This memorial is a wonderful tribute. Thank you. I prayed for Tim and his family when I learned of his passing today. May everyone who loved Tim continue to find peace with him.

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Dana Boyle February 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Thank you for your kind words, Sean. I’m sorry you’re just learning of Tim’s passing, and I wish you well.

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