The military community has been sent reeling the past couple days, following the news of a mother killing her two young children, the family dog, and herself, while her airman husband was out of the country.
I know the neighborhood this lady lived in. While close to one of the largest Army installations, it’s not a military community; instead, it’s a civilian neighborhood.
I can’t say I know this woman’s life or her struggles. I don’t know the state of her marriage or the challenges she faced with her children. News reports indicate the the day prior to the bodies being discovered, this wife had been at a neighbor’s home, seemed incoherent and had asked if, “God would forgive her.”
What I do know is that this entire situation is a terrible tragedy.
I also know the loneliness that can accompany a separation, coupled with the sleepless nights that occasioned by raising children, and stressors of feeling as though you have to hold everything together, create a significant amount of stress on a caregiver.
This wife, mother, and friend could be me.
She could be any one of us!
If I did not have the coping skills and mechanisms I have spent years cultivating, I could be in her shoes. If I did not have the ability to step out of the emotionality that can accompany deployments or separations, I could be in her shoes. If I could not keep perspective that the separation is time-limited, I could be in her shoes.
I have learned to be busy during deployments and separations – so busy, I become weary by the end of the day and collapse in bed at night.
This last deployment, I started experiencing insomnia. That makes nights some of the most lonely and difficult hours of a deployment, when a person is left alone with their thoughts.
Insomnia, of course, increases fatigue. And when you’re tired, judgment becomes impaired. Had I not found something else to occupy my mind, I can see how the thoughts could have turned into those of despair and despondence.
My neighbors would have never known because we had never taken time to get to know each other.
In general, we live in such an isolated society, even surrounded by throngs of people. All too often, military families are crushed with the weight of caring for themselves and others in their military community. Living in a civilian community adds a component of isolation.
So, please, if you are a civilian, reach out to that new military family in your neighborhood. If you are a military family, reach out to your new civilian neighbors when you move.
Suicide isn’t a military thing – it’s an “everyone act.” We can all reach a breaking point.
Suicide doesn’t impact just one person – it impacts entire communities.
As a society, we need to learn to support, and be willing to lean on, one another.
Finally, please know your resources. If you are afraid for the safety of someone, do not hesitate to call your local law enforcement for a wellness check – they can determine if someone is truly okay, or if further intervention is needed. When in doubt, call – you may never be thanked for the call, but you just might save a life.
If you are contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255.
If you are military-affiliated, you can also contact Military OneSource for help and assistance at 1-800-342-9647.
None of us need to suffer in silence, and none of us need to suffer alone.