Today’s #SameHere🤙Hero: Sarah Travis. It’s so fitting that Sarah is today’s hero, shortly after two #SameHere events w families I now personally look at as heroes – the Ambrogi’s from UPenn & the @hilinskishope parents from U of SC. Unlike these families who lost their sons to suicide, Sarah talks about the impact of losing her beloved father to suicide, & the impact it had on her & her whole family. Incredible strength here to share the way she has. Please welcome Sarah & read about her resilience & bravery:
“On August 31, 2017, I lost my father to suicide. To say it was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced would be a huge understatement. Prior to losing Dad, MH wasn’t really something I was aware of or considered. The extent of my association w MH was simply to say I needed a day off from work or school as a ‘MH Day.’
I never imagined something like this would happen in our family. My parents, my brother, & I were extremely close. We considered ourselves rare in how close we were. We counted it a blessing that we all actually immensely enjoyed spending time together. Whenever we had struggles or periods of stress in the past, we always found ways to overcome. So this just felt like another stressful time in life…one I had faith that we would overcome again just as we had done in the past. I never knew the deeper level of pain my father must have been experiencing. It breaks my heart when I try to imagine how he must’ve felt. My MH clearly took a huge hit after his passing.
In the first days & weeks after we lost dad, my mind was on a loop….like I was trapped on a carousel & couldn’t get off. I’d replay the same three or four events from those first days over & over in my mind. I felt like a prisoner being tortured by my trauma; powerless to stop the carousel. No emotion or feeling was predictable. One moment I’d be experiencing anger & the next moment I’d experience deep deep sadness.
That continues today. I describe how I feel as a staircase. I climb climb climb up towards healing, but then sometimes it feels like I’ve been pushed down the stairs and have to start all over. I think it will be like that forever. Fortunately, the good days are more frequent these days. There was a time where I didn’t think a good day was possible. Thankfully, I was wrong about that.
If I remember correctly, we all started seeing a counselor almost immediately. I think it was as soon as the day after the funeral. We went together as a family, at first. It was helpful to hear how each other was feeling. I don’t think we felt much in the beginning other than being in shock or numb. And my mom & I kept going together for a few more sessions after that, & now we all go individually. Healing is so different from person to person & my journey is not the same as my mother’s or my brother’s.
To us, going to see a counselor wasn’t even a question. We knew that if we were going to have a shot at making it through this trauma, we needed to equip our minds & our hearts for the process. Seeing the fact that dad couldn’t do it alone told us that we couldn’t heal from this alone. I think that’s been a big takeaway for me. I feel so much better when I can talk about what happened & talk about my dad…it makes me feel like it keeps him & his memory alive when I speak about him. For some reason, people seem to be afraid to bring it up or scared that they’re going to hurt me more…but I give them permission to always ask me about it because talking helps me so much.
I enjoy working out very much. I try to get to my 5:30am crossfit class about three or four times a week. After everything that happened, the gym clearly took a backseat for a couple of weeks. I could barely feed myself, much less think about a high intensity workout. But my coach from my class, being the incredible human she is, showed up at my house to pick me up to take me for a trail walk. If I couldn’t work out, walking could be the next best thing. Fresh air does a world of good.
Eventually I got back into the habit of going to the gym, & it’s a time when I can let out anger & frustration & built up energy in a healthy way. I also practice using a joy journal. Every day, I write down three things that brought me joy that day. At first, it felt like I had to fake it to find three things to write down. But eventually, it helped me see that joy IS possible in the midst of this supreme tragedy, & that there IS light in the midst of this heavy darkness. I continue to see my counselor about once a month, & that’s a great help as well. I am of the belief that EVERYONE, even the ‘normal, happy people,’ can benefit from seeing a counselor.
I think my #SameHere story makes people sad. Which, I guess is understandable. To all who knew my dad, it still doesn’t make sense that he’s not with us anymore. He was a beautiful ray of sunshine who touched the lives of everyone he met. His impact on this earth goes far beyond what I may ever know. I’m grateful I had 29 years w him. But I think my whole family is doing a great job about being a voice for MH awareness.
Our greatest burden has also become our biggest gift. What I mean by that is, we have the unique ability to show true empathy to those who are hurting so deeply. We can be advocates for getting help. I want to see a world where the suicide rate is decreasing bc more people are advocating for themselves. I want to live my life as a safe place for those who need a friend or someone to walk alongside them in their pain, & to be a reminder that YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE. I think God knew this was going to happen, & that through this experience I will grow into the person He wants me to be. I know if my dad could see me, he’d be proud. Anything good I ever accomplish, it’s to honor my father & continue his legacy here on this earth.”