Nina

More than 40 years ago, I ducked into a phone booth in Istanbul and called my family. I hadn’t seen them in almost a year. We had kept in touch through infrequent letters as I worked odd jobs and traveled in southern Europe and the Middle East. That phone conversation changed the course of my life.

I learned that my brother had shot himself in the head, but had survived. Suicide, however tragic, offers a grim finality. A failed attempt involving a gun injury to the brain carries another kind of death. His extensive paralysis and brain damage destroyed the brother I had known. The years that followed were extremely difficult, as I attempted to find my footing as a young adult. When he died in surgery 12 years later, the grief that had been building for years was overwhelming.

Too many families each year are traumatized by the aftermath of suicide and suicide attempts. Nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Guns that are properly stored can act as a deterrent to someone in an acute mental health crisis. If you believe you must own a gun, please follow gun safety practices.

Vanessa

His birthday is in five days. He would’ve been 40.

Two years ago, my husband, the father of my now four-year-old, called me. We had just separated, and he said he’d always love me. I told him I’d always love him too. The next day, he dropped off our daughter at his mom’s after a day of swimming, drove home, went into my home office, carefully laid his wallet, cell phone, and gun receipt down on my desk, and then shot himself in the face. I don’t know how long he waited before pulling the trigger. I think about those moments often. What was he thinking about?

I don’t remember most of the six months of my life after his death, but I do vividly remember seeing the time-stamped gun receipt that showed he called me from the parking lot of the gun store. It’s cliché to say it, but the rest was like a dream. It felt so real at times, but so distanced other times. I honestly don’t know how I survived it. How I still survive it. I miss him every day. He was my best friend.

Colleen M

I lost my mother to suicide when I was 25 and pregnant with my youngest child. She used my father’s gun and the bullet that he stored separately. He left her the key, even knowing that she was depressed.

I think about her every day and have only recently come to terms with her death, which happened in November 2002.

Benjamin Rose

When I was 16, my life changed forever. I lost one of my older brothers to an unexpected episode of gun violence. Ben died by suicide. Although my family was relatively large–I was the second youngest of six children–I had become very close with Ben in the years leading up to this moment. I never knew, until that moment, that it was possible to experience such pain, let alone endure it. Our family, some of which was now spread across the country, was shattered within mere minutes, and it seemed we had little else but each other to lean on. While our hearts seemed irreparable, we also experienced the transformative reforging of our familial bonds. It was a resolute and indomitable love that we found ourselves expressing, almost unconsciously. Our faith community descended upon us, bumbling yet well intentioned. This brought some small comforts, but also significant challenges. Seven years on, I am still learning, every day, how to allow myself to grieve on my own terms. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember Ben. Quick to anger but even quicker to laugh and to love. Full of confusion but also of generosity and kindness.

Anonymous

My “baby” brother was a brilliant scientist and an innovative and very popular teacher. When he reached his early 40s, he prepared a place in his garage, lay down there, stuck his newly acquired pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. In spite of all the careful precautions he took to avoid having our parents find him, they were the first to encounter his messy death.

Not a week goes by that I don’t reach for the phone to talk with him about something puzzling me. We didn’t always agree, but his intellect always shined a light on whatever we discussed.

My brother was a brilliant teacher. He created a presentation about physics and music that he was asked to give for the general public every year. I never got to attend one, and now I never will have that pleasure. It’s a regret I have frequently.

He decided at one time that he wanted to play piano, never having had lessons. He taught himself by learning to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which he then performed for us. I was there when he did it. That piece is famously difficult to play, to the point of requiring a performer’s prodigious talent.

Anonymous

Many years ago, when I was but a teenager, I lost my first boyfriend to suicide. He shot and killed himself with his brother-in-law’s gun. I believe he was a police officer, and he had left it in his apartment when he was out shopping with his then nine-year-old son. They came home to find a horrific scene. I hate to think of how that must have scarred that young boy.

My boyfriend was a troubled soul, and the year we were together was a roller-coaster of good and bad times. I broke up with him, left him, and shortly after that, he ended his life. He was only 24 years old.

I was too young to live through such a tragedy. That started me on a long path of guilty self-destructive behavior. To this day, I carry those scars. Gun violence has a ripple effect. Gun laws save lives.

Anonymous

My grandparents raised me from the time I was five. Six years ago, I had just graduated and was about to start my freshman year. I walked outside to get something out of my car and saw my grandfather shoot himself. It didn’t kill him immediately, but he fell down and just kept saying, “Just let me die.” He died an hour later. He never left a note; we never knew a reason.

I ended up dropping out of school before I even started and staying home to help my grandmother raise my sisters. It’s taken years to feel peace. Even in the last few months, I’ve been finding more signs in the months leading to his death. I can’t help but continue to feel guilt in thinking that I could have changed the outcome, had I known the signs.

This last year, I’ve had this unrelenting feeling that there is a reason I’ve gone through the pain I have, and I want to find a way to help others overcome their trials. To know that it gets better. I want to help people get through the tough times and be a change.

Sarah Martin

In early September 2008, I received a call from my mother, telling me that her brother Thomas had entered the woods near his home with a gun and shot himself. He was being airlifted to his local hospital. My mother was headed to the hospital for support and to assist in making medical decisions. He so severely injured himself that the family decided to remove him from life support. He is no longer with us. A beloved friend, father and uncle, he is missed fiercely.

I will never forget that day. I carry the pain of this loss for not only myself but my family, as I volunteer with Moms Demand Action.

Anonymous

My husband, the father of our two sons, took his own life with a gun after experiencing an allergic reaction to a medicine for bipolar depression. It was a Friday night, and neither the doctor who prescribed the medicine, nor his father who was a doctor, would return his call for help. If only there were cell phones then. As long as I am alive, he will be remembered with love.

Anonymous

Three families, linked together by our sons. From grade school into college we enjoyed times together – Packer games, weekends at the Wisconsin Dells, New Year’s Eve parties.

It was an exciting time for our three boys. They all went away to college. It was spring, with freshman finals coming up; they were planning their first summer since being independent at school.

It was all shattered in an instant. Brandon, the younger brother of my son’s friend, who had always been a part of their guy group, died by gun suicide. How could this be? His family had always been involved with hunting and focused on safety. They practiced safe gun storage. Yes, Brandon had a history of attempting suicide and was getting help; those other attempts failed. The gun did not fail.

Two months before he would turn 17 – his life ended. The friendships of our families severed.

This year he would have been 21 years old. We celebrate Brandon. Beautiful, silly and happy. His mom would say he was her buddy – her Mini-Me. He was outgoing, funny, caring, big-hearted and loving. He always had lots of energy and nonstop talking.

Gone too soon.

(Brandon is 3rd from the left.)