3 Years After Suicide

John Lee Hoffa
Oh how I miss that smile.

As far as anniversaries go, this one is one I’d prefer to forget. Last year I had a really hard time finding words to describe how things were 2 years after John died so I didn’t say anything at all. This year, marks 3 years since he left us. 3 has always been my lucky number so I figured it was time to put thoughts on digital paper again, just to remind everyone about John and how much we all still miss him. Oddly, this year was the first time I didn’t wake up crying on this day – I guess it’s a sign of how time eases the grief in some ways.  I still feel that raw ache in my heart, that pain in my chest when I think about it, when I think back to when I got the awful call, when I made the trip to Grand Island, and just the overwhelming pain and suffering everyone was going, has gone and continues to go through. 3 years later, there are still the moments- the grief, the pain, the questions….and yet FINALLY we are starting to get back some of the laughter and happy times which is what I know John would have wanted. He’d probably make fun of us for taking so long to get here. They say life goes on, and it does….it’s just vastly different.

In the time since John passed, I have found a new passion. Suicide prevention is something very near and dear to my heart for obvious reasons. If you read any of my previous posts, you know that suicide was not something we really talked about in my family before. Yes, I’m hypersensitive to it now. I never joke about it, I don’t like to hear jokes about it. It’s something I think people need to take more seriously- it’s not a laughing matter. Every time I see something in the news about someone who has committed or attempted suicide, which seems to be more and more lately, it still shocks and saddens me. I hate the fact that people would ever feel the need to take their own life. It’s so senseless especially when each and every one of us has the ability to make a difference and potentially change these outcomes. How?  We could start by paying attention. Talk to each other. Be kind. CARE.

I have taken to being an advocate for suicide prevention, especially where I hang out a lot… online. (Especially on Twitter.) You’d be amazed at the things people will reveal in social media. You’d also be amazed at how receptive they are to a little interaction, to know that someone is there, and actually listening. Sometimes that is all it takes. I try to be that person as much as I can. I try to talk about suicide openly with people I meet, it’s not something I’m ashamed or afraid to talk about. Yes, it makes people uncomfortable but sometimes that’s what it takes to get through. If you had told me 3 years ago that I would be talking to anyone who would listen about suicide and reaching out to people who need help, I probably would have laughed at you. You see, I was very uncomfortable talking about suicide too- in fact, I still am- but my philosophy is this: if it takes me getting a little uncomfortable in order to potentially help save a life, it’s a price I am more than willing to pay.

While I wish things would have turned out differently, and that I had paid attention and cared more 3 years ago, the way John left us has opened my eyes and my heart in a way that I’m not sure would have been possible before. Everyone likes to think that they have a legacy to leave behind….a positive mark they can make on this earth during their time here. John may not have thought he would have a lasting impact on so many people, but the fact is that he has helped several people choose a different path than he did. I’ve had multiple people- some friends, some strangers, tell me that they were considering suicide and after hearing me tell them how hard it is to cope when a loved one commits suicide it changed their minds. That blows my mind. It’s humbling and affirms that talking about it openly is the right thing to do. Just think if everyone did that, what a difference we could make! While I wish he was still here with us, knowing that he continues to live on through us is something of a comfort. I wonder if he knows how many lives he has impacted. I’d like to think he approves of what I’m doing because it’s for him that I do it. It’s my way of helping him have a lasting legacy of some kind- to let him continue to touch people’s lives even though he isn’t here physically.

So, 3 years after John committed suicide, we are all still here- a little older, hopefully a lot wiser. We can even talk about him sometimes without totally losing it, which is progress.  I don’t think time can ever heal us completely, there is simply no way you can fill that void and in some ways, still feeling grief and pain after time passes reminds me of how precious the time we had was. No matter what, we will still miss him, think of him everyday and grieve the loss we still cannot understand.

It’s so easy to go through life being oblivious to our surroundings, and ignore each other as we go about our days. Taking the time to talk to people and genuinely care about their wellbeing is another matter. If we all just made the effort with a few people each day, imagine the difference it can make. When you feel like you are all alone and there’s no one you can talk to- having a total stranger acknowledge you can turn your whole day and maybe your life around. My offer from 3 years ago still stands, if you read this and you need help- or need to reach out to someone and talk about suicide, I’m here and I’m willing to listen and do what I can. It’s all about caring and taking a little time out of our busy schedules for one another. You are all worth my time. It doesn’t take much. We should all do a better job. I’m trying, I hope you will to.

~Michelle Haag
John’s cousin

You can find me on Twitter @Spark4Creative if you want to tweet 🙂



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