A Post-Traumatic Growth Story From a Suicide Loss Survivor

How to Move Forward After Being Left Behind

by Jason Holzer

On May 8, 2003, my life would change forever. As I woke up and got ready to go to school that day, I noticed my mother was crying. It looked as if she had been crying for a while. When I asked what was wrong, she claimed it to be a stomach ache, immediately I felt there was something much deeper going on than that.  

She was also rushing us to get to school that day, another unusual clue that something just wasn’t right.  I was only 17 at the time, and as much as I wanted to figure out what the heck was going on, I did what I was told because I didn’t want to add anymore stress.

As I drove to school that morning, I knew this day was going to be different. I could feel it, even though I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I had never seen my mother that upset over something like a stomach ache. I started playing scenarios in my head, and I also wondered, “Where was dad this morning?” We typically left for school and work at the same time everyday, but today he had already left before I was even awake.  

I got to school and connected with my friends, which allowed me to take my mind off the situation at home… for a few hours at least.  I barely made it into my third hour class, and I got called to the office unexpectedly. “What is this about?” I thought. I didn’t have any appointments or any other reason to be called out of class. I walked up to the front office, and my aunt and uncle were there to take me to hospital.

“Your dad was in a work accident today” They said… “We are here to take you there.”  I immediately responded, “Is he ok?”  They weren’t able to give me a straight answer… Chills ran up my spine. We got in the car, and as we left the parking lot, we turned the opposite direction of the hospital. We were going in the direction of my house.  Confusion and overwhelming emotions cause me to become speechless and just sit in my thoughts.  

Things like 

“Why are we going home?”

“What could have happened to dad?” 

“Is he alive?” 

These questions gripped my mind so tight it felt like they clamped my mouth shut, there was so much I wanted to ask and say, but all I could was stare out the window of the car. I tried to fill my mind with positive thoughts, but intuitively I knew my father had passed.  I didn’t know how yet, but I knew. 

We pulled up to my house and there were at least 30 cars packed into the driveway and on the side of the road.  Chills again rushed through my entire body… I felt the heaviness of what I was about to experience. 

I walked in the door to faces drenched in emotion

All of my family knew something that I was about to find out. My mother took me and my two younger sisters back to my room, sat us down on my bed, and said… “Your dad passed away this morning”  

“NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”  Adrenaline rushed through my body.. how could this be? He wasn’t sick, he was just here last night… I assumed it had to be a car accident, nothing else made sense. So I asked my mom, “How did it happen?” and she said “He killed himself this morning”  

I didn’t understand, and the question of “Why?” overwhelmed me. It was a painful question because the only one who could answer it, was gone. I had no answers. All that was left was just a shattered heart and feelings of brokenness, sadness, anger, and immense confusion.  

How do I move forward from this? The intensity of the pain was so deep… What now? What am I supposed to do? I simply felt lost…

One day at a time

For about six months after my father passed, we had many visitors and people checking in on us. Eventually though, it was time to figure out what’s next. How do I move forward, knowing I’ll never be the same again after going through something as traumatic and life altering as this.

One day, I simply asked my mom “What are we going to do?” and she gave the best and most simplistic advice.  She said, “We take things one day at a time, and we keep our faith.” In the beginning, some days it was hard to get out of bed but I knew I had to. I knew I had to face my adversity and I asked God for help to get me through the hard times. He did then and He still does now. 

I have never gotten over losing someone to suicide.  Every holiday, birthday, and May 8 are a reminder of what happened on that Thursday. However, I’ve learned that through continuous forgiveness, a belief and feeling that life will get better, and a determination to live my best life, I can be a light in the darkness that is suicide.

Suicide took my father, but it can’t take my joy, my resilience, my compassion, and my drive to thrive. No matter what happens, the only thing I have control over is me. I am what I am because of my choices. Every day I choose to get better, and to be of service to others, because when you give, you end up receiving so much more.  A joy within that brings purpose, fulfillment, and a passion to be an express of God’s greatness. 

If I can do it, I believe you can as well. If you are going through a tough time, give life a chance to get better. I did and now I can honestly, my life gets better everyday, because I didn’t give up and I made the decision to give life a chance to improve! I still have challenges, no one is immune to that, but now I see my challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. 

In memory of my father, Alan Holzer, 12/19/1960 – 5/8/2003.

Many Blessings 

Jason Holzer

Author of “Shattered by Suicide, Renewed by Resilience: How to Move Forward After Being Left Behind”

2 thoughts on “A Post-Traumatic Growth Story From a Suicide Loss Survivor”

  1. Thank you for sharing. It is so important to see how much pain can be left behind when someone takes their life. When I struggle, I self talk to remind myself that while I may be having a tough go of it, suicide is not the answer. The pain and suffering to others would impact them for life. Nothing is that tough to get over to cause that to loved ones, family, and friends.

  2. This was a tough read this morning, but what a brave, strong and kind young man. Am so glad he did find a way to move forward. Thank you Jason for telling your story, it will help so many others I am sure. Wish you much success and joy ahead.

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