Title: Parent Of Suicide
Format: Open Speaker Talk
©2021-2022 Bob Cristello
My name is Bob Cristello, and I am a Parent Of Suicide.
On August 16, 2017, my son Anthony took his own life when he was thirty-five years old.
In the country where I live, twenty-two US Military Veterans will take their own life today. Around the world, in the next twenty-four hours, 2160 people will end their lives. According to the World Health Organization, that is an estimate of one human life lost every forty seconds.
I watched my son emerge at birth from another human being. I held him in my arms, covered with vernix caseosa. When I close my eyes and breathe, I can still feel him squirming and the fresh scent of his life wafting over me. I still hear his voice in my head, his laughter in my heart, and his dreams are now my dreams.
When you are a Parent Of Suicide, one great tool is to find a community that understands the pain you are experiencing. I found such a group, and it was there that I learned about honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness. I was hopeless, spiritually empty, and angry. Today, I have hope. I returned to life and my family. It was not graceful or elegant, but I walked the path I was responsible for creating. Now, I write and speak to reach out to help others who seek hope. I ask people only to believe, that I believe, that it is possible.
Another tool of communities that support those who grieve in any capacity is the freedom of anonymity. It is essential to find a place where you can share your experiences. These experiences, in time, will turn to strength if you allow them to. In time, that strength can become hope. Then, you may choose to reach out to help others. I decided to end my anonymity on November 11, 2021, when I dedicated my life to helping others cope with loss. I have no special skills, education, or training. I am just a person who has lost a person I loved to suicide. Since that time, I have received great blessings in life. My wife has her husband, my daughter has her father, and I walk in the world without shame.
I still struggle with grief and, worse, the shock of losing my son to suicide. The panic attacks have never stopped. I will not lie to you now. Profound moments of introspection, filled with the search for answers to questions I will never find, still haunt me. Today, I do have a purpose. It is in that purpose that I find meaning in life. I have chosen to live. The concept of choosing to live a life, perhaps for the first time, is something that will change your point of view. I implore you to consider this if you have lost someone and are grieving.
People often say to me, “I know it is not the same, but I lost someone …”. They often look into my eyes to see if they are okay to continue. I always try to set people at ease who are willing to be open about their pain. I believe that I have matured in my grief experience to see beyond being a Parent Of Suicide and now see grief as a symptom of a more significant human issue.
I, personally, had become a much harder person than I was before I began this exercise in October of 2021. I am harder on myself yet have surrendered to something beyond myself. I am not an enlightened man, but I am a man who seeks enlightenment. I am not a man of God, but I am a man who seeks God. Not the God that we as a race of beings wage wars over, but the God that will reveal the truth if I tell the truth about me.
I am not necessary, and my story is not essential. The anonymity of being a Parent Of Suicide is the story that matters today. Now is the time to reach out to one other human being in pain today and just offer to be there for them. The act of offering will change your point of view if you allow yourself to be open to it. The act of telling the truth, especially the truth about yourself, will change how you see yourself.
I caution you, however, to please not be naive. Merchants want to sell me something to complete me. Predators have identified me as weak at the edge of the herd. They will come in all forms through social media platforms that we use to communicate with each other in a world where Covid and The Great Resignation keep us at home. The good news is that once you seek the truth about yourself, you will know the truth about others.
I am a Parent Of Suicide. My mission is to share my personal experience, strength, and hope with the world. My son took his own life many years ago and was dead. My son is now very much alive for me. He is alive because others talk to me about him, which they stopped doing on the day he died. The day I stopped asking why he killed himself was when I started asking myself about my role in his death. I had changed my point of view and was ready to move forward. I am not asking you to believe. I am only asking you to believe that this is what I believe.
My name is Bob. Thank you for letting me share today.