The call that changed my life and broke my heart

grief pic 1

I will never forget where I was when I got the call.  My breath was labored and I held on to my stomach tightly as if it were going to escape out of my body, my hand serving as the last line of defense.  The voice on the phone, a female police officer, filled me in on procedural matters since I was the one who made the initial report.  As she talked, I searched for hope in her voice. I yearned for her to use the word “attempt” or “false alarm”.  I didn’t know if it actually happened, only that it could have. I prayed it didn’t, but deep down, I knew.  The officer was talking with such sterility and dispassion, even annoyance.  Just another day at the office, I thought.  I needed to hear her say the words.

I mustered up the courage to interrupt her detached protocol and interject the question I never wanted to ask.  “Wait. I just… Are you saying she’s dead?” My voice was filled with a desperation I could not mask despite my efforts at remaining professional. “Oh, I’m sorry.” she replied in an embarrassed tone.  “I should have… Yes, her attempt was successful.  She’s dead.” I doubled over in pain, my hand once again trying to push my insides back in my stomach.  I wanted to fall down.  I wanted to throw up.  I wanted to disappear.  This can’t be a real, I repeated to myself over and over again.

Wake me from this nightmare.

But I wasn’t sleeping.  It was real.  And it was excruciating.  Everything felt like a fog, but one thought rang out through the haze.  I will never be the same again.  I never wanted to be the same.



There are moments in life- frozen seconds of time- that define and change us.  Experiences that cause life to be divided into two parts: before and after.  The day my client committed suicide was one of those days for me.  As the three-year anniversary came and went a few weeks ago, my body remembered the feelings I felt that day.  So much has changed since the day when everything changed. The memory of it feels like an old friend I haven’t seen in a while, but once reunited, we fall right back in step with each other.  Familiar, but aged and weathered. Comforting and excruciating simultaneously. Grief is like that. Unwelcome and painful, yet sacred and intimate. I long to forget, but I fear forgetting because I need to remember. To feel.  To honor.

I imagine the person I knew. I picture her standing on the cement wall by my old counseling office, looking into the stream below and swaying slightly to the music blaring through her headphones.  No more.  I hear her voice greeting everyone in the waiting area as she enters, eager to connect. Desperate to be heard.  No more.  I see the other side of this person, the darker side, sitting on my couch unable to pretend any longer.  Broken.  No more.

As a counselor, I witness the desperation and grief of others often. I find myself asking, “How could this happen?  Why would a good God allow people to suffer to the point that death feels like the only relief?  Is there anything anyone can really do to help in the presence of such hopelessness?”  I don’t know the answers, but I do know this.  There is no time when I feel more dependent on God and more desperate for a Savior than in the face of grief and tragedy.  I don’t want to avoid pain because that would mean I am avoiding connection and relationship. And it would mean missing out on an opportunity to participate in the most powerful collective experience that exists- human suffering.

In light of our nation’s recent collective grief experience as we mourn the death of Robin Williams, I hold my own grief tightly and remember.  Suicide impacts so many, and this very public grief of a legend and dear friend from afar connects millions to the grief of losing someone to suicide and dealing with the aftermath and the questions and the confusion.  I pray for his family, his friends, his fans, his counselor if he had one, and all those who feel hopeless and trapped.  There is a psalm (34:18) that says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those that are crushed in spirit.”  I can’t understand why things happen the way they do, but I take comfort in believing that in our darkest moments, the Lord is close.  And there are people who care and want to walk beside you.

Thanks for letting me walk beside you, C.  It was an honor.

8 thoughts on “The call that changed my life and broke my heart

  1. Ellie

    Karin as a fellow counselor I grieve for what you went through. I choose to trust God in all aspects of my life. He knows what He is doing and even when bad things happen there is always a reason. People have a choice and sometimes we fail to choose the right one, but we are not robots. It hurts when we can’t choose for them but just like salvation, the right decision comes from within. Thank you for your thought provoking and tender post. Blessings,

    1. karinfields Post author

      Thank you for your response, Ellie. It is certainly hard to trust that everything happens for a reason when things are so tragic and painful. I appreciate your words and your encouragement!

  2. Silvia

    Thank you for sharing this story that touched me in so many ways. First, I found myself just wanting to reach out and comfort you in the pain you expressed so well, so real, so tangible. Then upon finding out that it stemmed from a client’s completed suicide, it hit home, having just experienced the near death of young client myself this past week – fragile, scared, trying to move on and live … for now that is. I thought of sending her this post because she is also a writer, a very good one at that. And finally of course, there’s the loss of Robin Williams, which in so many ways takes me back to the loss of Michael Jackson, and how I felt then. Both geniuses at what they did best – giving themselves to us, their audience, completely … until they were raw. One reached us with his comedy, the other with his music – but as you said Karen, “No More.”

    1. karinfields Post author

      Beautifully put, Silvia. My client that completed suicide was also an extremely creative and dynamic person who spent so much energy giving herself to others. I remember feeling sad that the world wouldn’t have her anymore. Thank you for your comments and the care you give your clients. I am glad we can support each other both personally and professionally.

  3. Gretchen Mercer

    Karin, I’m a college classmate of your mother. I always enjoy her posting on fb one of your blogs that has touched her in a special way. I am not sure your mom even knows this because it happened soon after we graduated from Tift.
    My mother committed suicide in November of 1970. I was married and about half way through the pregnancy with my first child. There are no words that can describe the impact of her decision on my life…both then and forever after. I completely understand why you see it as a defining moment in your own life. I definitely gauge events as “before” and “after.” Nothing was ever quite the same again.
    I did not do as you suggested. I did not allow myself to completely feel the pain. Ever. Even the thought of that was more than I could bear. And I will tell you that it was a major mistake. It has caused me to use avoidance as a coping mechanism even when I know in my rational mind how unhealthy that can be. Back in those days there was no such thing as grief therapy. It would have been so good for me and for all of my family!
    I did spend about a year with a good therapist in the last of the 90’s who helped me in many ways. I know it is never too late.
    God bless you for the work that you do. How blessed your clients are having a faith-filled therapist helping them deal with the hard lessons of life.


    1. karinfields Post author

      Thank you for your vulnerability about your mother’s death and its impact you. What a heavy burden to bear, especially since it felt like you couldn’t fully grieve. I am glad that you realized it is never too late to work through the pain of the past. Thank you so much for you kind words of encouragement. Being a counselor can be a tough job, but it is also such an honor.

  4. eric diamond

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been there three times (clients), and three times with friends.
    Hard to even describe the effect of this kind of loss–you did well.

    with love,
    eric diamond

    1. karinfields Post author

      It is certainly a unique and lonely loss, losing a client. Knowing others out there who have experienced it also is comforting to me. Thanks for your comment, my friend!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s