Suicide. Grief. Love. Remembering Aaron Dizon.

suicide, depression
Aaron Dizon

Written by, Dr. Lisa Herman

&

Joan Dizon (Aaron’s mother) and Laura Dizon (Aaron’s sister)

Aaron Dizon, 1.14.82 – 3.5.14. 

Your kind soul will never be forgotten. I can only hope we do you proud here on earth, so that we can someday dance with you again. Love you always.

As the 5 year anniversary of Aaron’s death is here, the hope of this article is to SHARE, ENCOURAGE, SUPPORT, and CHANGE the script on how we, as a community, talk about suicide and mental wellness.

I asked Joan Dizon (Aaron’s mother) and Laura Dizon (Aaron’s sister) some candid questions about their life “then and now” as a way for them to help others who might resonate with their experience; so they don’t feel alone.

The day my memories vanished.

“I remember that it was super cloudy every day up until the day after Aaron died (March 6th). I remember this was a cold, icy day in Minneapolis. Aaron texted several of us saying he was ‘sorry’ and loved us very much. I thought he was just in trouble again, so I texted back and asked if he was ok. I was hard at work with my photography business and was kind of annoyed with my brother because I didn’t want another distraction.”

“My dad went over to his house, knocked, no answer. I texted him again asking him to answer. His girlfriend at the time got home and found a note in the snow that said not to go into the garage. Mira, my daughter, to this day still remembers me screaming, “Look in the garage! Look in the garage!”

“My now ex-husband went over there and found him. I think my dad called me – hysterical. It’s all a blur, surreal. I was calling everyone I could. I felt stuck. I needed to do something. I went to my brother’s house. Everyone is now at my brother’s house, and all I see are bright lights flashing, the noise and chaos of medical examiners, we are sitting there…without Aaron.”  

Let’s talk about it.

The topic of suicide typically isn’t part of our daily conversation…that is until it happens to you.

For the Dizon family, this unthinkable tragedy became a horrible real life nightmare. On March 5th, 2014, a beloved son, brother, uncle and friend, Aaron Dizon, died by suicide. He left behind many family and friends who loved him dearly.

Aaron has been described as a generous, fun, silly, smart, musically-talented and giving human being. He was the life of any party; yet, beneath the surface was a deep depression that had no outlet. Aaron left a note that Laura keeps with her every day. His love for his family was clear in this note as was his pain, feeling like he couldn’t just “exist” anymore.

If you take one look at Aaron’s Facebook page, you can see the abundance of support and love that he clearly had all around him. Some sentiments include:

I still think about you, Aaron – I remember once you gave me a compliment and it really stuck with me. It probably wasn’t a big deal at the time but I’ve really come to appreciate that I’ve had people like you in my life.

While making a homemade garlic Alfredo sauce tonight I couldn’t help but think of you and how proud you would be. I just hear you behind me saying, “see, I told you it was easy!”

Love you!! It gets to be overwhelmingly difficult some days, I see you everywhere in this house and although small reminders of you make me happy they make me equally sad at the same time… not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and miss you that much more.

There was something special about you. Something I never saw in anyone before… You were one of a kind. I miss you often. I send my love today and everyday to his friends and family who miss him and loved him too.

I thought about you today and it made me smile as you always did. Miss you.

I think of you every day, I miss you everyday. 2 days before you left I was in Bryn Mawr picking up paperwork at the gas station, I was thinking of visiting you and setting up a date to have an “old roomies” bbq. It riddles me why I did not. It makes me sad. I should have. 

If you ask anyone if they know someone or have been personally impacted in some way by suicide, more than likely you will get a YES as the answer.

Yet, we rarely talk about suicide.

People don’t want to think about suicide, and we surely don’t ask others if they are or have been suicidal. That would be prying too much into someone’s personal life.

Thankfully, the taboo of having this difficult conversation is starting to change as more news outlets are covering suicide prevention (like last year’s news segment about Laura’s local charity, Shout Out Loud, on Fox 9 and CCX Media).

If we talk about suicide, that means we also need to talk about depression, anxiety, family and relationship problems, substance abuse or gambling issues; we need to talk about the realities of life. And, who wants to do that?

Clearly, not as many Minnesotans as we’d hope are talking about suicide. We are, as a collective, known for our “Minnesota Nice” and our desire to help one another and keep our problems to ourselves. As a native Minnesotan, I take pride in this “Minnesota Nice” stereotype. However, sometimes there is a price to pay for only showing each another the positive.

The CDC reports that suicide rates are up in our great state, rising just over 40% in the last 18 years. Suicide is currently in 8th place for the leading cause of death in MN in 2016, just behind Diabetes and Stroke.

Let’s call suicide what it is: A crisis. An epidemic. A tragedy

It doesn’t make sense. How could someone so loved and loving feel so empty inside?

Mental health issues like depression don’t always make sense. For the family and friends who remain in grief, they need to find ways to cope in order to wake-up every day and honor their loved one’s memory while trying to live their lives.

Some find maladaptive ways to cope that typically make things worse, while others hopefully find more effective coping strategies. People coping with the loss of someone who dies by suicide may turn to God/spiritual engagement, psychotherapy, writing, exercising, karate, art, dance, and even advocacy like Laura has with co-founding Shout Out Loud.

Any loss is hard, whether it be by old age, cancer, or a freak accident. But there is something different, if you ask the survivors, about loss from suicide because suicide is self-inflicting external pain in order to stop internal suffering. It’s not easy to understand AND it’s something we need to be talking about with our children.

Survivors.

This will never happen to me. Not in my family. Who would do such a thing?

The first rule of the club you never ever want to be a part of: Don’t judge. 

Suicide does not discriminate. Period. People can blame others and suspect what may have been going on in their life…why they didn’t get help, keep going for therapy, or begin new treatments. Let’s face it. Health care is not easy to access, it takes time, costs money, and what about the dreaded embarrassment called stigma?

Many questions will forever remain unanswered; and Aaron’s courageous group of family and friends must forge ahead in their own lives while constantly moving through the stages of grief – an unease that feels like a roller coaster ride that they hate and cannot get off of. Ever.

It is the hope of the Dizon family that they can reach others who might be feeling like Aaron did and save even one life.

Losing a son.

Aaron Dizon (left) and his mother, Joan Dizon (right)

“People think grieving is temporary, and you need to go on and get over it. Grieving is forever.”

It has been five years since Aaron’s passing, Joan, what have you learned the most about suicide in the last many years? What have you learned about yourself?

First of all the stigma – that I need to hide the fact that my son committed suicide.  I am not afraid of what people will think.  My son was depressed more than I could comprehend, which is a shame that he was not able to tell us or anyone.  About what I have learned about myself? It hurts every day. I will be driving home from work and will go into a dark spot thinking about his death, and I know that it is not good for me to be there, and I talk myself out of it. Sometimes it feel like just yesterday that he died, but then again I think about the years of not being with us and I am sad he is not able to get to see Mira grow up.  He would be so proud of her.

What’s the biggest myth you’ve come across about surviving a loved ones suicide?

People think grieving is temporary, and you need to go on and get over it. Grieving is forever. Some days are good and some days are hard.  I would love to say to people that I am having a hard day and am grieving my son, but no one would understand.  That is what is hard – to keep a happy persona when I am hurting inside.

What helps you through the really bad moments/days/weeks?

I tend to want to be alone at those times.  Like, when it was his birthday in January, after dinner with Laura and Mira, I spent a couple of hours looking at photos of Aaron and remembering the precious times I had with him. And also I needed to cry.

What did you learn about Aaron after he passed that you didn’t really know while he was alive?

I knew that he had a lot of friends, but the amount of people that were grieving of his loss was so humbling.  His Facebook page is still active and people are still posting to it about how he changed their lives or how they miss him!

How has your family been impacted the most since his death? What’s changed for better or worse?

The missing him.  I have a twin sister who also lost her son on March 5th a number of years ago, he was 24.  March 5th is also my bother-in-law’s birthday.  So this day is bitter sweet.  I have grown closer to my family through all of the sorrow.

What would you have liked to know five years ago that you know now about suicide?

First of all, to be very in tune to what my son was going through and be able to help him. He told me one time when he was down, that he would not commit suicide because he didn’t have the guts…..I guess depression and thoughts of suicide will make you stronger to do that.

If you could tell a mom who just went through what you went through (and are always going to be going through), what would it be? 

People will ask you how you are doing and a good response will be I’m ok, I’m not ok, but that’s ok.  There is no time frame regarding grieving.  It is ongoing.  Sometimes you have a good day and be able to make it a goal to try.  Sometimes you have a bad day and that does not mean you are weak…you are human and are allowed to have them.

What do you think was lacking in our community resources when Aaron passed that has improved today?

I am not sure a lot has changed,  this is why we need to make it a priority.  Health care is so expensive and makes it almost impossible to get help.  This is what makes me angry.  When someone is depressed, provide services that are not impossible to afford to get.

Anything else you want people to know? 

Be patient with the family who has lost a family member to suicide, especially a mom or a sibling. Don’t expect us to always have a happy face.  Allow us time to grieve.  Oh how I wish I could tell others about how hard this is, without them thinking….get over it Joan.

Losing a brother.

suicide
Photo of Aaron Dizon (left) and his sister, Laura Dizon (right).

“I have tried to find some good in the loss.  If I don’t find the good,  than it’s just loss.” 

It has been five years since Aaron’s passing, Laura, what have you learned the most about suicide in the last many years? What have you learned about yourself? 

What I’ve learned the most is that I’m not alone!  So many people have lost loved ones.  So many have lost brothers.  I think I’ve definitely learned more about myself than I have about suicide.  I’ve learned that I am way stronger and much more powerful than I thought I was.  The power of positivity is a real thing.  I am resilient and can take a horrible thing, learn and grow from it and even help others.

What’s the biggest myth you’ve come across about surviving a loved ones suicide? 

Not sure of a myth, but I would want people to know that it feels quite a bit different to ‘handle’ than other types of death.  Maybe harder in some aspects – not as many people know the ‘right’ things to say to you when it happens.  It is sudden, so in some aspects you’d think perhaps like a car accident; but very different as the thought of my brother being so unhappy that he took his own life is gut wrenching.  But also, depression is a disease, but it isn’t like losing someone to heart disease or cancer.

What helps you through the really bad moments/days/weeks? 

Positive thoughts, reading books on the subject of loss.  Becoming a better Me!  Trying hard to help others.  Truthfully sometimes nothing and I just have to give myself the option to take time for myself.  Trying to make that guilt free.  Learning that taking the time for myself is ok and I have to do it to survive this thing we call life.

What did you learn about Aaron after he passed that you didn’t really know while he was alive? 

I think what others thought of him.  How generous he was.  I saw him in a different light than his role as my “little brudda”.  He was loved and respected by so many people.

How has your family been impacted the most since his death? What’s changed for better or worse? 

This one is a hard question for me.  I have tried to find some good in the loss.  If I don’t find the good,  than it’s just loss.  I have learned to live my life differently, embracing the challenges, not giving up but also giving myself a little leeway when I’m feeling crappy.  Wishing that Aaron knew to do the same. What changed for the worse is that a big part of so many is lost forever.  Aaron left a huge hole in our world.

What would you have liked to know five years ago that you know now about suicide? 

How many people are affected and how many people are smiling through the pain!  If we had known the signs, known what to say.  If I had known that talking about suicide with my brother would NOT make him more likely to do it.  If I had spoken up would he still be here?

If you could tell a sister who just went through what you went through (and will always be going through), what would it be? 

Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves.  After a while most days the waves won’t pull you under.  Most days the tide comes and goes and you just find a way to get through it.  On the days the waves knock you down, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

What do you think was lacking in our community resources when Aaron passed that has improved today? 

Truthfully, not much has changed except it’s getting more news coverage.  Mental health care in too expensive and too hard to get.  Many seek alternative methods as finding an affordable therapist in our country is next to impossible.

What now?

Aaron and his niece, Mira.

“Suicide isn’t about what’s seen on the outside…it’s about the overwhelming storm on the inside. What we can do about it as a community is fund our prevention and treatment programs. We can SHOUT OUT LOUD about our difficulties controlling stress.” 

We honor Aaron. We honor so many who lost the battle to depression or substance abuse or chronic pain. We fight for change.

Laura Dizon is a business owner at Tiny Acorn Portraits and is also the co-founder to a local Minnesota charity called Shout Out Loud! Laura, along with her mom Joan and countless other family and friends have made it their mission to help people learn to normalize the conversation around mental wellness and know what our local resources are that can support individuals and families struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, chronic pain, and more.

Shout Out Loud raises money for local non-profits, with the 2019 beneficiary being PrairieCare Child and Family Fund. They award grant money to Minnesota schools for their mental health resources.

Please volunteer, donate, sponsor, or just come to the event! It will be held on Saturday, October 5th, 2019 at the ROC in St. Louis Park, MN.

 

If You Know Someone in Crisis: Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the NSPL’s website. The Crisis Text Line is another resource available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Text “HOME” to 741741.

To learn more about depression and signs of suicide, please view this extended interview by Dr. Lisa Herman on CCX Media.

 

Dr. Lisa Herman is the owner of Synergy eTherapy and Clinical Psychologist licensed to practice with those who reside in the states of MN, WI and NY. She and Laura co-founded Shout Out Loud, a suicide prevention and awareness charity.

To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.

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