“My experience of suicide is that it is the equivalent of a bomb going off in your living room while you’re sitting watching telly. Afterwards you’re astonished you’re alive, but everything has changed and you have a million shards of glass embedded in your soul. Some of them are so big they fall out straight away leaving gaping wounds. But the little pieces, they can take decades to work their way up to the surface.”
It scarcely seems possible that a whole year has passed, the pain is still so raw, as is the expectation, even now, that he may still pick up the phone and call me or turn up at our front door and say “Hey Dad, I’ve been away but I’m ok and I’m back to stay”.
Jordan had a significant network of people who truly loved him, including 3 or 4 separate groups of very close friends, most of whom didn’t know the members of the other groups. Each cohort had at least one person who would tell you that they were Jordan’s best friend. Some of those friends read tearful eulogies at his funeral, others wept and one abiding memory I have, as the large crowd of mourners left the chapel car park, was that of a solitary young man standing waiting for me, with tears pouring down his face. It was a friend of Jordan’s from his primary school days. Although they hadn’t kept in touch as frequently as they might, they both shared wonderful childhood memories – this 6ft + man now stood in front of me totally bereft – we hugged.
More than 30 of Jordan’s work colleagues attended his funeral and recently, I received a package of letters, written by many of those who worked with him. Each shares a heartfelt message of sadness, along with stories recalled of happy and special moments, where Jordan’s unique cheerful and caring manner would always shine through. 12 months later his bosses and colleagues are running quizzes in his memory, they have renamed the tuck shop at their offices ‘Jordan’s Bar’ and they have numerous fundraising events planned in his memory and they all miss him.
Jordan’s girlfriend, Charlotte, who had her future mapped out 13 months ago – a loving relationship, a successful career and the thought of children along the way – she saw these ambitions all wiped out in an instant on December 4th 2019, the day she arrived at Jordan’s house to discover the most unimaginable experience of her young life.
And then there is Jordan’s family; his Mum, who struggles to find any joy in her life now, despite having a wonderful daughter (Jordan’s sister) and two amazing grandsons. Jordan’s sister, who, following his death, had to ‘be there’ for her boys, alongside their father Matt, both have barely had time to grieve – life doesn’t stop when you have young children but their sadness is evident. Jordan’s sister suffers an enormous sense of loss for a brother she grew up with and the recognition that she is now an only child – no Christmas or birthday cards will be given to or received from Jordan ever again, except those placed on his grave. Jordan’s step-mum, my wife, who embraced Jordan as if he were her own son, feels the sense of loss as much as anyone. Jordan’s Nana still struggles to get her head around ‘Why?’ and like me, she talks to photographs of Jordan regularly and asks him that question. And then there’s me.
My trauma manifested itself in various ways – on the outside, I took control, making arrangements for the funeral(s) and spent months dealing with Jordan’s affairs. 13 months on and we now have a buyer for Jordan’s house in Leeds – I know the day I hand over the keys will be yet another very difficult bump in an already very bumpy road.
As the months went by, I even managed to pull myself together to try and make something good come from Jordan’s suicide and established The Jordan Legacy CIC . Writing articles, such as this one helped – mostly they’re for the benefit of others but the process has been cathartic for me also.
During the early months I needed medication to help me sleep at night (most of Jordan’s family did) – Zopiclone being the family’s choice of sleeping tablet. I would also experience frequent involuntary head twitches and violent body contortions, which can only be likened to being forcefully punched in the stomach – these afflictions, though eased now, still revisit me during times of stress, especially during moments of reflection, when I try and imagine what Jordan went through during his final moments.
There is no roadmap for how to cope following the death of a loved one by suicide and your experience will be different to mine.
There are many wonderful organisations out there, providing support if you have been bereaved by suicide and a number of these are listed here on The Jordan Legacy CIC’s website.
When my son Jordan took his own life in December 2019, it was not only the most devastating news I can ever imagine receiving but it was also a total shock. It was a shock, not only to me, but also to his Mother, a senior mental health nurse and his girlfriend, an about-to-be qualified clinical psychologist.
Jordan was typical of many men, living with a mental illness, such as depression. “I’m a man, we don’t share this kind of stuff, it’s not macho” “I should be able to deal with this kind of stuff, after all I have a responsible job (or run my own business), I’m used to managing difficult situations, it’s what I do”. “I don’t want to be a burden”
Since Jordan’s death, we’ve analysed and re-analysed our understanding of his behaviour; why he didn’t always seem to be enthusiastic to invite us over to his place, why was it always his Mum, his sister or me, who had to suggest (strongly at times) that he came over to see us? Yet, this was the same Jordan who was the life and soul of get-togethers with his pals, an outwardly, outgoing person, except with his family. What we now realise is, that he was protecting us from being burdened by his depression. We knew he was struggling but had no idea he was at such a point where he would not only consider taking his own life but would then actually go ahead and complete suicide.
As a kid, one of my favourite films was the Time Machine – the 1960 Metro Goldwyn Mayer version, starring Rod Taylor. Because if I had such a machine, I’d go back in time and on December 3rd 2019 at 8:08pm. instead of texting Jordan and saying; “don’t worry if you don’t want to chat now son, whenever is good for you”, I would have picked up the phone and knowing he’s been feeling pretty low lately, I’d ask him: ” So, tell me Jord, how are you really feeling….and tell me honestly, I want to know?” But I’d had a long day, I’d spoken at a conference, I’d driven a couple of hundred miles and texting was easy, probably for both of us. I’d been in touch, at least, and we could always “catch up another time” as Jordan texted back. Except……….there is never going to be another time. If I’d picked up that phone, maybe, just maybe, it would have been the difference today, between the images you see below?
For Now Though.Let’s start small, let’s be prepared to look out for those around us and not be afraid to ask the difficult question; “Are you ok?” I can tell you that the consequences of not asking this question are not worth even contemplating.
-by Steve Phillip
The Jordan Legacy and relevant links and articles: