Good evening everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, and I apologize for that. It’s a lot harder to actually write blog posts than I thought it would be, especially to share Tyler’s story and my journey through his loss.
I wanted to share a magazine article I was interviewed for a few months ago. The Soultown Magazine featured Make Life Swyter in their March 2019 edition, which is quite an honor! The article is titled “Mental Health Affects Black People, Too”, and is beautifully written. The author is a co-worker of mine who strongly believes in the mission of Make Life Swyter, and wants to help make the community more open to discussing mental health issues.
Please take a moment to read the article by clicking on the link below.
WARNING-This post contains details about Tyler’s suicide that some may find disturbing. Please read using your own caution.
Sunday, October 4, 2015. A day I play over and over in my mind.
A day I wish had never come.
A day I wish I could erase from my memory.
It was a beautiful sunny, cool fall day. The kind of day that makes you feel like shopping for new fall clothing while enjoying a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. So that’s what I did. I wasn’t feeling the best, felt like I was coming down with something, but I was on a mission to get a few errands done that morning.
I was shopping in Kohl’s when my phone started ringing. I choose not to answer because I didn’t know who it was. “They can leave a message if it’s important”, I remember thinking. As I made my way up to the cash registers, I was more concerned about bringing lunch home to my family than anything else. During the hustle and bustle of the check out process, I didn’t hear my other phone notifications going off.
Once outside in my vehicle, I read a Facebook message saying “This is Brooke, Tyler’s cousin. I need to speak to you right away. It is an EMERGENCY CALL ME.…” with the number. I called right away and Tyler’s aunt answered.
She told me I needed to come over.
I resisted, a little annoyed by whatever was going on.
She kept insisting I come over. She wouldn’t give up and I had no idea why.
My thought process was that something had happened to Tyler’s grandmother, as she recently had surgery and was recovering from it. My thought process was also that they couldn’t get a hold of Tyler and needed me to go get him.
She then said she didn’t want to tell me on the phone. I told her whatever it was that she had to as I had no reason to just come over.
“Tyler is hanging in the garage.”
MY. WORLD. CRASHED. DOWN.
There it was. The reason I needed to come over. I had asked why, hadn’t I?
I was all alone, in the Cedar Falls Kohl’s parking lot, sitting in my gold Honda Odyssey when I found out something had happened to my oldest son, my precious first born child.
I was still on the phone with Tyler’s aunt as I frantically began driving out of the parking lot, screaming and yelling at her that she was a liar and it wasn’t true.
Part of me didn’t believe this was even happening, and the other part of me was naïve into thinking he would be okay. We’ll get through this crisis like we always have before.
While driving, I tried to call Tyler. His phone was off. I tried to call my husband. He didn’t answer. I tried to call my then 16 year old son, but again, no answer
I called my husband two or three more times before he finally answered. I still wasn’t very far from Kohl’s, and miles away from where Tyler was.
“You need to get over to Tyler’s grandmother’s house and see what’s going on!” “Why?” he asked. “Because something happened and you need to go see what’s going on! You’re closer than I am!” He said he didn’t remember where she lived, and asked “why” again. He didn’t sense the urgency and panic in my voice.
“They said Tyler’s hanging in the f8&%$ garage!” I screamed over the phone.
Silence. Complete silence. His heart shattered.
Somehow after telling him over the phone (which I didn’t want to do) the conversation ended. I managed to frantically and erratically drive the seven miles to where I needed to be, pulled up in the driveway and jumped out of the vehicle.
Walking up to the garage, I remember thinking “Where is the ambulance? He must have been taken to the hospital. Why is everyone still here instead of there?” Three police officers stood guarding the garage door, just looking at me walking towards them. Tyler’s aunt and cousin were crying and one of them said, “I’m so sorry Karen”.
I still didn’t understand. “Sorry? Sorry for what?” I thought to myself.
The three police officers, who I will never forget what they look like or their names, said they were sorry. The coroner was there, walking out of the garage. They introduced him. They started asking questions about Tyler. Questions that I wasn’t understanding. Why were these things being asked?
You see, no one actually said Tyler was gone. Or that he was dead. Not one person ever said it. So I, again being naïve, just wasn’t getting it quite yet.
After a few minutes, I asked why an ambulance wasn’t there. Why was everyone standing around outside? Where was Tyler?
“There’s nothing we can do. It was already too late. He’s been gone for several hours.”, the officers and coroner said.
I then learned that one of Tyler’s cousins had left the house with some friends, saw Tyler’s car parked around the corner, and came back looking for him at the house. He found him when he walked into the garage.
“How come no one is trying to help him? Did anyone get him down? Can I see him?”
The police said they had taken my son down. They wouldn’t allow me, or anyone else, to go in and see Tyler. My sweet 21 year old son was left to lie on that cold, hard garage floor, all by himself. All I wanted to do was sit on the floor and hold him in my lap, hold his hand, tell him everything would be ok, and comfort him until the funeral home came. Again, they wouldn’t allow me to.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Tyler’s biological dad arrived, my husband and Tyler’s 16 year old brother arrived, and a few close friends that we had called arrived. One friend took my van and drove my 16 year old home. Another friend drove me home while her husband took Tyler’s car.
We spent the rest of the day making phone calls to family and close friends. I remember being in shock for a few hours and just wandering around the yard outside mostly. I couldn’t sit in the house for some reason. It was too hard to focus on anything.
Everyone who came over that afternoon to be with us left around 8:00 pm, and my shock wore off shortly after. Once the tears started, they just wouldn’t stop, and the crying became uncontrollable at times. Several hours after Tyler was found, we decided it was time to make the announcement to everyone else, since all family and close friends had been notified by then.
The rest of the evening was very difficult. Our hearts were broken and we were exhausted. I tried to watch TV, tried to sleep, talked to my mom and brother on the phone, and read stories about Tyler from his friends as they began posting about him on Facebook.
Sleep finally came around 4:30 the next morning, in my 3 year old son’s bed. After several hours of tossing and turning, his bed was somehow the only place I could find a little bit of comfort and peace, and calm down enough to get some rest.
In closing, I would like to say that my goal in telling Tyler’s story is to do so with honesty and openness, and not to offend anyone at all. I want to educate people by providing insight on what it’s like to lose a loved one to suicide, and the ripple effect it creates after. Please stay tuned for “Day Two-Planning His Funeral” soon.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
This quote reflects my life over the last two and a half years.
My name is Karen Schatz, and I am Tyler’s mom. My journey of a thousand miles began on the day my oldest son died by suicide, October 4th of 2015 when he was only 21 years old.
Through this blog, my wish is to share the message of hope by showing others that they can survive a child’s tragic loss to suicide, to show everyone their story is important and that their life has a purpose, and to provide education on the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness.
I will also share information about resources available for those needing help, and local suicide prevention and awareness events.
If there is anything you want to learn about in a future blog post, please comment below. I am always open to suggestions.
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