By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing
Kyle, on Sept. 8, we celebrated your birthday. You would have been 20 years old. While we’d usually celebrate your life, instead we’re still mourning your death.
You left us too soon, and it hurts knowing there’s nothing we can do to bring you back. Since learning of your death, things haven’t been the same. Our family has gone through all the emotions, and so has every one of the friends left behind.
You died by suicide after suffering from depression, and it hurts so bad knowing that I couldn’t save you. It hurts even more knowing that while you were in your darkest hour, I was deployed more than 7,000 miles away from you. I would have done anything to make sure you knew how much everyone loved, cared about and supported you.
I recall the day I got a message from our brother around 11:30 p.m., asking me to call him as soon as I could. Not too long after receiving the message, I called him. I knew the moment he answered the phone that whatever came next wasn’t going to be good. I somehow also knew deep within that he was calling about you.
As he said, “Kyle is gone …,” I was in a state of shock and disbelief. I broke down in tears, alone, sobbing uncontrollably in my tiny room. It hurt, I was sad, I was angry, and I felt completely helpless.
I spent the rest of the night trying to contact the rest of the family to figure out exactly what happened. But I knew. I knew that it was suicide that took you from me, from our family and from everyone who loved you. I also knew whatever pain you were going through that led you to that irreversible decision was passed, that day, to all who love you.
In response to your passing, I did the only thing I could to honor you: I made the nearly 24-hour journey from the Middle East back home. I knew that I needed to get home to help take care of you and our family.
Upon arrival, I worked with our brothers on your funeral arrangements. In doing so, we reached out to our network of family and friends, and they responded with overwhelming support. Why? Because, everyone wanted to make sure that you were taken care of.
Even in death, you’re loved, cared for and supported by so many. Your death impacted so many people in ways you wouldn’t expect. I went days without eating or sleeping. I wracked my brain with thoughts about why you’re gone, and so did many others. But at that point, there was nothing any of us could do except face what was a complete and utter nightmare. You were gone, and there was nothing we could do to bring you back.
Saying our final goodbyes was especially hard. During your service, I approached your casket, hunched over your lifeless body and sobbed, as did many others. It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
All I could think about in those moments was the last time I saw you alive. You came by my house just days before I deployed; three weeks before I had found myself standing before you to say goodbye. Before you left that day, I hugged you real tight and said, “I love you Kyle.” You said you loved me, too, and then I asked, “See you when I get back?” You said, “yes” without hesitation. You promised I’d see you when I came back home.
Well, you didn’t break that promise. I saw you when I came home, just not the way I wanted or expected to see you.
Since you left, I’ve struggled trying to figure out why. Why did suicide have to take you? I think all who knew and loved you have wondered the same. Why?
It’s so easy to point the finger and place the blame on someone or something that caused you to make this decision. But the truth is, so many different factors played into why you made that decision on April 11, 2019. I don’t think anyone will ever really know or understand why.
But what is clear is you were hurting so much, and you were suffering from serious depression. I feel guilty because I didn’t do anything to save you, and I’m sure all those who love you feel the same guilt.
It wasn’t clear to me until earlier this year that you were suffering. You were dealing with depression at levels I can’t imagine. By looking at you and being around you, no one would ever have known. You were one of the happiest, kindest, sweetest, most selfless individuals I’ve ever met. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to help you. I’m sorry I didn’t save you. I love you.
To this day, I’m still in pain, reliving all the good memories we shared and replaying the moment I found out about your death.
Kyle Riley-Griffiths, on your birthday, while I wanted to celebrate you, instead I mourned your death.
I’ve learned so much through your suicide. I learned what people mean when they say, “You never know what’s hiding behind a smile; you never know what people are going through, and, often times, those who spend so much time and effort taking care of those around them are the ones suffering the most.”
To all those suffering, please know that you are loved and supported more than you know. So, please reach out; no one wants you to make an irreversible decision to end your life. Sometimes no one knows you’re hurting unless you tell them.
If you’re afraid or embarrassed to reach out because you think you might come off as weak, that’s not the case. It takes strength to get help. So, reach out to family, a friend or any resource available. If you’re in a dark place, pause. Take a breath and remind yourself that you have family, friends and a network of support behind you. Don’t pass your pain on to those you’d leave behind.
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