I love to write, but don’t write enough. I have a journal, but the past year or so have been difficult for me to even put into words. April 1, 2014 changed my life forever. I lost my only sibling Ryan. He not only passed away, he took his own life.

To this day, and probably in this life time my family and I will never know why.

Ryan was a kind soul; artsy, creative and sweet. He never wanted the corporate grind or the white picket fence. He traveled the world—played guitar—was in a band. He was super cool and I loved him. I, of course, still do and I miss him. He is my brother. He was quiet and reserved, kept his thoughts and feelings to himself.

Not like me. His heart was too tender for this world. I live in the corporate structure and get beat on from time to time, but get back up and start over again.

We grew up in small town America—with the white picket fence and a very loving home. Our parents took in a foster kid and a foreign exchange student. We had lots of love to go around. We had a good childhood. We have awesome parents.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. Ryan, however, didn’t want to be a burden. A burden…well, isn’t that what family and friends are for, to be a burden? We need to vent and to let go the stresses of this world, right?

Not Ryan. You see, Ryan was ill. He had a physical illness and also suffered from depression. He suffered silently with both as he did not communicate to us the extent of his illnesses. Sure, there were odd phone conversations and what now seem to be subtle hints, but looking back, we didn’t know. “Yes, I will go to the doctor,” he would say. He hid it all too well. That was Ryan’s way. He was also hundreds of miles away from us living in New Orleans. We couldn’t see his face or read his body language. To persuasively ask; “Okay, what’s up…why that sad face?” His family and friends are all sad about that because we would have been there for him. We would have dropped everything, flown to New Orleans, LA and took care of him. In a heart-beat, no questions asked.

But, he didn’t want to be a burden. Are you kidding me? When I am sick, I am at the doctor’s office. “Get me better. I don’t have time to be sick, I am busy.”  When I am down, I call my friends. “Meet me at Hamm’s (Cunningham’s), I had a crappy week, need to talk.” And, my friends are there. Blue Moons, talking, laughter, support of family…it goes a long, long way in this crazy world.

Not Ryan. He told a friend in New Orleans that he didn’t want to “burden” his family. This friend knew something was wrong, both physically and emotionally with Ryan. It haunts her to this day. It haunts me. Ryan, ultimately, made the decision to take his own life. Somehow-I have to make peace with that. Again, some days are easier to deal than others.

Suicide is a very tough topic to talk about. It has been a part of my life and will forever. Not only did I lose my own baby brother, my one and only sibling, but three classmates. What? How can this happen? In a town of 1700 people and a class size of 24 students, this just doesn’t happen!

 It happened to me and what do I do with this? Okay, seriously, what the heck do I do with this? I have a strong faith, but my faith was shaken, my world was upside down. Yes, I know this is not all about me, but God, you have slapped me across the face with this. Suicide. Why has this happened in my life? Impacting me to the point where I needed  to take this sadness, this grief to a level of action. Or, completely go off the deep end. Stay focused, healthy and be there for my parents. Three classmates and now my brother!!! (me, yelling at God). What do I do with my grief? Where are you God?

One night, two months after Ryan died I was watching NTV, a local TV station and Seth Denny had a series on suicide. I tuned in. At the time, I had met Dave Griek, the sports guy at NTV. We knew each other, not very well. I was cooking supper and Dave begins to tell his story about suicide in his life. What? Again, this young, clean cut, polished sports guy is talking about suicide on the news? Like an open book. And, there is another slap in the face.

The next day, I emailed him. Hey, remember me? Well, we have something in common. And guess what, it isn’t pretty.

We met and talked. We are both proactive, active in the community and communicators. We do sales, marketing, news for a living and we love sports. We have something else in common, suicide.

The stigma is there, of course. It is very difficult to talk about suicide, mental illness and depression. I couldn’t help but feel that God was calling me to do something. I didn’t quite know what but I had to do something to help, advocate, to make a difference.

For the next few months, Dave and I and others met, cried and organized some more. We reached out to the Lincoln LOSS Chapter to begin a LOSS Group in Central Nebraska. We are Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors.

Yes, outreach and first responders. We are, if you will, the real suicide squad. We pray and hope every day that our services are NOT needed. Believe me, I don’t wish this pain on anyone else. But it is real and it is out there. Suicide is a reality in our world. Even in our cozy little town in the middle of the country.

We are not ambulance chasers. No, we wait for families to contact us when they are ready to talk and when they are ready for support. They have and they will. We take this seriously. There are close to 20 of us on the LOSS Team of Central Nebraska, including survivors and licensed clinicians. We are equipped with the best licensed   clinicians in the state, the country. That is how we roll, the suicide squad.

We pray, support and respect each other and our families we visit. We are getting to know each other in our grief and our sorrow. I love them all, they are-becoming like family. We are not a support group but we support each other and all who call out to us. Survivors include those who have lost dads, moms, grandmas, uncles, husbands, grandpas…and brothers. We come in all shapes and sizes and all kinds of backgrounds and want to help. We are putting our grief into action. Not only do we support families and loved ones, but we host events to create awareness. A  golf tournament, a balloon launch and a walk. Anything to be proactive and to let others know they are not alone. Please, you are never alone, you are not a burden!

Renae Zimmer

My name is Renae Riddle Zimmer. I was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. I am a Midwest girl. I married my high school sweetheart, Dave Zimmer and raised two awesome kids. Nolan, 21 and Kamryn, 17. As we approach our empty nest years—we reflect a lot on our life—our kids—and being a part of the “sandwich” generation as well. Taking care of teenagers and aging parents. All the joys and difficulties that are ahead. We are solid in our faith—solid in our family and we love each other, support each other. I work a corporate job and travel. My husband is an educator and coach. We love to cook, garden, landscape, watch sports and enjoy our kids activities. We follow up college-age son as he runs cross country and track for Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo. And support our daughter as she is in the last year of high school . Where did the time go?