Tommy Crawford was a free-spirited boy who didn’t let things bother him — or so it seemed. The business major loved to make people laugh, and always liked to have fun. Nobody who knew him had any clue about the demons that made Tommy take his own life. They still don’t understand it.
One year earlier, Tommy was the one who first received the news that his biological dad had shot himself. Tommy was upset, but didn’t want to talk about it, burying the hurt deep down inside. Exactly one year later, on November 8, 2012, Tommy went out and got drunk. That night he was playing video games with friends, when he told them there was something that he needed to do. With no warning, Tommy took out a gun and shot himself in the head. He was just 22 years old.
That moment would have a devastating effect on Tommy’s family. His stepfather James would have a heart attack three months later, while his mother Barbara Lempereur would go through years of pain and agony, before emerging with a burning desire to help others whose lives were torn apart by suicide, or who are contemplating suicide. Tommy’s room is now a healing room in the Lempereur home. As she moves forward, out of the darkness, Barbara wants others to know there is hope. Barbara’s story — and Tommy’s — need to be told.
Tell Us About Tommy.
Tommy was a free spirited person. Things did not bother him and he would usually just let things roll off his shoulder. His personality was one that helped make other people laugh and have fun in life. Tommy loved to play jokes on people just for the fun of it. He loved to live life and do things to the fullest. He was a very likeable and kind person. Tommy was in college studying business at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. The year before, on the exact same day, Tommy’s biological father committed suicide. On the day that Tommy took his life, there was no indication that he was going to do this or was at this point. He did not fit the profile of a person who would commit suicide.
How Did Tommy React After His Father Killed Himself?
Tommy was the first to find out that his father had committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. He was hurt. He was very upset and would not talk about it. There was a great deal of anger and sadness in him but otherwise, you would not have known that anything was wrong. Tommy didn’t let it show to anyone.
Recall The Day of November 8, 2012.
It started out like any other day. It was the day of the presidential election and I had just talked to Tommy that afternoon about it. I asked him if he was okay considering that this was the anniversary of his biological father committing suicide. He got very quiet but said he will be okay. I told him that I loved him and said I will see you on the holidays.
That night Tommy was playing video games and he got drunk with his friends. Everything was fine, except that they had been drinking. All of the sudden Tommy got up and went to his room. He got his gun that he had finally convinced me to allow him to buy on his 18th birthday. Walking out to where his friends were at he said to them, “I’m sorry, I have to do this”. Tommy then walked out the back door and pulled the trigger. His friends heard the gunshot and while they tried to revive him, he had already blown his brains out and it was too late. It took hours for his friends to sober up to be able to talk to the police normally. His friends were devastated.
I was sitting on the couch speaking with my mother having a nice conversation. James walked in the door and I could just tell something was wrong. James got out the words, “It’s Thomas!” “He’s Dead!”
“No, You’re lying to me. NO, NO, NO,” I started screaming. I completely lost it and at that moment, I hurt so much that I wanted to die. Its not real. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t accept it. I ran outside and was completely freaking out. Everyone was trying to hold me, but I didn’t want to be held. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to believe it.
When something like this happens, there is a hole left in you. You can’t fully recover from it. It is always there no matter what you do. You can go out and learn from it, but the hole is there. He had a choice and he chose to take his life. You have to continue in your own life.
Even though we think there are signs that someone is about to do this, there were absolutely no signs in Tommy that he was going to take his life. He was an expert at holding things in. The alcohol gave him the courage to enter the dark side and do what he did. He did not understand how he was destroying the lives of so many left behind.
I asked myself why didn’t I see the signs. There were no signs.
How Did You Process What Happened?
Fortunately I had Evolutionary Healing Institute to go to and help me process what had happened. Within 24 hours, I was in there being worked on but I was a zombie. I was in shock. I cried and cried and cried, but it was so hard for me to feel anything.
I was going three times a week for sessions to deal with the pain and hurt that was so much bigger than myself. I knew that if I went to work, by helping people, it would help me. At the time, I really just wanted to die, but it took the focus off of me by going to work.
As time went on and I continued therapy several times a week, I began to surrender to what happened. I knew there has to be good in this in some form or fashion. It was difficult to see that, but looking for the good in it helped keep me going.
Each day that I went to work at Evolutionary Healing Institute, I knew that by helping others, it was taking the focus off of me. It was how I survived. Every day I asked the universe for help because I knew what I was going through was much bigger than I could bear. Every time I came home, I hurt so badly because it is then that I would have no distractions and the pain would be more real.
The first year was very difficult after Tommy committed suicide. The second year got a little better and every now and then, I could laugh once in a while. I hurt so badly for a long time and when I came home, that was when I really felt it the most. By the third year after Tommy committed suicide, I finally surrendered into the dark, dark grief that was in my heart and I was able to breathe again.
Once I surrendered, I knew there is a purpose from what had happened and now I want to help as many people as I can to get out of the hell in their own life. I made a promise that I would help as many people as I could to get out of the hell so they would not have to go through what I experienced with my son. That is what pulled me through. I still miss him so much but every day I search for the good in life.
I don’t want others to kill themselves. Suicide has to stop.
Suicide Destroys Lives Of Those Left Behind.
Suicide often breaks up families. My husband, James, had a heart attack three months after Tommy committed suicide and my husband was a healthy person. It literally broke his heart.
It changes lives because the people left behind cannot explain it. They can’t make sense out of it.
People who commit suicide have a choice. It doesn’t have to get to that point. We do have a choice. Tomorrow is a better day. We don’t have to stay in hell.
When you’re in that moment of not feeling like you can go on, give it a moment or even five or ten seconds and it will start to shift.
Suicide hurts anyone that knows you and is left behind.
Did I Do Something Wrong?
This is one of the first things that comes to mind is as a parent — I did something wrong. Why did I not see this coming, or was I not there for him, or maybe I failed him? For me the hardest part was feeling like I had failed my son and that I did not teach him how to overcome obstacles in his life that were bothering him.
I truly believe all parents blame themselves in the beginning after a loss due to suicide. I know that I blamed myself. I also believe that love was not enough because I could not have loved my son any more than I did. He was everything to me and I showed my love every day and would have given him the world if that was possible.
It amazed me just how much judgment was there by other people. It felt to me like I was being judged for failing my child or doing something wrong. This was just not the case.
What Words Of Encouragement Can You Give To Others?
Lean on those that support you and use that support to get through the months where the grief is beyond comprehension. Don’t try to deal with it alone.
Those that truly understand what it is to go through this, turn to them for support. Each day it gets easier and easier.
You never want to forget the person that is gone.
As the days go, you will start to see light and love and learn to laugh again in a much different way with meaning and purpose. With time, you will enjoy life once again.
Realize that if you try to deal with it on your own, it can take you down.
How Does It Affect The Holidays?
The first year was devastating, reliving what had happened. The second year was a little easier but it was still difficult. It was very painful and I felt an emptiness. During this time, I tried to see the good in all things. I honored the time I had with Tommy, without being stuck in the moment he left this life. Most importantly I did not pretend he was not here. I still hung his stockings and all the ornaments that were his on our Christmas tree. I wanted to honor and celebrate him. I even set a place at the table for him. In no way do I want his memory to die. I don’t know how else to do it any other way. He will always be a part of me. I don’t want to deny I had a son.
What Other Things Can We Do?
It is a daily process. You can’t make it or handle the grief on your own. Reach out to someone. Suicide does take other people’s lives. Many parents have died after losing a child to suicide.
Suicide needs to stop. The people who take their lives have a choice, but in that final moment, they give up that choice. We need to do everything we can to stop suicide and allow a discussion to take place without judgement.
We need compassion, love and understanding more now than we ever have because people are hurting, but they should not need to hurt alone. Knowing that someone actually cares makes a big difference.
Judging parents or others left behind does absolutely no good for anyone and inflicts further harm upon the family and friends. Accepting someone with love and compassion is the most healing thing you can do, while judging them is one of the most hurtful things you can do.
Our young people are killing themselves too too often. I want to help others find that light that has burned out.
This article was written from a conversation that Don Shetterly and Jeff Lemlich had with Barbara Lempereur after her son committed suicide. If you would like to speak with Barbara, please contact her through this site.
Barbara works with Dr. Paul Canali at Evolutionary Healing Institute in Miami, Florida.