5,000 days vs. 6,244 days: 

Long Term Healing After a Suicide Loss 

Posted: December 18, 2022

5,000 days vs. 6,244 days: Long Term Healing After a Suicide Loss 

Today, December 18, 2022 is the day that marks 5,000 days since we lost our 17 year old son John to suicide. It almost seems impossible to believe that so much time has passed by since his death. At first, I remember counting the days, then the weeks, then the months and eventually the years from his death. In fact, I think that many loss survivors begin to define time as “before” and “after” when they lose someone to suicide. I am now 5,000 days “after”. 

In the early days as a survivor, the days moved by very slowly. I counted the minutes and hours while I was in a daze.

I was talking this week with another dad who lost his child to suicide 13+ years ago and I said, “If someone would have told me 13+ years ago how I would still have my son in my thoughts daily, I would have thought that they were crazy.” I now know better. I now know that loving and remembering John is more important than grieving him. While I may have lost him physically, John will always remain in our hearts and thoughts.

It is almost impossible to believe that so much time has passed for our family. I can remember like it was yesterday, the moment the police officer told me that John was dead, it was burned into my soul. The words caused a pain that felt like a heart attack. It was hard to breath; it was hard to talk, and it was impossible for me to sleep in that first week. I truly thought that our lives had ended with John’s passing. Of course, I now know that that is a common feeling after a suicide loss. It was the overwhelming grief that caused those emotions. Surviving a suicide loss is very much like PTSD.

Many loss survivors can’t fathom how they will live after the death of their loved one. When I talk to new survivors about healing, it is something that they often feel will never happen. The magnitude of their loss is so intense. 

When I tell folks that I believe that they will heal, it is because over the last 5,000 days I have seen so many other suicide loss survivors heal. The weight of the pain and loss does indeed soften with time. Time does not heal wounds, it requires active “grief work” to make the progress happen. It is a hard journey, but it is something that can and must be done.


Healing from a suicide loss is a thousand little steps, a thousand setbacks, and a thousand little victories. It is very often a lonely journey of self-reflection. It is learning that buried beneath the massive pile of grief and bereavement, there is hope and a new life to be discovered.

Suicide loss survivors become stronger, we learn to put the memories of that tragic moment in a place where we can remember, but not let it dominate our lives. We integrate the loss into our lives moving forward, we don't drop it.  Survivors realize that not everyone can help them on their journey of healing, and they seek out and find those who can support them. 

Before John’s death, I never thought that I would ever attend any type of support group. It is now 10+ years since my wife and I have been co-facilitating a suicide loss support group twice a month. I speak with new suicide loss survivors almost every day. We have met with, cried with, and celebrated life with hundreds, maybe even thousands of other survivors. We realize that each of those people and families we meet are unique and their loss feels like the heart-wrenching pain we went through 5,000 days ago. We try to share what we have learned and hope that we can help to eliminate even an ounce of the pain that they feel. 

We remember with perfect clarity how we felt in the early days, but we now know that there is a path to hope. It’s a long journey, and we hope to share a few steps out of the abyss that so many find themselves in after a suicide loss of a loved one. I often say to people that while I am walking in different shoes then them, I know how much pain can come from the journey. In the end, hope and healing does come to suicide loss survivors. We are humbled that so many people have let us into their lives and have opened up to us about their private suffering and journey toward healing.

To quote the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been”. I’ve grieved, I’ve grown, I become empathic, I have opened my eyes to loss and suffering I never knew existed. I’ve gone from lost and destroyed, to optimistic about the future. There is hope and there is healing that follows a suicide loss.

But far more important than the 5,000 days since we lost John, is the 6,244 days that John was on this planet and physically in our lives. When you lose someone so young and so tragically, you want their lives to have meant something. You want people to remember them. You want people to share stories and happy memories of them. You still want to hear people say their name. When some says “John” to us, it puts a little spark of light and love in our hearts and our souls. Thank you!

While his death was burned into my soul, the precious moments that he spent with us is burned even deeper into my soul. We were blessed to share so many moments with John. I can remember in intimate detail so many of the days we spent with him. I can hear his voice echo in my head. I can feel his hugs and I can see his smile. I will never let those powerful feelings and emotions go away.

So, while I can mourn the 5,000 days of loss that comes on December 18th, I choose to celebrate the 6,244 days of life, love, and togetherness we shared.

I have shared numerous Facebook posts and YouTube videos of some of those amazing moments we shared.  

For example, on his 27th birthday I put together a video of some of the moments we had shared with him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ12n9GFnWI

I have a lifetime of stories to share, and I will continue to do so. I will always remember and honor the son who is no longer physically with us. He is in our hearts and thoughts forever.

So, now we march on towards the next calendar marker, May 16, 2026. That is the day that John will be gone for longer than he was with us. In perspective, I am not sure what it will mark in our lives. In my heart, his life will always be bigger than his death.

But I do know that we will go on living and loving with a newfound understanding of how precious life and love truly are. We will continue to say his name, John, John, John and tell stories of our precious moments together to anyone who will listen. We hope that others will do the same.  

A book is not defined by the last page.  What really matters most is the numerous pages of stories and memories that it contains.  We will continue to love those pages and we share those stories as we move forward.

While our son is physically gone from our lives, he is in our lives everyday.  We have integrated our memories and our love for him into our lives in so many ways.  We have found happiness and joy again and will continue to keep John in our hearts and thoughts moving forward into the future.  We have not and never will forget the love we shared with him.  

There truly is life after loss, and we thank all of those that have helped us find our new path in life.