Losing Mark: My story of military suicide
Written By Karen Richards Nichols. In memory of her husband, Mark, who tragically took his life in 2014.
Mark was a loving dad and husband. He had a misconception that PTSD is for the weak. And it killed him. A misconception killed him and everything we had.

Mark was a loving dad and husband. He had a misconception that PTSD is for the weak. And it killed him. A misconception killed him and everything we had.

We all know the statistic: Every day 22 veterans take their lives.
As a nation, we have recognized the issue, assistance programs are in place. Things have changed, but too many veterans were taught “PTSD is for sissies” or something similar–a mentality that keeps them from admitting their difficulties and from seeking help.

One year & 25 days have passed since my husband, Mark, joined that number.
Do the math & you will find that approximately 8,580 other veterans have since followed that same path. An untold number of lives have been directly affected by each of these deaths. The numbers are saddening, even sickening. But these veterans and those loved ones who survive them are so much more than just numbers.

I don’t know any of their stories, but I know Mark’s.
Mark was a combat veteran. His combat experience changed him. In some ways, a lot. I could tell you the branch he served in, his rank, his postings, the medals he was awarded. But none of that would tell you who he really was, because he was so much more than his service history.

He was a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, an uncle.
He was an amazing man: outgoing, intelligent, creative, funny, and generous with everything he had. He thrived on helping others: neighbors, friends, family, the elderly, the homeless, and random strangers. He was a good husband and such an amazing father. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile the knowledge that he loved us so very much and yet still managed hurt so many people. I know that was never his intention.

We survivors are left with so many questions, so many “What Ifs” and “If onlys.”
What if I had recognized some of the warning signs, what if I had forced him to seek help, what if I said,… or didn’t say,… or did,…or didn’t do…. The list is unending.

I know I’m not responsible for his actions, but it doesn’t stop the wondering and wishing that there was something I could have done differently or better to have helped him and prevent his death.

Our family has been devastated. We’re still going, we’re still functioning, and some days we’re even doing great. But our loss is always hovering in the background.

There is an empty place at the dinner table, an empty spot in our lives. My children were 4 and 8 when Mark passed. Too young to understand. Too young to even attempt to explain suicide. I have done my best to explain PTS to them, but it’s difficult for them to “get.” Right now all they comprehend is “War is really bad. It kills people. Sometimes on the battlefield and sometimes long after they return home.”

My little boy tells me every day that he misses Mark and that he wishes he didn’t have to die. Every. Single. Day. For over a year now. I have no words, other than “Me too, baby. Me too.” I would give anything to know what to say or do to fix his hurt.

My son is only 5, and his greatest fear isn’t monsters or any of the usual little boy fears. It’s dying. He, at 5, realizes how very permanent it is.

My daughter misses her dad, but more and more has come to resent the loss. Truthfully, I don’t blame her. She has good reason be resentful. Her entire life has been turned upside down over the past year. Repeatedly. She has been told “No” and “I can’t” so many times. All too often, I just don’t have the time or energy. I’m too busy trying to fill his role in addition to my own with the kids and around the house. There just isn’t much time left for fun anymore. I’m doing my best, and she knows that.

She’s decided that she never wants to have children because she sees how very hard it can be when you’re a parent, and she just hasn’t seen enough of the joys that come with it over the past year. It breaks my heart to see her growing up way too fast, knowing that she’s doing it to help me, to step in and fill some of the void Mark used to fill.

As much as we miss him, I realize how much worse it is for Mark.
He’s already missed so much: holidays, birthdays, dance recitals, preschool graduation, and first day of school. The list will only continue to grow as the years pass. I know he would be so proud of the kids, of what they’ve accomplished and how much they’ve grown.

Mark was convinced that “PTSD is for pussies.”
This mindset is what prevented him from seeking help when he needed it. It’s the reason he isn’t here today. One single misconception with enormous repercussions. That one misconception is why I no longer have a husband, a partner in life. It’s why my children have no father.

Please, let everyone you know that PTS is NOT a sign of weakness. Do everything you can to make sure that each of our veterans feels it is ok to ask for the help they need.

14 responses to “Losing Mark: My story of military suicide”

  1. Lori Featherby says:

    I lost my older brother in December 2014. It was the hardest thing ever. He had severe PTSD and TBI from his tour in Iraq. He didn’t lose his life to self inflicted injuries. He died from injuries he sustained in Iraq. He left behind 4 young children. That was the hardest thing ever, was to see his children laying in a casket and not really looking like Dad. I kept my hands on his, in hopes to warm them so the kids could touch him again. They miss their Daddy everyday and I feel so much for you and all the families who lose their loved one to such a tragedy. There needs to be more help for the soldiers who come home and struggle with this. I don’t consider this something that should be an embarrassing or (pussy) issue. It’s a real problem and I feel for you and your children. I’m not a spiritual person, but I do believe in God and I hope he helps guide you in the right direction. Frustration and all.

  2. Erin says:

    I lost my husband on September 14, 2014. I am now coming up on the year mark. My husband had the same mindset about ptsd. My husband seeked help one time but never followed up because he didn’t see a point in it. Now, I am left alone and searching for answers. I am so angry with him for giving up and leaving but at the same time I am relieved that he is at peace. It breaks my heart to see so many veterans committing suicide. I pray that my husbands soldiers were able to see and feel the impact that suicide has had on me and our family.

  3. wm/marg says:

    Our Hope is in The Lord
    Who Made heaven and earth,
    Praise to You Lord Jesus
    Christ King of heavenly Glory.
    Keep your eye on Jesus
    and see your loved ones again.
    Lord Jesus, Mercy on us and on the
    whole world.

  4. Lisa Brink says:

    I know all too well exactly how you feel when you talk about not having the energy some days and having to be strong when you would just rather be selfish and lay in bed all day. My husband was not in the military but did take his own life. No matter the circumstances we, the ones left behind, can not help but feel some form of guilt for not being able to save someone we were once so close to.

    My daughter was 4 when it happened and from that day forward she went from being a silly, sweet little girl with no cares in the world to a child who was always afraid something would happen to her only remaining parent that she couldn’t stand to be away from home. What a terrible burden for a child to bare, for she and I both. There were days when I really needed to just have a good cry but I couldn’t because I knew she would worry that I was going away too.

    My daughter is 18 and off at school now and after years of counseling I know that she and I both will be ok. In the end I believe we both have learned to value life and being happy more because we fought so hard to make it through. One day your kids will see just how strong you are and love you all the more for it.

  5. Sue Hannibal says:

    I’m an Army wife and also a trauma therapist specializing in PTSD. I’m so sorry that this “PTSD is for pussies” attitude is so prevalent among veterans and caused your husbands so much pain. I’m trying to do something about it by working through veterans organizations to recruit veterans to first heal their own PTSD, then be trained to help other vets. The techniques are non-drug, non-retraumatizing and work quickly. Acupressure tapping stimulation of emotional release points on the face, hands and trunk releases stuck trauma from the brain and body permanently. The most popular technique is called EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique. It’s free, anybody can do it and the learning curve is about 15 minutes. There’s a video on my web site that shows me doing EFT with a Navy corpsman. Trying to get through to veterans, even women is not easy but we’re trying. http://www.guidedhealing.com

  6. Chuck says:

    My heart breaks so much for all our military veterans who suffer so much!

  7. Pat says:

    To All Of You Who Have Lost a Loved One,

    My heartfelt sympathies. I think and pray for you in your time of suffering. I was suicidal after my government service. I was edging toward committing the act but 2 years back, when I was at my lowest, God came into my life. I was very , very lucky. If I can pass on just one suggestion to my hurting brothers and sisters it is this – Cast all your pain and burdens onto Jesus. He will carry them for you. I love you all.

  8. Roman Herrera says:

    My brother also committed suicide. I am seeking family counseling for his ex wife and four sons. However, they have no financial means or knowledge of where to find help with this loss.

  9. Tina says:

    Just lost my soldier, my husband to suicide in Feb 2016 because of chronic PTSD. My life is forever changed. My husband suffered in silence out of fear that he would be considered weak. My heart breaks because this could have been prevented. Speak out about PTSD it is OK to tell all that it is OK to feel this way but it is not OK to ignore it or check out by taking ones life.

  10. Dustin says:

    This is a video by a soldier who was on the brink of suicide, but instead of giving up, he got help.


  11. laura black says:

    Tina we are so sorry to hear this, Please know we have resources to help you, too. As you grieve this unimaginable loss, you need support and help. You can call us at 844-889-5610. Please go to our Facebook page and seek out some solace there as well. it is a great community of people who have been in your shoes, or who just want to support you.

  12. laura black says:

    We offer resources to family members. 844-889-5610. Please contact us. And we are so sorry for your loss. So very very sorry.

  13. Charlie says:

    We lost our son William because the Cincinnati VA failed to properly diagnose his over one month long series of panic attacks after his CPT sessions were completed. He had been injured in 2003 and had fought with the CinVA over proper treatment for his serious injuries; and, he finally died because of their ineptness. Pray for us!!!

  14. laura black says:

    SO very sorry to hear this. I will send up a prayer for you.

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Author: laura black
Date: September 4, 2015
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