And Then It Went Silent

It was before calls could be identified, so it was next to impossible to trace. He called the 1-800 crisis line number in the middle of the night, and it was my night on call to cover the phone.

He went into great detail telling me he wanted someone to know everything he was thinking before he put a bullet in his head to end it all.

His voice was a deep, tired voice, one that had felt things, done things, known things that shreds a heart like lettuce.

It was 2:00 AM when the call woke me.  His first words were, “I have a gun in my hand and I’m about to use it.”  His words instantaneously took from me from deep slumber to hyper vigilance.

“Tell me about it.” And Then It Went Silent story

He began to talk, subject to subject, thought to thought, often jumping, sometimes not making any sense.  He’d made mistakes, been betrayed, at odds with family, distant from friends.  He had slipped into the deepest, darkest days of depression and saw no way out, no relief from the trapped, hopeless feeling that imprisoned his mind. The pain inside just kept gnawing away at a bleeding heart that had no hope, no end in sight, no end, except the gun.

I tried to draw him in, to personalize our phone conversation. Maybe he would feel he was talking to a friend who cared, but at that point, I was nothing more than the mechanical, faceless voice of an unknown stranger on the other end of the phone somewhere off in a distant place.

At one point, he became so terribly despondent that he began to describe the gun, a 38 Special loaded with hollow points.  He talked about the ridges of the grip, and wondered out loud if his hand would slip off after he pulled the trigger. He had everything planned out, even to the point that he put his handwritten note in an envelope on a counter so it wouldn’t get blood stained or splattered.  His only question left was whether he should put the bullet up through his mouth, temple, or try to hit the brain stem in the back of his head.

And Then, It Went Silent story

It was as if he were a horse with blinders over his eyes.  All he could see was what was right in front of him, and for him, it was his pain, with suicide as his cure.  I tried to give him hope, to help take off the blinders, to at least move them back, even if only a little bit, just enough so a glimmer of hope could shine through the night.

I tried everything I knew to say, everything I knew to do, to offer hope, help, options, any options, to a desperate soul about to send himself to eternity.

He told me his palms were sweaty, his hands were trembling, and he was eerily cold.  Ironically, my hands were sweaty and trembled too, so much so that it caused the ear piece on the phone to rub back and forth across my ear.  I feared that at any second a gun-shot would blast across the line, followed by the sound of nothingness.

We talked an hour, and unexpectedly, he began saying he was going to hang up.

“Will you promise me you won’t kill yourself?”

Quiet on the other end.

“At least for tonight, will you promise me you won’t do this.  There is hope. There is help. There are answers. I don’t even know what they are, but there are answers. There is hope!”


He simply said, “I’m not sure.”

Usually, suicidal people are poignantly honest, yet he wouldn’t promise.  That wasn’t good. Not good at all.

He wouldn’t even promise to call back any time that night if it felt really bad again.

He hung up, and then it went silent.

I sat in the silence for a long time, thinking, wondering, worrying, questioning what I had said, replaying the conversation over and over.   Maybe if I had said…what if…I should have asked….

It didn’t matter.  Our phone call was done.  He was somewhere out in the night, alone, desperate, hurting, holding a 38 Special with hollow points.

It’s been many years ago now, but sometimes, sometimes out of the blue I still think about him, whoever he is.  Or, was.  And I wonder.  I wonder, but I’ll never know.







17 thoughts on “And Then It Went Silent”

  1. Oh my this is a tough one. My Father killed himself when I was 16. It was also with a gun. He left no note, no message to my Mother or to me. Over the years I have come to understand more about depression. I believe depressives think they are doing the best thing and that the people in their lives will be better off without them. Apparently my Dad was suffering from depressive blackouts and in those days there was no medication and no psychotherapy. You were just supposed to pull yourself up by your boot straps and carry on. My Father’s life was a mess and I think he felt he could not keep going. I think you did all you could on your end of the phone. Let’s hope he gave himself a chance to get though another day.


    1. Anne, I am so sorry about your dad! We have come a LONG way, even the last few years in treating depression and other issues. There wasn’t as much available for your dad, and oddly, in some ways it seems there is even more depression than less. In some ways, it is even harder for men, like your father, because we (society, and men generally) do think we are supposed to pull ourselves up by the boots straps and that when (not if, but when) you can’t, it is because we are somehow weak, or lazy, or just not doing something right. It also seems even harder for men to ask for help. I agree wholeheartedly with you that most of the time the person feels like others would be better off without them too, even though it’s not “right” thinking, but it seems right when you are in the dark hole because pain, trouble and depression can change your thinking. I’m sorry if I have caused you grief with this post. Quite frankly, I hesitated to post this because I did not want to hurt or offend anyone who has experienced either this either directly, or indirectly.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Please don’t worry. You have not caused me grief. My days of grief over my Dad’s death have gone now. I think it is good to write a post about your experience with a suicidal person. Someone may read it and take heart and ask for help.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Lynn, completely true! In my first career I was a Licensed Professional Counselor and oversaw the Crisis Line for a twelve county area, but received calls from all over. I never knew who or where this man was calling from, and still don’t know if work that night was successful or not…


  2. So sad. I can relate. I too worked crisis for 5 years – answering crisis calls and as a crisis responder. It was also the time before caller ID. Most of the time I could get the caller’s info, but the few that wouldn’t give their name, address or phone number – the ones who had a definite plan and access to their method. I never wanted to let go of those calls. I had one that left the call too suddenly – she was desperate and had pills. That call is the one that haunts me and sits with me. We tried, Jeff. I would like to think we helped and those people are safe today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, Robyn! Having all the details worked out and immediate access to those plans was the most daunting part! Those calls were literally life and death. You don’t, you can’t, forget them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a powerful story. I can’t imagine being in that position. I have talked with a couple of individuals who tried to take their own lives and who. did not succeed. The aftermath of their decision left them physically impaired.with much reconstruction surgery as an alternative. Yet they seemed very thankful that they had a second chance in life. Not everyone has that outcome, and as you explained in your story, there is only silence.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a hard phone call. My first husband committed suicide when our children were eight and five. They are now 39 and 36. They are still emotionally connected to this tragedy. His family tried to blame me for it. But I didn’t own it at least not after a while. I learned a lot about the stages of grief. He had had a heart attack a few months before. He was also a raging alcoholic. He showed no signs of a desire to recover. It was a tough time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.