Seven years ago, our son Daniel died by suicide.
The day of his death, we didn’t know where he was. We called all his friends, hospitals, and the police, but nobody had seen him. Daniel had been struggling with depression and suicide ideation for five years, so my wife and I had a feeling about what might have happened. Finally, my wife, Celi, got hold of his roommates, who found him in his room.
I think that losing a child might be the worst thing to happen to a parent. And nothing can take away that pain, but the people around you can do much to help you through your grief. During that horrible time, we did not lack for family, friends, or help. From the very first night we found out he was gone, people reached out. Our neighbors, Daniel’s friends, and our Church leaders came over. Relief Society sisters brought meals, and anonymous donors contributed enough for our needs.
Our bishop later told us that many people had wanted to help but didn’t know how. And so they asked him, “What can we do for the Hunts?”
It hasn’t happened often, but sometimes when people hear about Daniel, they don’t know what to say or how to treat us. I think it’s like when we don’t know how to approach someone who speaks a different language. We don’t know what to say or worry about saying the wrong thing, so instead we just don’t talk to them. But please reach out. Loss is lonely and can be isolating. The fact that we were surrounded by so many who did reach out made all the difference.
One thing we appreciated was how many stories we heard about our son. We do not worry for Daniel. We know what kind of kid he was. We know he was sick, and we know that “the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). And Daniel had a big heart. We know that. But to hear people tell their own stories about Daniel was wonderful.
Nate Olsen was one of Daniel’s friends. They had been buddies since first grade. When Nate had to come home early from his mission for medical reasons, Daniel immediately invited him to lunch. Nate told us how Daniel had been there to listen, love, and encourage—in a time when Nate felt lost and alone. As Nate said, Dan was the kind of person who truly cared about people.
It’s important to be the person you are and to admit you’re human. Sometimes we need to ask for help, to reach out—even when we’re the ones hurting. We can let others in and let them see who we are.
Seven years later, it’s still hard. Sometimes Celi will suddenly start crying, saying, “I miss my baby. I miss my baby.” But she has expressed that she has had comfort through those times—spiritual comfort. Spiritual comfort is perfect communication. Seeking spiritual comfort is the best way to feel perfectly included. And this spiritual comfort includes the human angels who feel inspired to come and help.
Sheri L. Dew, former Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, once shared a story about a General Authority who asked how to tell if someone is a true follower of Jesus Christ. The answer confused me at first, but now I fully agree: “The way you can tell if someone is truly converted to Jesus Christ is by how that person treats others.”1 The Christlike way to treat others is with respect, love, and compassion—no matter who we are or what we’re going through.