He was dead by suicide at the age of 38.
The Biggersville resident wears a brave smile as she sits at the conference table. She pushes back her long, blonde curls and fidgets with the edges of the notebook she brought along.
She is wearing a turquoise blue T-shirt that proclaims, “Be The Voice #stopsuicide.” She has photos of her late husband, Terry Dye. She chose three of her favorites and she pushes them across the table to be viewed. One of them is a picture from their wedding. She mentally fortified herself for this, the hardest of conversations.
At the age of 48, Dye said she is the oldest in her group of suicide widows.
She takes a deep breath and begins to tell her story.
Dye met Terry in 1998. They were married on April 22, 2000.
He was injured on the job and she said his employer fired him. Afterward, he got on disability. He had some issues.
“I knew he suffered from mental illness. He was bi-polar, severe depression and anxiety ... on top it,” she said. “I think after years of fighting it ... and I do mean years of fighting it ... his feelings just basically won.”
Dye started a job with Toyota in Sept. 6, 2011.
“I knew he was depressed and it was killing him — me being away from home — because I had taken off for 10 years with him,” she said. Her eyes well up with tears. It’s obvious she is trying not to cry. “... I blame myself a lot.”
At the time of Terry’s death, the couple lived in McNairy County in Tennessee.
Oct. 19, 2011, began as a normal day. She said she will always remember that morning. Terry was having “a good day,” she recalled. His eyes were bright. He showered and dressed in his favorite clothes and took exceptional time to groom. She said she believed he had done this on purpose — that he had known from that morning what he intended to do.
“I believe he had planned it. He knew what he was doing. He didn’t want me to find him unclean or unkept,” she said.
She had just gotten her uniforms for work and he took a picture of her. He called her by his affectionate nickname for her, “Babydoll.”
“You are so beautiful. I just love you,” he had said.
She tripped and fell into him, accidentally butting him in the nose. She made a joke about his nose and they laughed. She left for work.
Dye called him every day on each of her breaks and on her lunch. That day was no different. When she called him on her first break, he kept telling her he was “cold” and he just “couldn’t get warm.” He told her he loved her, he was proud of her and that he couldn’t imagine his world without her. He also called and spoke to his mother.
She got off work just after 3 p.m. and called him, but he didn’t answer. She said he always answered the phone. She worked over an hour’s drive from home and she tried to call him several times on the way home. Concern became fear and fear became panic by the time she got home.
They had a long driveway. She pulled up into her driveway at 4:54 p.m. and found him. It was the beginning of a long journey of trauma, pain and grief.
“How do you bury your 38-year-old husband?” she asked, with tears running unchecked down her cheeks.
It has taken years, therapy, medications, support groups and endless research to try to figure out what happened and then to find her way of coping with it.
Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed a proclamation declaring September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, drawing awareness to a public health issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds.
Bringing awareness and trying to help others — preventing suicide — is the reason Dye chose to share her story. She said there is such a stigma to suicide. No one wants to talk about it. Ironically, talking about feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts is exactly what one needs to do to get help.
“Please, talk to somebody. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay not to be okay. There’s help out there. Get help ... reach our your hand, there’s someone there who will grab it,” said Dye.
Now, Dye works with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She said this is the next step in her journey. She is determined Terry’s death would not be in vain. She is not alone in understanding the need to bring this issue out into the open.
It is for that reason, Mississippi’s Department of Mental Health has developed a Suicide Prevention plan.
“Mississippi’s Suicide Prevention Plan represents an important step for our state to take as we work to ensure mental health and wellness for all citizens. Our public mental health system has worked for years at prevention efforts and to fight the stigma of mental illness. Whether we realize it or not, many of our friends and neighbors have been affected by mental illness or suicide,” Diana S. Mikula, Executive Director, Mississippi Department of Mental Health.
Mikula echoes Dye’s sentiments regarding the need for individuals to get the help they need.
“No matter what is happening in someone’s life, there are people who care and want to offer help and support to anyone who needs it,” Mikula said. “No one should hesitate to seek help at any time.”
“It is imperative that we encourage the citizens of Mississippi to change the way they think about mental health. We need to educate communities on the importance of shattering the silence that often surrounds suicide and encourage people to seek help. Many times, families feel alone in this fight, but the truth is no one is alone. One in five Mississippians are affected by a mental illness.
“Suicide is now the 12th leading cause of all deaths in the state of Mississippi, and the third leading cause of death among people from the age 15 to 24 in Mississippi. We are all in this together. Most likely, you know someone who has been affected by a mental illness or impacted by suicide. It touches families from one end of our great state to the other end – including my own family.
“I have seen first-hand the effect that suicide has on people’s lives, and my hope is that we do all we can to prevent unnecessary deaths by suicide. By working together, we can strive to ensure that people are aware of the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Then we can show them how to seek help if needed. With increased understanding, people will be more likely to reach out for assistance as they begin to see symptoms either in themselves or their loved ones,” Deborah Bryant, First Lady, State of Mississippi.
Dye participates in fundraisers and events, such as AFSP’s upcoming “Out of the Darkness Walk,” in Tupelo, Saturday, Oct. 21, at Veteran’s Memorial Park, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
While Dye, doesn’t believe she will ever heal, she has slowly found ways to cope and move forward. She is even engaged. Her fiancé, Kevin Robinson, understands her journey and even supports her by assisting with the fundraising activities.
The sense of purpose instilled in her by her work with the AFSP has helped her begin a new chapter. She has a message for those who are survivors left behind after a suicide.
“You are not alone. We’re here for you. Please, talk to us,” said Dye.
(The DMH toll free help line is available 24 hours a day at 1-877-210-8513, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), or send a text to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.)