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Surviving an Unexpected Death
By By CAROLYN GRAVES - as told to HP FEATURES EDITOR ANDY STEINKE
Nov 11, 2016 Share

Former Benton Harbor Police Officer Jared Graves hanged himself in his Benton Township home in 2012, a few days before a court hearing that could have ended with him on trial on four felony charges, including criminal sexual conduct. This is the story of how his mother, Carolyn Graves, has handled his death with the help of Lory’s Place.

“Jared had gotten into some problems with the police department and his job. I know that had a big effect on him. But he and I had talked about it, and I told him, ‘I don’t care ... we’ll get through this. Whatever is the outcome of this situation, I’m right there by you, all the way. ... No, I don’t like what you’ve done. No I don’t. But I still love you.’

“And I said, ‘I’m going to continue to love you regardless, because you’re my baby and I don’t care.’ ...

“When he completed (suicide), it was a Thursday in January 2012. But that Tuesday, he came by my job, and he just sat there and he was crying, just saying he didn’t really know what to do.

“And I just said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you are going to be all right. You have me, and I’m going to be right there by you. We are going to work this out.’ And he said, ‘Yeah mom, but I just don’t want to let you down.’

“I said, ‘You can’t let me down. You have been a wonderful son.’ And I said, ‘You are going to continue to be a great son. I’m not going to be let down, not at all.’ ...

“He left. And I walked to the door with him. And he got in his car, and this was just kind of odd to me, but he got in his car and he started out the front way from my job, and he just sort of made a U circle and came back and went out the back way at my job. And I’m like, ‘How come he made that circle like that?’ But that was the last time I actually saw him. ...

“That Wednesday, we talked two or three times, because I called him all the time. And I talked to him that Wednesday night at about 11, cause he was supposed to be going to trial that (Tuesday). And some of his friends who lived in Detroit were going to come down and be with him, in support of him. So I called him, and said, ‘Jared I need to know what time you have to be at the courthouse.’

“And he said ‘Mom, I told you 8 o’clock.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll be there,’ and I didn’t say anything about his friends coming. ... We talked about a couple other things. We got off the phone and, you know, my usual thing is ‘OK I’ll talk with you tomorrow, I love you.’ And he said, ‘I love you, too, mom.’

“The next time I heard from him, or of him, was that Thursday, about 1 o’clock. I got a phone call that he had completed suicide. And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was my pastor who came and told me. And I told him to get away from me. I said, ‘I wish you would stop lying on my baby.’ ...

“I guess maybe in 10 minutes or so the police knocked on the door to come tell me, and I was just out of it. ...

“After that, it was just, I didn’t know what to do, because it was totally unexpected, and I had just never dealt with anything like that before. My best friend, she saw me just really going down, and she said, ‘You need to go over to Lory’s Place.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,’ you know. And we saw each other again, and she said, ‘No, really, did you call Lory’s Place? Please call. I think it will help you a lot. You’re not superwoman,’ and I thought I was.

“I did call Lory’s Place and I came over. Total change in my whole life. The best thing that I could have ever done. I was sad that I didn’t do it sooner, and I did it a couple of months after my son had completed suicide.

“Coming here has made me be able to deal with his death. ... Had I not come, you wouldn’t be talking to me here. You’d be talking to me from some crazy house, because that’s where I was headed. I saw it. I really knew it. I was in a very, very dark place. And I didn’t know how I was going to get out. ...

“I think I probably could have dealt with it a lot better had he left a note or something to say why he was doing this. Nothing. He just left us. So that was pretty hard.

“I have two kids, had two kids, and he was my oldest. And him and I had really just grown together. I had him at 21, and his father was never in his life, so it was me and him. That was my man. That was my man. And he knew that I loved him unconditionally. It didn’t make any difference what was going on with him or around him. ...

“For him to not tell us, or let us know anything, that bothered me, that really bothered me, and I didn’t know what to do. ...

“I remember the first night I came (to Lory’s Place). I walked in the room, I didn’t know what to expect. ... There were 14 people there, 14 people that were going through the same thing I was going through. They had lost a son, a daughter, a husband, a brother, a something. ... And before I could get sat down, there were tears coming from everybody’s eyes.

“We all sat there and kind of went around the table, and they had each person tell who they had lost, and what their feelings were. ... And when it got to me, I could barely talk, because I was so full (of emotion), I was crying. But I did get out that it was my son, and that I loved him a lot, and that I don’t know why he did this, but I still love him.

“And we all said pretty much the same thing: that we felt guilty because this is a close person to you. ... Did we do enough? Had we done enough to make him want to live or make her want to live? Where did I go wrong? You have all those questions. But coming here to Lory’s Place, they explain to you that it’s not your fault. When a person decides they are going to do suicide, they are gonna do it, regardless. ...

“But when you sit around the table with people who have experienced the same kinds of things, you begin to see and feel that, OK, you are not alone. And that’s the No. 1 thing. Because when you feel like you’re alone, I tell you, it’s a terrible feeling. ...

“A lot of times, all we need to do is just talk about it, just somebody to listen. How many people do you know who want to sit around and here me talk about a dead person? Somebody who hung themselves? Who wants to listen to that?

“So we need somebody to listen to us. All the stories. I want to tell the stories about Jared. About how when Christmas comes, he’s the Santa Claus of the year. He does everything. I want to tell people about how he took his auntie’s car, and drove it up to Chicago where his sister lives. It’s a Mercedes-Benz, and it was his birthday, and he told everybody who was there that his wife had bought him this Mercedes-Benz for his birthday. I want to tell people about him cooking on Sundays, making these Food Network plates and dishes. I just want to talk about how I feel. I just want to talk about him.

“Who’s going to listen? My friend, Mamie, she listens. But I could just wear her down. Over here (at Lory’s Place), they listen to everything. We can tell any story we want about our people. ...

“My reason for staying (at Lory’s Place) is, I’m doing OK, and I think I might be able to manage. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But one of the reasons I stay is because we get new people in. Those people come in to where I used to be, and they need to see somebody that has been here for awhile, and that coming does help. It does work, you just have to stick with it. You can’t just come now, miss four or five weeks, then come back when you start feeling bad. ...

“What I would do is, if they were new, at the end of the meeting, I would go around and say, ‘You are going to be all right. I used to be where you are.’ I gave them the big, I call them, Carolyn Graves hug, and say, ‘This is your real, open invitation to Lory’s Place. If you stick with it, it will stick with you.’ ...

“I truly believe my son planned his suicide. Thinking back with some of the things that happened leading toward the day he completed it, I just truly believe that he had planned it. This is what he was going to do, because he did it after his kids went to school and his wife had an appointment, and he was alone. ...

“I don’t know if he was being selfish or what. However, he decided that’s how he wanted to go. The more I think about it and I come (to Lory’s Place), I realize that he would have rather done that than let me down in any way. And even knowing that I loved him regardless, he still felt that to let his mom down would have been the worst thing that he could have done.

“He had it in his mind what he was going to do. He didn’t want to let me down, he didn’t want to disturb his family. I just think that he did it thinking, ‘I’ll just get out of the way, and nobody will have to worry about anything.’ Not knowing what affect it would have on us once he was gone.”

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