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Lark Galley shares lessons learned from divorce and suicide: You are not alone, everyone matters, and there is NOTHING that cannot be resolved or overcome.
Lark has lived all over the United States and seemed to attend a different school every year of her life. She was even a foreign exchange student in Sweden as a junior. For this reason, she loves to travel and has been all over the world. She also loves reading historical fiction. She loves her workout time and her morning self improvement time at 4:45 AM (which according to her is the best time to get this done!)
Lark has 4 children, 4 grandchildren, and a husband who is a full time engineer and part time Army Colonial. She received her BA in Political Science and a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Utah. She has worked in sales for a global company where she earned the #1 Senior Sales Rep award. Lark currently runs her own small trucking company and spends the rest of the time coaching. Three months ago her focus shifted due to some dramatic life experiences she is going to share with us today including suicide within her own family.
About 30 years ago Lark was married to her first husband and she felt like she was living her dreams, but sometimes dreams don’t turn out the way we had originally imagined they would.
After being married for a few years, she and her husband decided to start a family, but were unsuccessful. So, they went to an infertility clinic for three years and nothing worked. She had been praying all along God would help them have a child, but God told her “no.”
Finally Lark gave up and told God she was done trying to do things her way. She set an appointment with an adoption agency, and then she started feeling like she might be pregnant. She took a pregnancy test and found out she was pregnant!
She was so excited to tell her husband–after three years of trying she was finally pregnant. So when he got home she excitedly told him, but his reaction shocked her. He said, “I don’t want to be a father, and I don’t want to be married to you.”
This was devastating for Lark to hear! She had no idea what was going on. But over the next few months he seemed to pick fights over everything. Looking back now she can see he was trying to justify to himself a reason to leave.
When she was 6 months pregnant, her husband disappeared. This is pre-cell phone days, so she had no idea where he was or what had happened to him. Lark explains she felt like an abandoned teenage mother even though she was 30-years-old.
Depression & Unexpected Blessings
The next little while Lark calls her “18-months of Hell” because she was in a really dark place after her husband left.
Lark believes it is having her baby that saved her. First, it gave her a purpose, a reason to live. Second, this lonely time gave her a chance to firm up her relationship with God, who taught her about her daughter. God told her during this time that her daughter was never meant for her husband. She was a gift to Lark because she was living righteously, and her daughter was a blessing to her life. She literally saved Lark.
Lark can now see the blessing of why she didn’t get pregnant sooner. God knew what He was doing all along. This was the lesson Lark learned going through this broken marriage: God knows what He is doing. Trust Him and it will all work out the way it is supposed to. It may not be how you think it should work out, but it will all work out.
After going through divorce proceedings, Lark met and married the man who became her husband and father to her daughter.
Five-and-a-half years ago Lark’s father passed away. He was bipolar and had a really hard time socializing with people. He wanted to be with the family during the holidays but when they got together it was too much for him, so he would go off by himself in a room.
Lark explained, “We tend to think the answer is to isolate ourselves, when in reality that is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing in order to come out of this funk or depression that we have. It is actually to be with people, which is not what we always want to do when we don’t feel good.” We need people.
Her father’s bipolar medication had been changed due to a surgery and so he wasn’t sleeping well. One day he crashed his car into a parked street sweeper (probably because he wasn’t sleeping well). Crashing was the last straw. He was in debt, he was in pain, his insurance rates had been rising. And with the car crash it just sent him over the edge.
He ended up shooting himself after he crashed and was in a coma.
Lark knew her dad didn’t want to be a vegetable, so they turned off life-support and let him go.
Couldn’t Talk About Suicide
For years Lark couldn’t talk about her father’s death for what it really was. She bottled up the emotions associated with the suicide part of his death due to the shame of it. She would only tell people about the car crash part of it, not the suicide part of it.
Lark looks back on her father’s death and wishes she could have been more real and accepted the suicide for what it was because then she would have healed faster. Due to her father’s death, Lark lived in a dark hole for about 5 months. She doesn’t know how her kids got fed, or how her business was run. She was barely functioning.
Lesson: Bottling things up doesn’t solve the problem. Lark explains, “You need to deal with it at some point. If we just confront whats real, and say this is the fact, it’s real–instead of trying to hide it or push it away from us. We can then move through and accept things as reality.”
Lark continues, “If you look back on your life to the things that were the most difficult, they were the most growing times.”
“Every person that comes into our lives–that person is to help us get back to God. We can grow and learn from interacting with them. And they can show us where we need to change.”
An Unexpected “Elf” Situation
About two years ago Lark had an “Elf” situation in her family. Her husband, Stephen, grew up in New Orleans and when he was in his twenties he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He ended up moving to Utah so he could be in a better environment to live his religion–not knowing he was leaving something behind–a son he didn’t know about.
Meanwhile Caleb grew up not knowing the man on his birth certificate listed as his father wasn’t his father. He was treated differently than his siblings and wasn’t loved much by his father figure. Finally, after his mom divorced this man she told him there was a chance that wasn’t his father.
Caleb married and had three daughters. When he and his wife found out they were expecting a son, he suddenly had a desire to find out who his father really was. So, he had a DNA test done and talked to his mother.
Caleb eventually found Stephen when he was 27-years old. They did the DNA test and found out this was indeed his son. Their teenage pictures look very similar, and you can tell they are related.
Of course, Lark and her family were surprised, but the biggest shock was they were suddenly grandparents. How did they take it? Lark explains, “We just embraced it, and it has been such a blessing.” They got to know each other in 2018 through visits and visits at Thanksgiving, and the healing began to take place.
Lark looks back on this now as such a blessing because having Caleb has been such a balm to them during 2019 when her family has needed help.
March 21, 2019 changed Lark’s family. Lark had a 19-year-old son, Christian, studying mechanical engineering at the University of Utah. He had friends, hobbies, a trip planned with his dad and brother. When you looked at him you never would have guessed, “Oh, this kid is depressed or suicidal.”
That morning Stephen found Christian. He had shot himself.
Suicide’s Impact on Dad
Stephen had served 35 years in the army and done tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had seen some pretty bad stuff in his days, but his Christian’s suicide was the hardest thing he had ever gone through.
Up to this point in their marriage Lark had only seen her husband cry twice, and one of those was at his mother’s funeral. Stephen was very stoic. After Christian’s death he cried for three days because he was so close to his son.
The night before Stephen had an “actions/consequences” chat with their son because he had come home late. The week before he had been in a car accident, and he also had two speeding tickets in the last six months. They were pretty sure he was going to lose his license–which was indeed suspended the week after his death. They talked about grades and paying for tuition. This conversation wasn’t out of line, but late at night sometimes things can be more overwhelming.
Sometimes teenagers see things like losing their license as the end of the world. They can’t believe life will get better because it seems so bleak.
Lark feels perhaps Stephen blames himself for his son’s death, but Lark is quick to remind him they don’t know what else happened earlier in the day. “It was Christian that made the final decision there.”
Lark’s Reaction to Suicide
Lark was teaching a class the morning Stephen found Christian dead. A police officer showed up and told her the news. Lark was sure he was talking to the wrong person. There was no way her son was dead. She had seen him just the day before. She was in shock.
Suicide–A Painful Choice
Lark also reminds us, “When someone does take their life, they are not in their right mind. They are in a space where they are hurting, and all they can think of is that they want to stop the pain.” Years earlier Lark had been in that space. She describes the pain as “a physical pain that is inside you.” But unlike a cut on your arm, you don’t know if it is ever going to heal. “You just want it to stop. You don’t care how it stops, you just want [the pain] to stop.”
“When somebody decides to take their own life, maybe their pain stops, but it just transfers to 100 other people and it gets compounded. There are no answers. It just hurts.”
The Suicide Journey & Prevention
Afterwards Lark was researching suicide and talked to a therapist about it who explained, “Suicide is not so much a decision. It is a journey. People that go down that road have a lot of pain and they just want it to stop.” So, they decide they can get the pain to stop by ending their life. Then they think, “I’m a terrible person for having that thought” and they don’t want to tell someone else they are struggling because then that person will think they are terrible.
So, if you see suicidal tendencies in someone, you need to specifically say the words, “Are you feeling suicidal? Are you planning to kill yourself?” Then you need to say, “If you are feeling like you might take your own life, I need you to talk to me.” Then, make them promise. This may sound shocking, but it helps them know you are willing to say the hard words, and it gives them permission to say the hard words back.
Lark had to go through this very scenario with her other children after Christian’s death because they were very close to him.
When someone is depressed, they will often make a plan on how they will kill themselves and then it will seem they “get better” when in reality they have a back door plan they can execute at any time.
Three and a half years before, Christian was talking to Stephen and Stephen noticed the disconnect in his son’s eyes. So, because of his military training he asked, “Are you feeling suicidal?” Christian answered he was. They had him into a therapist the next day.
After talking to the therapist, her son came out and told her, “Mom, I don’t believe in God. I believe in science.” He expected some big reaction, but Lark simply told him, “Well son, I can’t make you believe anything. I believe God is science, but if you want to believe that, you run with that.” Lark believes Christian just needed a safe space to express himself.
“Our children need to know they can tell us or talk to about anything.” As parents we need to be able to react in a rational manner. They need to know they are safe coming to us with their problems.
Christian went through counseling for three months and then he said he was good. Looking back on it Lark realized he has just created a plan and three years later he executed the plan. He seemed fine during those three years. You never would have guessed he was struggling.
What do suicidal tendencies look like?
- Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
- Alcohol and other substance use disorders
- Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
“Sometimes you will have a hard time really knowing,” Lark confesses, but the biggest key is to be willing to have the hard conversations, bring it up and talk openly about it. By talking openly about it, it gives people a safe place to talk about how they have been feeling.
Lark has been amazed as she has started vocally standing up and being a voice of love and comfort and openness about suicide that people have approached her as a safe person to talk to.
Specific Warning Signs
When Lark talked to a therapist, she mentioned there are three things which can lead to suicide:
- Not being part of a community
- Not feeling like they belong
- Feeling like they are a burden to their family.
Lark explains, “Sometimes people are in so much turmoil they feel their family would be better off without them. They really believe they are doing everyone else a favor by taking their life.” So, as adults and parents we need to have conversations so people know we love them no matter what.
The Suicide Epidemic
Lark wishes she had understood how epidemic suicide is in our state and in our nation.
Important things to know:
Suicide is the #1 killer of youth in the State of Utah and in many other states.
Social Media can contribute toward suicide deaths. Lark explains that if she did something stupid in high school 10 people knew. But with social media 1,000 people can know within 24 hours. And to an adolescent, whose brain isn’t fully developed, well, they think their life is over!
Learning to Parent
Lark had to learn to take a different approach with her son, Christian during life. He was very smart and since he was about three years old he believed the pecking order in the house was, dad, Christian (age 3) and then mom was down at the bottom near the cat. Their home was run very militantly, but Lark had to learn to take a softer approach when she interacted with their son. Being his mother had her scrambling to learn how to parent better.
When they were in the thick of teenage years with Christian, Lark got a distinct impression, “He’s not the problem. You are.” Then a picture opened up her mind of them talking before they came to earth and Christian telling her, “Mom you’re going to have a lot of problems. You’re going to need some help to learn how to be more loving and Christlike. But I’m going to help you.”
Lark said it finally dawned on her, “What he was going through, it wasn’t for him, it was actually for me. It was to help me be a more loving and kind person.”
They still struggled through his teenage years to the point where Lark was ready for him to move out after high school and even started packing his stuff up. Then he realized she was serious and he started taking some steps to be more helpful around the house–like bringing his laundry down to be washed instead of letting it make a 6-foot pile behind his door.
A few weeks after Christian’s death, Lark’s daughter told her, “Mom you were always trying to improve your relationship with him.” She was always reading parenting books, listening to different classes, getting parental counseling help–up until the day he died.
A Helpful Book
One of the books she read before he died was called, “Real Love” by Greg Baer.
This book changed the way she looked at things. It allowed her to say, “Real love is wanting another person’s happiness more than your own happiness and accepting them for who they are without any expectations.”
She realized she had expectations for her children and she let them know what those were by the expressions on her face as she interacted with them. After reading the book, she took Christian out to dinner and they talked for an hour about they were as parents, and how they could have done things differently, but how they did the best they could. It was a great conversation. She is glad they got to that point before his death.
How to Process Grief
After Christian passed away it took Lark a few days to post on social media that her son passed away. But she didn’t mention suicide because of the shame, stigma and judgment.
Her attitude suddenly changed when parents of Christian’s friends began reaching out to her concerned because their kids had been suicidal and they were afraid they were going to do copycat suicide. Another mom reached out and said her son was already in a dark place and she was afraid where he might go when he found out Christian committed suicide.
Anyway, lots of people began reaching out to Lark and telling her their story.
Christian died on a Thursday and between Saturday and Tuesday Lark realized this was not about her. This wasn’t about shame or guilt. This was about saving suicidal children.
Lark realized, “I couldn’t change what my son did. I can’t change if another child chooses to do it. What is the only thing I can do? I can change me. I can do something different–I am speaking up.”
Becoming A Voice for Suicide Prevention
So on the Tuesday after Christian’s death, Lark posted about his suicide. She felt she had a moral obligation, Here is what she said, “Since my son’s suicide last week, many of my friends have reached out in concern not only for me but also for their child who is already in a dark place and is now greatly impacted by Christian’s choice. If this is you, PLEASE know that there are solutions and people to help. Suicide does not take away the pain — it only transfers it to many others. Life’s problems can often seem overwhelming and we ALL get depressed, but there is NOTHING that cannot be resolved or overcome. Reach out to those who love you. You are not alone. We all need each other.”
The response to her message was overwhelming. People reached out in love and kindness. As parents read this note to their children who were struggling, their lives were helped and changed for the better.
Lark’s mission now is to help everyone know, “Everybody matters. We need to stick around. We need each other.”
Lark realized she had a lot of work to do. “I decided that this tragic death would have meaning.”
Now she is committed to making a difference. “Talking about this brings my son closer to me.” People have asked her if she is sad he is gone, and Lark is quick to explain, “No, you don’t understand, he is closer to me now than he was in life. I feel him helping me.”
After a neighbor’s daughter’s death a few weeks ago, she went over to be with the family. That night Lark felt God telling her, “You have got to get this message out. You have got to talk faster. You have got to talk to more people about this situation because everybody matters. I don’t want to lose one more person to suicide.”
Lark points out, “Death happens. It is going to happen to everybody. And it can be sad. And there are accidents which are sort of out of our control. But the thought of someone taking their own life and ending it earlier when they have such an opportunity to make such an impact on someone else.”
Suicide Stops Your Potential Influence
Lark has two people who have become mentors to her in her life who both considered suicide years earlier. She wonders what would have happened if they would have gone through with it. They wouldn’t have been available to help her years later in her own life. So Lark is quick to tell people, “You are that person to someone else.” “Your message matters, and you need to be there down the road for the next person who is going to need you.”
She wants people to find meaning in their tragedies but not let them define who you will become.
Different Places in Grief
Lark chose, after going through a couple of depressive episodes in her life, with her first husband leaving her and after her father died that she wasn’t going to do that level of depression again. She literally “flipped a switch…There was pain, but I wasn’t going to suffer. Those are two different things. There is pain, but you don’t have to choose the suffering.”
Lark has noticed that different people in her family are at different places processing grief. She is speaking out while one of her daughters can’t even talk about it. Another daughter wants to go live in the wilderness. So, Lark has had to learn to be patient as everyone processes grief differently. “We need to allow people space to grieve and just show up and say, ‘I’m here for you.’ We don’t have to have the answers. I am here to support you whatever that looks like, and not try to solve things, because we really can’t.”
The number one thing that Lark says is important to do after a tragedy like suicide is “Do not blame. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t point the finger at anybody else.” You always want to find a scapegoat. “No blame. Just let that go. We don’t have answers. We will never know the whole ‘why’ thing.
Lark started to spiral downhill after Christian’s suicide. She knew he hated her and he thought she was a horrible mother. She felt she was never good enough.
Over the course of the next week, she had three different people reach out to her with a message from her son. All three messages were the same, “Tell my mother that I love her.” The power of love can pull us from those downward spirals.
Favorite Bible Verses
Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
So often we think we have all the answers or think we know what is best. But we don’t. God will work it out. He helped Lark find her husband Stephen, he has helped her find a way to share her message via podcasting and is now writing a book. God has continued to open doors for her.
Esther 4:14 “Who knoweth whether thou art come. . .for such a time as this?
Lark looks at all her knowledge and experience in business and training and realizes it was all for her mission right now. She is driven to work on her course for emotional self-reliance and suicide prevention. She wants to help people to see they are valueable just being who they are. This is something she has struggled with and that her son struggled with as well.
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