Tearing Down the Stigma Behind Suicide: Bravely Talking About Mental Illness

By Pamela Henkelman

God's Brave Women - Pamela's Story


Four years ago, the kind funeral director hauled more chairs into the overflow area as the main room filled up quickly. We were gathered in rural South Dakota for my father’s funeral.


Bill was a simple farmer who spent his later years working construction.He wore bib overalls and hated his new dentures. We shared the same brown eyes, and he was irresistibly funny when he was in a good mood.


People kept streaming in. Two large doors were opened, so we could see into the overflow area, and I was overwhelmed it was full.


Though my dad and I’s relationship was strained, you could see he was loved. We spent years finding our way back to each other. We shared a love of Vikings football and enjoyed conversations about that.


We said our “sorry’s” and “I forgive you’s” and were feeling quite content as the familiar tension in our relationship was beginning to ease for the first time in decades.


I was surprised by the outpouring of people who came to pay their respects. The cynic in me thought, “Maybe people came because they’re nosy? People are like that in small towns.”


Suicide brings out the gawkers.


Maybe the truth is people came because they loved me and my brothers and wanted to show their support? I wanted to believe the latter.