By Curtis Michaels
Roswell Daily Record
“Not knowing if I could have made a difference makes the pain worse than if she had died by accident or illness.”
Angie Gomez is candid when talking about the suicide of her daughter, Tessamarie.
“I’m a mess when I’m talking to groups sometimes, and I want people to see that and to know you do survive and you have to make a difference.”
Gomez founded the Tessa Anderson Suicide Prevention Coalition, with the support of her husband Derrick, their minister Brent Clay, and Nathan Padilla of Embrace.
Tessa Marie Anderson was born April 23, 1999 and passed away Feb. 27, 2014. She had been battling depression with her parents’ support and with counseling; unfortunately in a moment of aloneness, she didn’t know how to go on in the face of pain and fear.
Nobody can always recognize the signs. There aren’t always signs to recognize. Sometimes we just have to come together in our grief and try to bless others from our pain while we remain confused. Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense.
“Tessamarie’s coalition raises money to help affected families get the help they need. We sit with them. We cry with [auth] them.”
Gomez is determined to honor her daughter’s memory and hopefully help other families not have to deal with the same loss.
“People read Tessa’s story online and write to tell me that reading it saved their lives.”
Minister Brent Clay (MSW) of New Birth Ministries Church at 114 E. Hobbs says “Angie’s mission is to keep Tessa’s memory alive through service and raising awareness about suicide and its prevention.”
“When people hear suicide they run the other way.” Gomez said “I want to get people talking about it so that we can reach out to those who need us.”
The pain of not wanting to think about it is only made worse by the reality of having to look back on it.
“You blame yourself, and you blame everyone else, because you never really know why they took their life, or if you might have done something to change their mind.”
If not for the support of their church Gomez isn’t sure how her family could have gone on.
“The church was just ‘my church’ before we lost Tessa. But when we lost her, Clay was there taking charge and making sure everything was taken care of.” she said.
The love and support ensured that “the church has become our family,” she added.
Clay says their church’s mission is to “treat the whole man- spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically.”
The church supports the Tessamarie Coalition’s functions by announcing them, working at them so that Gomez can speak and run events smoothly. And, when needed, Clay will counsel individuals and speak to groups.
Of the Gomez family, he says “I have such respect for Ang and Derrick. They’re so inspiring because they’ve taken a tragedy and made a blessing for others from it.”
Clay is more than a minister to the Gomez family, he is a friend. Tessamarie was an active part of his daily life, just as her family was and still is.
One of his hardest times was about a month after Tessa’s death when he started feeling depressed and angry. At first he wondered why. Then it hit him. While he had been supporting the family, he had not grieved the loss of his young friend.
Clay said he then gave himself over to his grief so that he could heal, continue to help others, and honor Tessa’s memory.
“I serve best in the background. In a crisis, people forget the details. That’s where I can help best.” he said.
Gomez said it, but her husband Derrick, and their friend and minister Clay agree, “Sometimes prayer is the only thing that got me through.”
Both Gomez and Clay wonder if they missed a sign. If that hug the day before might have been a cry for help. If a comment she made was really a masked scream to be heard. They will never have the answers, but they will always understand that pain in others.
Tessamarie left behind two younger brothers who adored her. They too have a lifetime of unanswered questions.
If anything good can come from such deep pain it is that those most directly affected will hold their loved ones a bit closer, tell them they love them a bit more often.
The memory of lost loved ones can serve to inspire a more compassionate life.
Gomez will tell you that she is inspired by her daughter’s memory every day. She enjoys giving in her daughter’s memory.
“Tessa would tell me she wanted to buy extra food in the grocery store to give to a homeless person she had seen.”
That spirit lives on in Gomez’ every day.
By Curtis Michaels