Jacob Jean learned his boyfriend had committed suicide just weeks before high school graduation.
“A friend asked if I heard anything. I told her no,” he wrote in a column for Outsports. “She announced to the classroom that my high school boyfriend had taken his life in the night.”
“Disbelief, fear, and shock began to flash through my body. This moment felt like forever.”
Zack took his life in the spring of 2013. Jacob spent that summer crying “endlessly”, with college looming ahead in the fall.
“I spent my time being constantly angry and pushing those that cared about me away,” he shared. “A time where most students find happiness in graduating, graduation parties, and moving to college, I found myself depressed and in a dark space.”
But then Jacob’s cheerleading squad stepped in.
My CFA coaches and teammates showed immense compassion. They made me feel like they cared. I was comforted and constantly reminded that they were there for me. These were the people that knew me best, having spent four years practicing, traveling and competing with them.
At MSU, it was his coach, Elyse, who stood out.
We had a connection with similar stories that she was able to share with me. That created protection. This was not something she was obligated to do. Joining this new family of athletes at college was more support for me.
“Without being an out athlete, my struggles would have been harder, and maybe even impossible, to manage. I have gained the opportunity to allow support to enter my life.”
“Four years ago I felt like I was never going to stop crying, never going to be happy, and never have a zest for life. My sport, and those in it, proved me wrong,” finished Jacob.
Jacob is currently a senior at Michigan State University studying psychology with plans to graduate in May 2017. He has been cheerleading at the collegiate level for the last four years.