Death is heartbreaking from all perspectives. There are instances in which it is a gift–when it’s time, but still there is tremendous pain involved. Some might say “it was a blessing,” or “they have been set free from their agony.” We are still sad, but there’s a different level of acceptance.
There’s the loss of spouses, parents, friends, family members–and that creates a push and pull of the vacuum left in their wake. The grief and dissociation can be tremendous.
Losing a child is indescribable for me, not only because I’ve never experienced it, but also because I cannot even fathom the depth of that well.
In all of these cases, really nobody is a willing participant. Whether it’s sudden or drawn out, we want to live, and the people around us want us to stay. Mutually beneficial.
Then, there’s a category unto itself. Those we want to keep close, but who have ended their own lives. They may or may not leave us clues in advance.There may be known or unknown mental health needs, but they have chosen to take their own life. These are the ones who die by suicide. It elicits an entirely different kind of paralysis for those of us left behind. Even if we didn’t personally know them.
I didn’t know Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain, but I was still nauseous when I heard the news. I felt the urge to cry, but couldn’t quite make it happen. I’m sad because it is hard to understand that depth of sadness, as I have never experienced it.
In Joined At The Heart, my husband Pete detailed the toll that suicide took on his family. The extent of his story was something that took my breath away when he finally shared it with me a few years into our relationship.
The repercussions of suicide are devastating. The ripples of pain reverberate from family to friends, and even on to people who, years later ,find out that a family member they’ve never met, or a musician/writer/actor they’ve become a fond of, found death by suicide. The sadness can be retroactive.
My first memory of celebrity suicide was actor/comedian Freddie Prinze. I was 15, and I watched “Chico & The Man” religiously every week. Freddie was handsome and funny, and had the biggest smile. Then he shot himself. I am no more adept now at absorbing this type of news than I was then.
As part of Pete’s speaking engagements he would slowly reveal how many times suicide had touched his family. It would suck the oxygen out of the room. The gasp was always audible. He would then comment that a human’s desire to live is the strongest natural urge we all have. If that’s the case, then it explains why these losses at times feel unimaginable.
I miss so many people who have died by suicide. Some I’ve known personally, and some I’ll never have the chance to know. These are losses for us all.
If you ever consider taking your own life, there are many points of outreach, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Sometimes people don’t even have the strength to try and access professional help. If that’s the case, reach out to anyone. Share it with a family member, friend, or co-worker. They will have the strength to lend you a hand.