The thing about suicide is that once you are touched by it, it’s always there.
For people like me, who have attempted suicide, suicide is always in our back pocket. Yes, I got well. I got treatment, therapy, medications and unfailing support. I now have a life beyond my wildest dreams but suicide is still in my back pocket. I am as far away from suicide now as I can be and the thought of it is absurd to me now.
When my drinking and depression were at their worst, I would awaken in the middle of the night, lie still in bed and listen to my thoughts: “Oh, you didn’t hear? She killed herself.” Over and over I heard someone explain my death. I no longer awaken to those horrible thoughts. Today, my middle-of-the night thoughts are of stepping on damn dog toys on the way to the bathroom.
Suicide is not an option for me now but it’s still in my back pocket. Most of the time I don’t even realize it’s there. But it comes rushing back when I hear about someone who has done “it.”
It’s probably even worse for someone who has had a parent, brother, sister or loved one kill themselves. They say those people – the true survivors of suicide – are more prone to take their own lives, too. But that’s just a statistic – which is what a lot of the chatter about suicide is: data and statistics. We don’t really get to hear about it first hand because we don’t know how to approach suicide survivors.
I once went to a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and struck up a conversation with a couple whose son had killed himself years ago. They had shared their story often and were as comfortable as parents can be sharing their child’s suicide. They encouraged me to ask questions.
All I wanted to know is, what’s the best thing to say to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide? Much of the information we get about a suicide is …