…or so went the theme song to TV’s M*A*S*H*. Truth is, it’s painless only for the one who completes it; for everyone left in its wake, it’s a clusterf##k of epic proportions.
A friend of mine discovered this recently when a close relative, an untreated bipolar who was having marital problems, suddenly and shockingly took his own life. Now the family is left to wonder if they missed signs of impending disaster, if there was anything they might have done better or differently, if they could have stopped him from doing the deed. Now, not only do they have to adjust to their loss, they have to fight off the inevitable feelings of guilt and ask themselves the question that has no answer: “Why?”
Then there’s the anger. My friend told me that he and the family were so pissed off at this relative that they couldn’t begin to grieve properly. I can’t blame them. I’ve never been related to or friends with anyone who committed suicide, but I can imagine my first reaction—other than the initial shock—would be anger. How could he/she have done it? And how dare he/she leave me without saying good-bye?
But the main reason my friend told me all this (which has not been discussed on social media) was that he is concerned about me and wants me to take special care of my health. He says I’ve been on his mind since the incident, which rather surprised me since I’ve been stable for a good eight months. I guess it never occurred to me that my own close shave last fall might have made people worry far beyond the immediate crisis. I’m certainly not worried; suicidal ideation is the furthest thing from my mind these days and has been for quite some time. Not that it couldn’t happen again, but I really can’t imagine anything other than the loss of my husband that would be serious enough to justify thoughts of taking my own life. And even then, I think I’ll manage to hang on, though I’ve warned our kids (only) half-jokingly that they’ll probably have to drop me off at the psych hospital after all is said and done.
Why? you may ask. Among other really good reasons, I want to stay safe and live because I don’t want anybody to be angry with me. I also don’t want my loved ones’ last memories of me to be traumatic ones. I want them to be able to remember me with smiles and laughter, and to talk about all the silly things I did to amuse them. I want them to reminisce about the holidays we spent together…the celebrations of milestones in our lives…the things I accomplished during the course of my own. I don’t want them to be haunted for the rest of their days, wondering if there was something they could have done to prevent me from taking that final, desperate step off the cliff.
So the edge of that cliff must be avoided at all costs. This is why I’m compliant with treatment and doing what I can to strengthen myself for the next time my world explodes in flames. Suicide is NOT painless, not for the survivors anyway, and I won’t do that to mine.
Thank you for the reminder, my friend.