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Thoughts on Suicide

I had to confront suicide of a good friend recently. I’ve been fortunate that this is the first time someone close to me has committed suicide. This was a whole new experience for me. I’ve dealt with death many times, some unexpected, some were a welcome from the suffering. What I found interesting was the unexpected emotions that I was confronted with. Anger, regret, betrayal were some of these. These are new emotions for me to tie with a death. I gotta tell you, this was new to me.

I spoke to this friend only hours before he took his own life. He left no note and his family hasn’t said much what they speculate as to what the cause may have been. I began to wonder why do we all need to find the reason, or cause of what caused him to do this? What if he had slowly been planning this? What if something completely out of the blue set him over the edge in one moment? But the real question is, why do we need to know? Is it to simply satisfy our need to calm our unclear nerves or minds? I think it is telling that all of us feel like we need to have a clear, logical answer to something that is completely unexpected and unnerving.

Suicide isn’t something that hasn’t crossed each of our minds at one time or another. As humans we all deal with emotions that involved depression. It’s not a good experience. Some require therapy and medication to cope with severe depression. I am not immune to this either. I have thought about taking my life to the extent of planning out an action to do it. I was in my teens and I was very depressed. This is nothing new looking from the outside in, but to me at that time, it was all consuming. Nothing else mattered. Nothing. I went as far as pushing the knife in causing only a small cut, but luckily I chickened out before it got really serious.

So in a very small way I found I was jealous of my friend. I know how messed up that sounds, but to be honest I still find myself with suicidal thoughts. But I never entertain those thoughts very long. As harsh as it sounds, suicide is a very selfish act and I could never put those I dearly love through something like that.

In fact, my 12 year old daughter recently told me that she has thought about suicide from time to time. This wasn’t something that I wanted to hear from her. After I calmed myself down I sat next to her and told her about my friend. I told her some brief things about him. Things like he was a father of 4 kids, had a great job and how generally happy he was. I then went on and told her about the times I’ve thought about it as well. With her eyes wide open I said, “Tell you what. If you do decide to go through with it please come talk to me before you do anything. And in return, I will do the same to you. And even after talking to me if you are still determined to still go through with it, we will do it together. Because, to be completely honest with you sweetie, I just don’t want to be around if you won’t be here to share life with me. So what do you think? Deal?” With tears in both of our eyes, we did a pinky swear on it. So the deal is now set in stone.

I’m still having a tough time coping with my friend taking his life. I wish I could have been a better friend to him. Someone he felt like he could trust and confide in. But I loved him and even if I was that friend he may have still done this. Who really knows? But what I do know is that death is hard to cope with, but suicide is something that I wish on no one. Suicide is easy for the one who does it, but the family and friends who are left. Man. That just isn’t fair. I just wish that my friend would have taken a moment to really consider those who loved him dearly before himself.

So if you are in that place, or just simply considering it, will you do us all a favor and talk to someone first? Anyone. In fact, I freely extend the offer of a listening ear. I do know how overwhelming those feelings can be.


lifelongguy said...

A former co-worker of my mine, just weeks ago, lost her father to suicide. He too left no note, and left his family wondering and worrying for the better part of a week until he was discovered in the remote west desert of Utah. I had similar feelings - how could he have done this to his family? How could he have left them with so few answers and so much pain.

As someone who has had his own struggles with depression, I can't say the idea has never crossed my mind but I can safely say that such thoughts have never been serious - but I know the state of mind brought on by depression is truly mind altering. Perceptions of reality are distorted and rational thinking becomes irrational in a way that ONLY seems rational to the depressed person. And for that, I want to give my friends father, and your recently lost friend, the benefit of a doubt. I was not close enough to my friends father to know what might have precipitated his final actions and I can only speculate to his mindset, but I hope that the mental illness brought on by stress and depression and whatever else may have contributed to his thought process was such that his intentions were not to hurt or harm his loved ones - that such rational thoughts were incapable of him at the time.

I can't say this as an excuse for the person - as you said it just isn't fair. The pain is over for him - but it will live on and on for his family and friends for the remainder of their lives. I hope, however, that these two men are now free of the depression, the stress, the despair, and that someday they can apologize and in the meantime we can forgive - I can't even fathom what it must be like to feel such despair that this option seems even remotely viable but can only assume it is truly a dark and unfamiliar place.

Truly sorry to hear of this tragedy for your friend, Tom.

Anonymous said...

Tom, I'm sorry for the sorrow you are feeling, and I'm grateful for your post. How courageous of you to speak honestly with your daughter. Suicide is not a subject people are comfortable discussing for many reasons. We fear causing pain through memories of a suicide victim; we may fear condoning or encouraging someone who has these feelings; we fear not saying the right thing; we fear being judged for having suicidal thoughts ourselves. But the fear of having open, rational, honest discussion is what keeps suicidal people from seeking a second opinion. We have heard that admitting you have those feelings is "a cry for help." If one is seriously considering suicide, (they believe) the last thing they want is to be talked out of it. How can we develop the trust to discuss this subject openly? Thank you for speaking this truth. I hope you will remember your friend fondly.

Tom Perry said...

@James, you are right about giving the benefit of doubt to those who commit suicide. I don't know the line of thinking that led him up to that. I just know he was a bright light in my life and that is now gone. I spent some alone time at his grave and I vocally told him how disappointed I was in his decision, but that I still loved him nevertheless. I know it seems a bit silly, but I think I needed to say it.

Tom Perry said...

@Anonymous, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I was uncomfortable about being this open in writing this, but this is who I am. I am tired of trying to please others, or pretend to be someone who I'm not. Accept me for who I am because I don't have the time, or energy to try to get you to like me anymore.

I will remember my friend fondly. Some of the resentment is slowly fading away. There just isn't any good way to cope with suicide.

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