Suicide and me.
It’s an uncomfortable sentence, isn’t it?
And Professor Green’s BBC3 documentary reflecting on the suicide of his Father seven years ago is undoubtedly an uncomfortable watch. Suicide has woven its way through his family, as it does in thousands of other families across the country, leaving a distinctive wreckage of grief and pain.
I am undoubtedly guilty of forgetting about the aftermath of a suicide. My suicide and me sentence ends, thankfully, in a semi-colon. It’s a pause; not an ending. But for the families of the 6000 people who die by suicide every year, the full stop creates what psychologists call ‘complicated grief’ and countless unanswered questions. My favourite writer on these issues Kay Redfield Jamison says this:
“Each way to suicide is its own: intensely private, unknowable, and terrible. Suicide will have seemed to its perpetrator the last and best of bad possibilities, and any attempt by the living to chart this final terrain of a life can be only a sketch, maddeningly incomplete.”
Suicide is very rarely a logical decision, it’s a decision based on the private, unknowable and terrible pain that someone who takes their own life experiences. Many people, and one of those featured on Professor Green’s documentary last night conclude that they are making life better for a loved one.
So how can we care for those coming to terms with their loved one’s decision to end their own life?
First and foremost it must be done without judgment. People coming to terms with the suicide of a loved one do not need to be reminded of the morality of the act; whatever our own personal views of salvation and forgiveness in the wake of a suicide must be set aside.
Secondly, is the hallmark of all responses to mental health issues, compassion. An acceptance of the various questions, the fear, the anger and the grief needs to be presented. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Thirdly, grief needs a community. Responding to suicide cannot be done in isolation; it requires many hearts to absorb the tears of the grieving.
Fourthly and finally, suicide demands lament both individually and corporately for even those only nominally connected to the situation need to have space to present their questions and their pain before the King.
Suicide and me are uneasy bedfellows. I’ve been seduced by it and now I fight it. I urge those also drawn to the darkness to speak out; to speak of suicide – the fear and the desire and to seek help.
If you need to talk to someone, the samaritans are available 24/7, 365 days.