The Faces of Suicide

Have you ever known anyone who committed suicide? Were you close to them? Were they your best friend, your lover, your spouse? How did they end their life? Were there any clues beforehand?

For those of us whose lives have been affected by suicide, our lives will never be the same. That moment when we either found them dead, or when we were informed of their death, is etched indelibly in our minds and hearts. For those who found someone who had committed suicide, that scene is seared into their memory, and may come back to haunt them over and over again.

This is not about the “Why?” of suicide, because the whole story is known only to God, and I believe that He still shakes His head when someone ends their life this way. It is about those of us who have been left behind, the survivors. Why do we sometimes include graphic descriptions of how our friend or loved-one ended their life? Because it matters. Suicide isn’t clinical. Suicide isn’t pretty. It is ugly. It is horrible. It is horrific, and those who found that scene will never be the same. We will never be the same.

Hanging…dead…
We all knew him, or knew of him. He was a well-know and popular comedian and actor, but he had battled depression for much of his adult life. Word of his suicide stunned us, as word of the death of Robin Williams spread like wild-fire throughout the media. We all wondered how someone so popular, so successful, could ever take his own life, but he did. He had it all, but all he had didn’t make his life worth living.

If there has been any good to come of Robin Williams’ death, it has been to put a very public face on suicide, and to get us thinking and talking about this very important problem.

Hanging…dead…
She was the wife of a pastor, but something went terribly wrong. Her husband came home from work to find her hanging in their garage, dead. Why? Were the stresses of being a pastor’s wife too much for her to handle? What caused her to snap? He was out of the ministry for several years because of it.

I didn’t know her, and I have only met him once. He appeared to be a loving, caring man when I met him. By the time I met him, he had remarried and was back in the ministry.

Suffocated…dead…
Searchers found him about half a mile up the trail from the parking lot and trail-head. He was buck-naked and had a plastic bag over his head. His clothes were neatly-folded and laying on his backpack a few feet away. His car was in the parking lot, abandoned. He had left a trail of clues, including a suicide note, which meant that it wasn’t a “spur-of-the-moment” thing. He was in his mid-twenties…

Being in search and rescue has its rewards, but that wasn’t one of them. I was in that parking lot coordinating communications during the entire operation.

Good cop…rough times…
In the early morning hours of December 2008 my friend John sat beneath the peaceful canopy of a redwood grove. He removed his off duty Glock handgun, leveled it against his temple and pulled the trigger. In an instant everything would change.

Two beautiful young daughters would never again experience their father’s love. His parents would face the insurmountable pain of losing a child. Urgent calls would reach shocked siblings, friends and coworkers. John’s girlfriend, a welcome light after his difficult divorce, would become consumed by grief.

For me the first news of trouble was a predawn phone call from a trusted friend. The ringing of the phone roused me awake. Then my friend’s voice, in cryptic tones, said, “John is missing.” As a police chief I’d grown accustomed to late night and early morning calls. They were usually bad news.

Friends and authorities began searching for John. Later that morning, troubling news came that he never showed up for work. And then I got the fateful call from the county Sheriff. “He’s dead. A hiker found him in the woods. Self inflicted gun shot wound. I’m sorry. You guys were buddies, weren’t you?” I remember holding the phone receiver in disbelief. No one close to me had ever committed suicide. “Yeah, we were buddies,” I told the Sheriff.

John and I began our police careers together. We used to be roommates. We went through training together. Bought motorcycles together. Got married, had kids. Back then we were young, ambitious and the world was our oyster.

John was strong, intelligent and proud. A rock to many. Someone you could count on and turn to for advice. He was the last person I ever thought would take his life. But despair can strike down the strongest among us. (Exerpted from The Nightmare of Suicide- Six Things You Need to Know by John Patrick Weiss) http://www.johnpatrickweiss.com/the-nightmare-of-suicide-six-things-you-need-to-know

My wife, my lover, my best friend…
We had been married for 19 1/2 years, and yes, we had had our share of hard-times, but we had survived all of them until… She was a wonderful wife and mother. Only God knows what caused her to commit that final act of desperation, to take her own life in a horrific manner. All I know is that it wasn’t a “spur-of-the-moment” act. It was planned, and for how long, only God knows. She had asked me where the weapon was kept a few weeks before. It was for protection and self-defense, but… She committed suicide the day after our oldest daughter got her driver’s license. She was forty-five…

A few months before her death, she had told me that another woman would be putting her feet under our dining-room table. All I could think of was divorce, and we had never talked about getting divorced. I disposed of that table almost immediately after her death.

Is there a common thread?
They all died too young! Even though they made their “escape” before things got worse, they weren’t around for things to get better. Even though I can attest to the fact that sometimes things get worse, WAY WORSE, before they get better, the sun WILL come out another day, and eventually things will start looking up.

I believe that suicide is a final act of desperation, what the person believes is their only way out of whatever situation or emotional trauma they are in. We had marital and family problems, and my wife believed that it was her “fault” that our marriage and family were falling apart. She also had some medical problems which she refused to get taken care of. I believe that she honestly thought that her death would make things “better” for the rest of us, but her death only made matters worse.

I have been there, at least a couple of times, when things were so desperate, when I was so down, that I thought that I, and everyone around me, would be better off with me out of the way. The first time was just a few months before my wife committed suicide. I was under immense pressure from all sides, and if I had taken my own life that night, my wife would probably still be alive, but my gut-feeling was that I could “pull it out“. It would be many months before I saw the first rays of sunshine, but I still had many months of hell to go through before things started looking up. I did “pull it out“, but at what cost? My own children still have nothing to do with me.

There was a period of time in 2013 when I felt like I was totally-disconnected from anyone who might have actually cared about me. It was after my wife left me, again, after coming home for only two weeks. I felt like an abandoned-dog, a stray, a lost-soul. I was sick as a dog, and on the verge of having to reschedule a surgical procedure, because everyone I knew was “too busy” to be there for me. Didn’t I “matter” to anyone? I asked God “why?“, “Why?“, “WHY?” for a solid hour, but the silence was deafening. If I didn’t matter to God, and if I didn’t matter to anyone else, what was I doing here? Why was I even here? Would anyone even notice if I simply disappeared? Maybe I was just too stubborn, too bull-headed to give up, and I didn’t.

Reason, sanity and purpose started emerging, but my purpose for being here wasn’t for myself. Rather, it was for someone else who was alone, “stranded“, and in need of way more care and compassion than I could ever imagine. She needed “someone“, and that “someone” became me. Her other friends certainly haven’t “stepped up to the plate“, because they are all “too busy“. That is a story for another day, and I know one of the local hospitals far better than I would really like to, because she spent about a month during 2014 in that hospital. I was there to spend time with her every day she was in the hospital, and I have been able to fill in details of things that happened while she was too sedated to remember. Even though I have spent hundreds of hours caring for her, at all hours of the day and night, I couldn’t have left her to fend for herself, because I know what it is like to be alone. She also battles depression…

Who is next?
No one knows who is next, but there will be a “next“. Another family will have their hearts broken by suicide. Another lover will lose his or her beloved to suicide. While it would be nice if a person started “telegraphing” their intention to commit suicide months in advance, that rarely if ever happens. Most will be “ordinary” people who are going through extraordinarily hard-times, but very few will ever ask for help, because they believe, rightly or wrongly, that no one cares.

Some will be Veterans who have seen the horrors of war, maybe are badly-mangled themselves, and whose country has abandoned them, because they are “disposable“. He may even be homeless, having even been abandoned by his own family. There is no such thing as a “disposable” person. A country that is unwilling to commit all the necessary resources to care for its veterans has no business sending them to war.

HELP!!!
Yes, you CAN help them, even if they never ask for help. I believe that, at their core, people who commit suicide are feeling alone and abandoned, maybe even betrayed. Their world either is, or already has come crashing down around them. What difference could a caring-friend make? It could be HUGE! Caring about them and what they are going through may be life-changing, for the better. Help them make their life worth living. If you are “too busy” to care, you are TOO BUSY! What is a life worth?

God bless!
Steve

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3 thoughts on “The Faces of Suicide

  1. People who have committed suicide do believe that their final act will bring about some happy change for the survivors. They can also see it as a last resort cure to whatever is ailing them and they have loss hope for a better tomorrow. I have dealt with people who attempted suicide and it was a struggle for them to see the other side.

    Most people do not recognize the signs of someone is despair. At times, when someone has made their peace with death, then they seem happier and better to their friends and family. It is a very difficult thing to deal. The shock and confusion can be overwhelming even to the point of angry for the survivors.

    Unfortunately, with the constant news coverage of people committing suicide or murder-suicide, it almost seem like the norm to escape their problems by inciting violence against one’s self.

    Like

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