My husband took his life on February 6, 2000. Days go by now when I don’t think about it. Eighteen years ago, I could not have imagined writing these words: that I don’t think of Wayne’s death every day and do not inwardly see—intrusively, continually—the image of him at death. I was so overwhelmed with grief back then, I didn’t want to live. I remember once contemplating the fatal “accidents” I might manage to bring about for myself. Could I be in a terrible wreck? Could I go late at night to a street corner in a dangerous inner city and wait? (No, I concluded, after some minutes of serious thought. With my luck I’d be beaten and left for dead, but I would survive.) This was my anguish, that I had to live through the horror of this death, that I had no choice. And these feelings did not lessen in a matter of months, as many people seemed to expect.
Eventually I struggled to fit in, laughing when I should laugh, smiling when I should smile. I became so adept at putting on a false front, one of my friends remarked after two years that I was “almost back to normal.” Trust me; after two years I was not the okay person she imagined. I felt locked in an invisible prison, carrying out a sentence for a crime I did not commit. I found a therapist who gave up trying to do therapy with me. He let me come to his office after his other appointments and simply cry, which I sometimes did for hours at the time. He sat in front of me and wiped my tears away with tissues, tossing them like a basketball player into the wastebasket when they became soggy. This was happening after two years, and none of my friends knew it. This was “almost back to normal.”
When Wayne died, I tried to find reading materials on suicide, hoping friends and family could understand the huge battle I was fighting just to live. But there wasn’t anything, really, that would help a friend 'get it.' Some friends vanished; a few made jokes about suicide, perhaps to relieve their own awkwardness, or asked questions that left me reeling. Some even participated in the gossip that swirled around me like bats in a cave. But others were there, present and quiet, doing what they could, and these are the friends to whom I owe my life—the ones who did not leave or make a terrible circumstance even worse. This page (this website) is about how you can be that kind of friend.
Send your ideas and stories, links for the resource page, suggestions and questions. You can reach me at email@example.com or use the form below.
If you need help quickly—
Suicide is complicated. A therapist once told me that if the death of a loved one shatters life into a hundred pieces, suicide shatters it into a thousand. I felt immediately the truth of her words, because I was shattered. These slides can only go so far in helping you to approach your friend with meaningful sensitivity. They’ll get you on the right track, but read the longer blogs and use the resource page to learn more. I'll be adding more to the page, so check back.