The unspeakable has happened again.
Our hearts are broken anew.
Another brilliant, gifted, valiant soul has lost his battle with depression.
The unimaginable has happened again.
Unimaginable. That is the word my daughter used to describe suicide.
When I first heard of the death by suicide of Robin Williams, after the initial sudden wave of shock and sadness that hit me had passed, concern for those who suffer from depression, bi-polar disease, addiction, suicide ideation, or other forms of mental illness filled my mind with an all too familiar fear for their safety and well-being. My mind began asking questions. How will those who suffer deeply and struggle daily with these battles, these demons, respond to the news? Will the insidious face of suicide ideation stalk the minds of those who struggle with an illness that can become so debilitating? Will they know where to get help? Will they get help? Will suicide somehow become glorified? Will the news media handle this news and all that might accompany it responsibly?
Within five minutes of hearing the news of the death of Robin Williams, my phone rang. Having just driven into the driveway after a day spent on the road returning from a few days spent with my mother, and having just greeted my husband with a hug and a kiss, I took my phone from my purse and saw that the call was from my former husband, the father of my children. With my head still full of those questions I had just asked myself, and with a heart full of concern for others, the name on my phone screen triggered a deep reaction. I think fear entered my mind when I saw his name because somehow I knew the call was linked to the news that we all were just hearing. My mouth was suddenly dry when I said hello. I struggled to remain calm as I awaited to hear the purpose for the call. Fear was raging through my emotions. Was something wrong?
Today, I have struggled over whether or not I should write this post. I've questioned adding my voice to all the other voices that have been heard since yesterday's news of William's death became public. I decided to write this post about suicide because I believe that part of my own healing involves me adding my voice to the throngs of others whom have lost a loved one to suicide. I write this to bring suicide out of the darkness and into the light. When we don't speak of what has been the unspeakable, those who struggle with depression and mental illness feel more alone. The stigma of suicide becomes stronger than the message that there is hope and there is help for those who struggle.
On the evening before the day that marked what would have been the forty-eighth wedding anniversary for my former husband and myself, we spoke in voices to each other that expressed support and concern over our children. News such as the news that has been all over the media traumatizes survivors of suicide. My former husband, my children, other family members, and friends are all survivors of suicide. Those who suffer the death of loved one by suicide are called survivors. We also are quite familiar with the effects of PTSD that can be triggered very easily. As my one daughter said to me today, "We have to give Mom and Dad a pass on this. They have suffered deeply. They will never get over Julie's death. They will always fear for the rest of us. We have to give them a pass."
I've read many things today about a subject that is just way too close to home for me. Friends have reached out to me today expressing thoughts of concern and support. I spoke with a trusted helper today who helped me understand why I seek to deal with those things which cannot be understood.
I will never fully understand why my daughter took her life. I will never fully understand the pain and suffering that she endured in her life. I will grieve her death until the day I die. I will also celebrate the life and memory of the beautiful, talented, intelligent, funny, articulate, hardworking daughter that graced my life. I will continue to give thanks for remaining four children whose lives enrich my life and bring me much joy and pride.
I was woefully unknowledgeable about mental illness when Julie was alive. I am cognizant that awareness about mental health issues is where I must now focus my attention. We all need to recognize warning signs of suicide. We need to arm ourselves with effective interventions and treatments. I carry a card with the warning signs of suicide in my wallet. I have a list of them next to my computer. I refer to the list of indicators of serious depression when I think I recognize it in others. I ask hard questions when I think they need to be asked. I try to keep my head out of the sand and my eyes open. I try to keep my heart in tune so I recognize those who need a helping hand. I will not let the stigma that once surrounded suicide silence me.
The topic of suicide has been unspeakable for too long.
The unimaginable pain that a suicide brings to those left behind is just that: unimaginable.
Please join me in doing what you can to prevent suicide by arming yourself with information. Visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to print out this information.
If you are in crisis, or know someone who is, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)