CW: Suicide/Suicide methods
My husband died by suicide.
All loss is painful, all deaths break hearts. Deaths by suicide, however, are more than painful; they are also taboo.
I am nearly five out from that utterly devastating day and in that time I have seen discussion of suicide awareness and prevention go from rare to at least semi-rare. It could certainly be better, but it’s a start.
This budding dialog is 100% necessary and in my humble opinion, should have never been shoved to the back burner like it has been.
Instead, it has taken the self-inflicted deaths of many thousands of people, to even get the discussion going this far.
Recently, people were shaken to the core by the death of Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who was the beloved DJ from Ellen DeGeneres’ show. Not long before that, it was Jason David Frank of Power Rangers fame. Country music legend, Naomi Judd as well. The list goes on.
Of course, there have been many before and there will be others after them. But maybe, with more judgment-free discussion, more can be done to lower these statistics considerably.
My suggestion was met with an immediate rejection from them, almost implying that the topic wasn’t relevant enough.
Yet five short years have passed and I have witnessed so many more enter our support groups. I have seen the news headlines announcing the deaths like those mentioned above. I have seen tearful fans take to social media, offering up condolences and fond memories.
But suicide still isn’t a well-received topic. Then again, Vox is just one magazine.
There are movies, books, TV shows, songs, all kinds of media galore with true and fictitious stories of folks ending their own lives.
So why can’t we talk about it?
People have opinions left and right about those who have ended their own lives, often calling it the “coward’s” way out.
As angry as I have been at my late husband, I refuse to think of him as a coward.
I know that in my heart of hearts, he was simply trying to end his pain. Many of the suicide widow/ers whom I have befriended over the years would say the same thing.
Our partners were sick. Terminally sick, if I’m being honest. Because yes, you absolutely can die from depression and mental illness.
In my early trauma, a memory was uncovered.
Many years ago, I witnessed ambulances and cop cars come screeching down my little dead-end street. They stopped in front of my across-the-street neighbor’s house and went in. Moments later, an officer brought something out and put it in the back of his car. Not long, a stretcher was wheeled out, a full sheet covering someone who was no longer with us.
An elderly neighbor had taken his own life with a gunshot wound to the head. The firearm was what had been placed into the police car.
He was a sweet man who had been slowly losing his eyesight over the years and depression had overtaken him, as it can if left untreated.
My heart ached for his wife and family. My young child who used to enjoy talking to him had so many questions that I didn’t know how to answer.
Everyone spoke in hushed tones when discussing this event as if even uttering the words would spread it like a contagion.
I had no idea then that some 21 years later, I would find myself as the neighbor who was spoken about in whispers from the home in which medics took away someone under a sheet.
Ironically – or not – he had used the same method my neighbor had. I don’t think I had ever even told him that story.
Bret’s suicide rippled throughout our community like a tsunami. Our family and some friendships were ripped apart.
Life as we knew it was forever changed.
Just like it had been for my neighbor’s wife all those years ago.
Their pain had been stopped but now it was scattered like shrapnel over uncountable miles.
And that’s how I know our husbands were hurting beyond measure. These were not diabolical men. They wouldn’t have wanted to spread that kind of suffering around. But the pain got to be so much, that they felt they had no choice.
My husband had some serious mental health issues, but even so, I guarantee he had no idea that his passing would have caused as much devastation as it did. His rational mind would have never allowed that.
He felt there was no other option.
And no, that doesn’t make him a coward.
When can we end the stigma associated with suicide? When will publications that pride themselves on the sharing of trendy topics decide to address this growing problem? How many more people have to die before we can speak maturely and without judgment about this subject?
Mental health is absolutely as important as our physical health. Sadly, many of us live in situations in which we cannot afford health care, let alone mental health care.
Something needs to give, and I don’t know what that will be, but this epidemic will continue taking lives until enough people are affected to help enact such change.
Until then, check on your neighbors. Check on your friends and family. Don’t judge them if they tell you that they feel like they’d be better off gone. And if you feel the same way, please call 988.
And if you know someone who has been left in the aftermath of a close family member or friend’s suicide, please don’t speak about them in whispers.
It will take all of us to bring suicide out of the shadows and into the light of day. And maybe then, we will begin to understand it.
If you are feeling hopeless, please call the number above. Your story isn’t over.