September the 15th marks World Suicide Prevention Day. Each member of our team has been touched by suicide. When one of our team members asked whether they could write a post with letters to their loved ones who had taken their lives, we said yes.
Read them or don’t read them, it’s ok. All we want you to know is that you are loved and that you are not, and never have been, a burden. There are people who are willing to support you because you deserve support. Talking isn’t easy, and there is no need to feel that this is the only way to express what you are going through. Write, draw, sign, allow yourself to express how you feel. You are not alone.
When I first talked about writing this post, I didn’t realise the toll it would take on myself and those around me. As a society we’re so used to not talking about mental health, self harm and suicide and the impact of all of those things that there are few ways to start the conversation. It makes us feel vulnerable and powerless, we have to revisit what, ultimately feels like a an irredeemable failing. And it can tear people apart. But without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we can’t revisit the moments that we shared with those who are gone, we can’t speak to the effect of losing them.
Most people have been touched by suicide, let’s talk about it.
Letter 1: 10 years on from suicide
I felt sick when I heard that you had died. I was only a child but I will always remember thinking that you must have been in so much pain to have felt that suicide was your only choice.
I still think about you everyday, in some moments I stop and grieve. As time passed by I learned more about your suicide and the painstaking efforts you went to, to be as considerate as you could be to everyone involved. I learnt early that the notion that suicide is selfish can’t be any further from the truth.
I’m sorry that you are gone and I’m far more sorry that you were in so much pain. I tried, and continue to try, to do everything I can to honour you, but it feels that it will never be enough. It can never bring you back.
I love you.
Letter 2: 12 months on
I hadn’t slept well, you had been in so much pain for so long that night times weren’t easy; Would you be gone in the morning? Would it give you more peace? Were we wrong for wanting you to have the opportunity to live the life you had imagined?
Being so close and seeing the multitude of ways in which you have been failed kept me precariously balanced on a tipping point, with my willing for something extraordinarily positive to happen. It didn’t and there are no words to express how sorry I am.
When I woke up there was a message left on my phone; it was your sister. Her voice was distant and somehow detached. I knew that this meant that bad news was near but in my heart all I hoped for was that you were safe and ready to let us in.
Ring-ring, she picked up, her voice was breaking and all she could muster was “she’s gone, she’s gone”. In these moments the brain goes into one of 2 responses: grief or shock (often mistaken as calm). My brain chose shock, “I’m so sorry, I will miss her”. My brain couldn’t understand why my voice wasn’t responding in the panicked-bargaining manner that was flooding my thoughts. Maybe if? But How? But Why? Were you alone? Are you ok now? Why didn’t we guess? Why didn’t we know? What else could we have done that you would have allowed?
And all of a sudden, the panic stopped. I went into “do” mode. I had family members, friends and professionals to contact. It turned out that your sister also snapped into “do” mode at the same time, we agreed on who would call whom and we said goodbye.
12 months on and I still have to stop myself from buying you little things that I know would make you chuckle. Still have the urge to text you to ask you how you are and whether you want to watch some dvds, drink tea and chat in the way that only we did.
All of our sayings, jokes and memories have been relegated in the past. A place that only we know that can never be jointly accessed again. Sometimes I try not to think about it. Time has stopped in many respects.
Losing you was so incredibly hard. There is nothing that will bring you back and that’s why some days, I am numb. Because forcing myself to acknowledge that you are gone is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Part of me isn’t ready to do so, and the most vocal part of me is logic. Logic says, “You are gone and it can be no other way”.
I miss you so much.
To you both
I miss you both and I always will; I wish that I could go back and somehow manage to convince you that things will get better, and that you are wonderful. At the same time, I want you to know that I am not angry at you or that I disrespect the choices that you made. I only wish that things could have been different.
Part of me likes to wonder what you would both be up to now, if you were still alive. I imagine that you both followed your dreams of sculpture and farming. Working in the morning sun, full of hope and purpose…and with that my heart breaks.
People often say that as time passes dealing with loss gets easier, but my experience has taught me that in the case of suicide, it’s not true. In time the quiet logic that you aren’t here anymore gets a little louder, and the screaming grief gets a little quieter. The co-existence won’t stop. You are worth so much more than you knew, I wish we could have shown you that.
The co-existence of grief and logic speaks to the power of love, vulnerability and how much you meant to us, the people that love you, of which there are many. You are not forgotten.