When I was 16 or so, a friend of mine died. It was all very strange how it went; she had a heart defect, and was on heart medication to help her defect. Then, one day, she calls her boyfriend with a cryptic message. He gets worried, and travels across the town to go see her. By the time he makes it to her house, her mother has found her. They call an ambulance, but she dies before the ambulance crew arrives. It turns out she has taken around 12 of the very potent “take one every 24 hours” heart medication pills, in what appears to have been a suicide.
There was no note. There was no message. There were no warnings or problems that anyone knew of. Only she knew why she did it, but she didn’t tell anybody.
I went to the church service. “God chose to take her back”, the minister said. “He takes the ones he loves the most the soonest”, he pondered. “She’s in heaven now, in a better place”, he mused.
The Obituary was a finely crafted piece of writing which I still have somewhere. It’s been nearly fifteen years, and I don’t think about her all that often anymore, but whenever someone mentions suicide, I’m caught in that memory, of sitting on a hard, cold church bench in February, listening to a priest.
I wasn’t so bothered about the God speak (although she wasn’t religious in the slightest – and nor was I), but what caused me a lot of pause for thought was that nobody mentioned – or even acknowledged – that she had chosen to take her own life. She was an intelligent girl. She made a conscious decision to kill herself, for whatever reason.
And yet, everywhere you looked, it was “She was goo good for this world” (maybe), “God chose to take her back” (nope – she decided to make a Dutch exit), and “Why did she have to die” (because she chose to)
I know suicides are awkward, painful, and taboo, but if someone makes the conscious choice to end their life, who are we – the living – to take that away from them by glossing over it, euphemising the events, and pretending it didn’t happen?
In my opinion, when someone decides to suicide, it is our duty to acknowledge it. Find out why, if possible. Talk to each other. Give each other support. You cannot grieve for someone unless you’ve truly faced what was ailing them. Having someone close to you die of cancer makes you think of diseases and how you can help your remaining loved ones look after themselves better. Having a friend or a family member die from a car accident helps you re-assess your own behaviour on the roads. Why should a suicide be any different?
People; stop turning suicide into such a huge taboo. It happens. It’s devastatingly fast. But you have to acknowledge what happened in order to be able to deal with the tsunami of grief that invariably follows.