Suicide is tragic, unexpected and shocking. For family and friends who are left behind, the grief is horrendous, in part, because suicide is preventable, but not explainable.
I Don’t Know
We can give an explanation for death when there is a fatal car accident, incurable cancer, or the natural decline in someone’s health due to age. But suicide is not as easy to explain. Those of us who are left are left in a state of unknowing, forever. We are not sure why the one we loved left us and we never will know for sure.
My siblings and I share a common tragedy; the death of our dad, who ended his life at the age of forty-nine. At the time, the oldest sibling was twenty-three while the youngest sibling was ten. None of us had any previous experience with suicide, no guidance counselors to guide us and an emotionally disabled mother. Instead of sorting out our grief together, we kept it to ourselves for years.
Finally, after decades of silence between us, we came together through weekly conference calls dubbed the Macek Maverick calls. These phone calls originated as a way for us to stay connected during the world’s shut down from the Chinese Virus. But surprisingly, these phone calls provided an important platform for us to speak about the topic of our dad’s suicide.
Even though each week a different sibling posed a different question as a topic of conversation the topic of our dad’s death always seeped in. Unintentionally, these phone calls gave each of us the permission we seemed to need to speak about the unspeakable and finally express the inexpressible. Our stored up stories of grief came tumbling out.
Not everyone is as fortunate. Not every who has survived the death of a loved one by suicide has someone to. Though family members may share the same agony, not everyone necessarily wants to speak about their own anguish.
Recently, an acquaintance told me the story of how she left an abusive marriage and raised two sons, alone. One of her sons had much more social and emotional difficulty than the other one. Though she sought help for him, help was expensive and hard to find. Her son ended his own life as a young adult more than twenty years ago. She was told that talking about it could help, but, “Not everyone wants to hear about suicide,” she said shrugging her shoulders.
She’s right. Not everyone wants to hear about suicide. But unless we start talking about it we won’t find anyone who is capable of hearing about it.
From experience, I know what it is like to be silent and I know what it is like to speak up. Silence only adds to our anguish, while speaking up sheds a little light on the subject.
Why bother talking about it? Sharing our stories with an empathetic ear strengthens the common bond between those in the community of hurt.