Friday, 11 July 2014

In pieces - fragments of answers about suicide

I took a blog-break – had to be done while I was working over in the states for a couple of weeks. However, it feels useful to have let this one percolate for a while. Frankly it would be easy for me to write about bereavement by suicide – it is familiar, close to home and I spend a lot of time talking about it. But I think, like anything we talk about all the time, the impact of it can lessen – its potency diluted. That is a natural thing – no one can sustain the initial level of grief and pain that comes with bereavement of any kind. Of course it still hurts, but the pain takes on a different, more bearable, duller quality. Except, every now and then, it comes back to bite you on the ass with such a force that it takes you by surprise.

I think that there really is no shelf life for bereavement by suicide. Its ripples continue over the years leaving echoes and shadows of unanswered questions. We will never really know why or if anything could have made a difference. Those of us who are left behind are plagued by feelings of guilt and doubt – could I have made a difference? What does it mean if I couldn’t make a difference? What does that say about my relationship with the person who died? And squirmy uncomfortable questions that no one wants to say out loud like – If they felt their life was meaningless, did I mean nothing to them? How could they do this to me? Did they not realise that I loved them? What would have happened if I’d answered the phone that day? The questions just go on and on in a hopeless torture, like a plot twist you cannot quite the believe the author pulled off, and are left gasping for air.

I hear people’s stories of loss. I hear the names and families behind the devastating loss. I hear the pain left behind – it’s often piercing. I hear about the impact the loss of one life can have on so many other lives. I hear about the darkness it can bring. I hear about how this can permeate generations and families. But I also hear the paradoxes, much like my own. If my life had not been touched by suicide, I would likely never have been led down the path of this work. I would not feel the urge to propel myself into trying to make a difference, trying to understand why people take their lives and what could prevent it.

"Time is not something you give back. The very next moment could be the answer to your prayer. To deny that is to deny the most important part of the future."   Mitch Albom, The Time Keeper

I recently experienced that grief return unexpectedly with a force that felt like a punch in the gut. The stabbing sense of loss, unfairness, rage and regret rumbled inside me. I miss my friend. I wish she was still here. I wish I could tell her about my life, my day, my moments. I have to let the grief wash over me like a wave - if I fight it, I will drown. The intensity will fade and diminish, like the tide.

Bereavement sucks. But bereavement by suicide contains a lasting flavour that can linger for a lifetime.

Dr Murphy - signing off


  1. I am fortunate to never have experienced the loss of someone dear by suicide, but I can imagine. Grief by other means has a heavy enough weight. Grief does suck, no doubt about it, but I wonder if it isn't a price we have to accept for having loved someone. Imagine how awful and empty it would feel if you lost someone and the missing and questions weren't given meaning by grief.
    Dunno. I've just pondered what the point of grief is when it feels so horrible, it has to be there for a reason.

    1. My guess of the point of grief is our struggle to come to terms with the fact that everything ends, including us and the ones we love. Having an answer to why someone died is a comfort, but it is really no more of an answer. The fact that the timing of death often doesn't make sense and doesn't seem fair strikes at the heart of our feeling safe in the world. But yes, if we didn't love - it wouldn't hurt.