He told me that his cousin - one of my dearest friends - had asked him to call me to relay the news that her brother had committed suicide. I was shocked and sad; this was a man who was handsome, successful, and well-liked. Always smiling. I knew what it took George to pick up the phone and call a woman he had loved 20 years ago.
My friend's brother's suicide has left a path of devastation: a sister who is struggling with depression and survivor's guilt, a mother who was in the house when it happened, and a business that must be run. Everyone who knew him can't find the words or answers to explain what happened that day. When my uncle committed suicide 30 years ago, it left a deep impression on me and my family; I have seen the comet trail of sadness it leaves in its wake.
One of the most difficult times of the year for those suffering from depression is during and immediately following the holidays.
Do you know anyone who might be suffering?
Take a look at the signs at the end of this post. In the meantime, read this story - and lessons learned - from a reader who came to me and asked me to share for her.
A year ago, I received a phone call that chilled me to the bone. My younger cousin - my closest cousin and my sister’s best friend - was in the hospital on life support after her body started to shut down.
It was intentional. This is hard to write, but it was her choice no matter how much people want to pretend (which they certainly do in my family). You don’t drink antifreeze accidentally or for fun, you drink it because you are desperate and don’t want to live. This wasn’t the first time she attempted suicide, but it was her only successful attempt.
I miss her to this day. She was my little sister's best friend, and I was as close to her as I could be and she and my sister and I stayed in touch well after I was just the ‘older cousin who was like a babysitter’ at family gatherings. I then became the older cousin who cheered her successes in life and played a silly online game with her and my sister for many years that was more for kids than an adult like me. I did it because I wanted to stay close, and we did. I wrote a Christmas card to her this year and then realized I could not send it; it stung like needles in my skin and I still wonder if she is at peace.
She was just 25.
I write because many years ago, that could have been me. I was stuck in a cycle of abuse from a boyfriend who had mental issues that finally ended with me going to court and obtaining a much-needed restraining order. That didn’t stop the stalking or the fear, but I was old enough to leave my home state and I rarely look back at how I wish my life had been like a holiday card or movie. It was not, and I’m happy to say my own little family is my sanctuary that I fight hard to make safe.
My cousin’s death reminds me that those who need help or are feeling depressed or suicidal need to reach out and get help. It isn’t just for the person who is dealing with their pain, it is also for those who love them and want them to get support. Every day I think of my sister and hope she is doing okay, even though I know she is not. She has closed herself off. I feel great anger toward aunts who tell my sister she could have done something to stop my cousin, who had been in rehab and therapy after another failed attempt from a car accident and was in a wheelchair. If they only realized how much that hurts my sister and me maybe they would stop. To be honest, I doubt they would. They want to blame someone and picking on my little sister is a coward’s way out.
What they won’t admit is that we all knew it was coming and when someone is hell-bent on destruction and suicide, it is an uphill battle to get them to listen. We talk a lot about mental health in our country, but there isn’t an easy answer or solution or a lot of help when someone is not interested.
Suicide leaves more questions than answers, and I’m afraid I don’t have much in the way of response. I did gather some solutions to try if you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts and I hope you do reach out. My cousin is now a statistic; it does not have to be that way if we are open and honest and take action, as painful as it can be.
Let’s start this New Year off right. Seek help. BE help. Don't let someone you love (including yourself) leave this world this way.
Signs of Suicide Risk
• Changes in mood and withdrawal from social contact
• Talking of "ending it all"
• Neglecting their appearance
• Having difficulty concentrating
• Engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors
• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
Suicide Prevention Help Center
The United States has a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For a helpline outside the U.S., visit Befrienders Worldwide. Helpguide.org has a wonderful website with lots of great information and a self-guided tool kit for those who are suffering.
This is an Australian website but has a lot of great information for those who are dealing with someone who is suicidal. Check out Lifeline’s website that offers an action plan covering issues such as signs that somebody may be at risk for suicide. It explains how to keep the person safe and how to get support.