The other day I found myself flicking through old photo albums, when her catchy smile glistened back at me through the shiny pages. Those beautiful blue eyes reflecting into mine. 18 years on and I still can’t believe she’s gone.
A devoted mother, with her ups and downs like the rest of us, but an internal struggle that no one quite understood. Or perhaps they did, perhaps they could empathise, but were lost in what to say or do. That’s part of the heartache of being bereaved by suicide. You’ll never quite know.
September the 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and whilst there are lots of eye catching, sometimes helpful nudges to remind the nation to look out for others, talk, be kind and supportive, it might feel quite sore for those whose loved ones are no longer with them. For reasons they’ll never know.
We won’t always be able to spot the signs. Sometimes they’ll be more obvious and other times more subtle. What we can do is try and engage in open conversation, curiously, giving a person space, if they wish to share.
We can try becoming a little more comfortable with being uncomfortable, if someone does bring up suicidal thoughts and feelings, directly or indirectly.
After all, so many of us have had these thoughts. Intrusively or fleetingly.
Yet it can feel easier to shy away from emotionally charged important words such as ‘suicide, dying and death’, making them more stigmatised and sometimes for those living with them, more isolated.
So, in being open to speak about this with a person who may want, or need to, we are helping break down stigma, and showing the person that they can voice what could potentially be very frightening and upsetting, perhaps offering some light relief to a very dark and often lonely space they may be in.
If you are supporting someone with these thoughts, do ensure you also have a chance to debrief and get support for yourself, too, as it can be quite emotionally challenging to experience. There are helplines and services that are available 24/7.
A lot of us would have heard of them but perhaps we don’t think they’re for us. They are. They’re here for anyone who needs that listening ear, or person on the other side to share with. Whatever we’re facing internally. The Samaritans116 123 and Shout (text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258) are just 2 of these. Storing these numbers on your phone could just be the contacts you, or someone you meet, needs.
I think the biggest message from and for me to remember, as someone who has experienced debilitating depression, most likely accelerated by being bereaved by a suicide, is that these incredibly difficult, often horribly terrifying thoughts and circumstances, well, they are temporary. Thoughts come and go.
Death, without any religious or spiritual connotation, is seen as final. What some suicidal people have shared is often they don’t want to die, they just want the pain to end, to stop.
There are people out there who genuinely care, who want to support, and if as a society we can adopt a more compassionate approach and caring response, then perhaps we can offer comfort to those who are experiencing these challenging thoughts, and maybe even a glimmer of light in their dark.
Thoughts and feelings pass in waves, but if there’s one thing that I don’t want to pass, It would be unwavering care, support without judgement and openness from others. Let’s not further isolate those experiencing suicidal thoughts, and let’s extend our hearts to those who have lost someone in this way. What I would do to re-enact those photos in my present, with my person, that took their life, all those years ago.
If you are struggling and need support, don’t suffer in silence. You can contact:
Samaritans- 116 123
Papyrus UK- for under 35’s
CALM- 0800 585858 (5pm-midnight)