Coping With Suicide
The following morning there was no
phone call. As Jeff sometimes slept in I did not become overly concerned
until about 1 p.m. Then I contacted the girl he lived with and asked
for him. "Jeff's not here", was her response, "he has gone to play
pool with Don, but he is picking up my daughter from school and will be
here by 3 at the latest. I'll have him call you."
Instantly the hairs on the back of
my neck were on alert, but not wanting to alarm her, I thanked her and
hung up. Jeff had not played pool with Don for months…in fact he
had not been anywhere in months.
Within ten minutes I called her back
and asked her to check with Don, and let her know how concerned I was.
Within minutes she called me back. Jeff was not with Don…in fact
it had been weeks since Don had heard from him. "Call the police"
I urged her. "I can't do that, Jeff is driving without a license
and will be furious if he is stopped by the police. He has never
failed to pick up my daughter when he has promised…let's wait until 3."
When the phone rang shortly before
3 I knew, deep in my gut that it would not be good news. Her daughter
had phoned, and Jeff had not shown up. Still she did not want to
call the police, but had no way to look for him, so I picked her up.
"Go to the river she said" referring to the spot where he had jumped in
before. Instead, recalling the clues Jeff had given me I unerringly
drove to the city dock. It was a horrible snowing windy day and as
I pulled to the end of the dock, I saw the van…drivers door open and engine
running. I breathed a silent sigh of relief…we were in time.
As soon as the car stopped we were
out, calling for him. Then I noticed one set of footprints in the
snow going to the edge of the dock. That was enough for me.
I ran to a nearby dive shop and asked the man to call the police.
We were suddenly surrounded by emergency vehicles of every kind, and curiosity
seekers began to gather. As we saw two divers jump into the water,
and an ambulance back up to the edge of the dock, we were placed in a police
cruiser and moved to where we could not see the events taking place.
Then the ambulance left, siren screaming. We clung together
in the car, hoping that the siren meant he was alive.
It was February 28, 1994. Jeff
was dead at the age of 36.
I was numb. The next days I
lived in a cocoon of silent misery, his funeral a vague and blurry memory.
I didn't cry. I couldn't. I was frozen solid, all my emotions
encased in a block of solid ice. People rallied around me knowing
the closeness of our relationship, but I was barely aware of their presence.
The nightmares started…every night
I woke in a fever of tortured pain. And during the day I minutely
examined every thing I could remember about our relationship. When
the block of ice melted it left behind a searing pain and a guilt that
I would bury within me and live with for many years. What more could
I have done? Did he think I was giving him "permission" and my blessing
the night before he died? I questioned myself constantly, certain
that I was in some way responsible.
For two and a half years I held it
all inside of me, unable to release it, unable to trust another to see
so deeply into my soul. With time I recovered on the surface, took
up my regular duties and went on. Time truly is a wonderful healer.
The poison deep inside of me remained…I would take it out and examine it…and
promptly bury it again. The nightmares receded in time, though even
yet they return to haunt my sleep occasionally.
I met a bipolar online in 1998 who
was to have great influence in allowing me to release and express my grief.
Without ever pushing me he let me know he was interested in hearing my
story and that he cared. I don't think I would ever have been able
to do it in a one-to-one "in person" conversation, but gradually I opened
up to him.
As I came to know him better and
trust him, deeply buried thoughts came to the surface…my own suicide attempt
and my feelings about it, the years of agony I had gone through and my
present feelings were all discussed. He knew, and so did I that there
was still a huge blockage to overcome, and until it was out in the open
I would never heal. I tried, several times to tell him, and couldn't
do it. Finally, one day he suggested that I write about this obstacle,
that there would be catharsis and healing in just getting it out, and no
longer internalizing it.
This suggestion made a lot of sense
to me. Journalizing and getting things on paper had stood me in good
stead had helped me before. And I wrote…a brief, unemotional one
page summary of what was a very large and very special part of my life.
When I finished, I mailed a copy to him.
Our online meetings continued and
over time he was able to pull out the emotions…the anger, the rage, the
sadness, and the grief. I ranted, raged, and at times spewed venom
at him. And I cried…rivers of tears…and the tears cleansed me.
I gradually accepted his words that I did not have the power to make another
persons choices, that I had done the best I could, and that no one could
ask for or expect more. Through our sharing we became very close
friends, and there will always be a special spot in my heart for him.
I still don't like to talk about
it, or think about it for that matter. It was an experience that
totally devastated me for a long time. Now though, I feel freer to
talk with people going trough the same thing, offering loving support from
one who has been there and understands.
I have become a better person for
having gone through it, survived it, and learned from it. When in
my darkest moments my own thoughts turn again to suicide, I no longer look
at it from a purely selfish view, "I can not stand the pain! I need
to end it now"!. I also think of the everlasting effect it will have
on my loved ones. This thought has stopped me more than once from
Have I coped with suicide?
I think so, at least as well as anyone can cope with the loss of a loved
one. The years I lost between the event and my acceptance of it were
very, very difficult. My wish is that no individual will ever have
to experience the things I went through…but sadly I know it will happen
over and over again.