September is suicide prevention awareness month. It’s not the easiest thing to be aware of…but we have to change that. We really do.
I’ve known two people that have killed themselves.
One was the 19 year old son of a friend. He was sweet, socially awkward (possibly with Asperger’s) and bullied because of it. I watched my friend and her husband try to find something to hold onto as their lives melted through their outstretched fingers. I did my best to stay in touch; but my friend (his step-mom) was in so much pain I think it was just too hard for her to stay connected with this place. Last I heard they moved out of state.
The other was a dear friend. We attended the same church and became friends at a small group. She had miraculously survived a serious car accident and lived with chronic pain. Her husband lost a bunch of weight and decided he needed to explore the new attention he was getting and divorced her. She had to find a way to support herself emotionally and financially. She joined a single ladies’ Bible study I led as she didn’t feel accepted in the married ladies’ study of which she had been a part for years. I helped her get a job in the company where I worked. Every now and then when I had to go into the office she’d come running to find me (or I’d seek her out) and I’d get one of her hugs and we’d catch up as quick as we could.
You can imagine my surprise when one day I got an interoffice email saying that counseling was available for everyone who knew her and the memorial service would be at this date and time. I emailed my manager asking her through my denial if this email was about my friend. She quickly apologized for not realizing no one had told me before the email had gone out. No one seemed to know what had happened. It wasn’t until the service that we learned that they think the pain just got to her, or the pain medication had befuddled her, and she had taken her own life. I wanted to jump up screaming in the middle of the service. I couldn’t understand. This wasn’t the gal I knew who managed to smile through her pain and move forward through such difficulties and who had happily remarried a short time before her death. I managed to control myself until we all stood to leave the service, and I made a break for my car. I can’t remember how long I drove around, or where I went. I probably shouldn’t have been driving.
It’s been a couple years now. I was thinking about her just two days ago and realized, to my extreme horror, that I couldn’t remember her name. I know when you lose a loved one your memory fades. You forget their face. You forget their voice. But I remembered those as vividly as possible. I could not for the life of me remember her name. I tried for two days and finally had to ask my boss to help me remember. She did. She told me it was the pain that blocked it from my memory. She told me she’d been thinking about her lately too. I hate my inability to remember names.
I don’t know if you’ve lost someone to suicide; I know some of you have. Can we agree in this day and age of selfies and “my opinion is the only one that matters” and unfettered narcissism that we need to be all the more careful to be kind? We need to put down our electronic devices to connect with the people around us at the dinner table. We need to be a voice of kindness to that befuddled cashier. We need to be gracious when we drive. We need to look at the people in our lives and make sure they are ok. Yes, there’s a limit to what we can do—we can’t know everything going on in someone’s head. Ultimately we can’t stop someone if they have decided that’s what they want; but we can be more determined to love people well. How hard is it to send a text that says, “I’m thinking about you today. I miss you.”? Or call someone and tell them you don’t need anything from them, you just want to see how they are doing? Leave a note of encouragement for someone who needs it. Take a lonely person out for coffee or lunch or a movie. Tell the people in your life that you love them and that they matter to you. Please? Just do it.