A few months ago my grandfather committed suicide. He hung himself two weeks after his wife died. He adored her, he cared for her, he spent all his moments with her. They shared a life together, she was his life and when she died she took his life with him. He just needed to stop his heart from beating because he had already lost it.
When I first heard the news I was shocked and angry and all those emotions you feel when something that horrifying happens.
Now, some months later, I have had time to reflect on what he did. I have done my grieving and I am ready to say goodbye to him in a way that respects his choice to take his own life and to honour his memory and the great love he gave my grandmother.
Suicide is difficult for me to talk about because I have attempted suicide three times in my life. How I felt about suicide before my grandpa killed himself is different from the way I feel about it now.
When I tried to kill myself I had suffered through years and years of depression. I had tried all different kinds of medication; I had been hospitalized; I had seen doctors — I had tried everything.
Eventually I ended up physically ill and completely withdrawn from everything in my life. I felt a deep pain. A pain that took my whole body and my mind away from me. I was suffering a terrible slow death and I wanted it to end. I didn’t see through this grey world I was in how my choice would destroy my family and my children. I wasn’t being greedy or childish or stupid. I was trying to free myself. I felt like an animal in a leghold trap chewing off my own leg.
I made plans, I researched, I sent my family off on a holiday and I did it. It didn’t work. I chickened out at the last minute and called for help. But it was tricky — I had taken the right amount and the damage to my body was done. The damage to my reputation was done.
I decided to talk about it. A lot. I’ve talked about it a lot. I still feel shame for doing what I did. But I’ve also accepted that it doesn’t make me a bad or broken person.
It is something that happened to me, it is part of my story and has been a stepping stone in getting me to this better, healthier place.
I understand why people commit suicide. I don’t think it is a horribly greedy thing to do. When I hear about teenagers killing themselves it hurts me — it hurts me a lot because I don’t think they have the depth of knowledge or life inside of them to understand the meaning of death. I think they often have romantic hopes of martyrdom or of being able to still participate in life even after death. Perhaps I had that romantic notion too. Perhaps that is what pulled me back from doing something really stupid.
I miss my grandparents. I miss them every day. But I have forgiven my grandpa and I think his suicide did have a romantic notion. I think he had every right to do what he did and I think it was the right thing to do. A life without the woman he loved would have killed him in a much slower, more painful way.
I think we need to talk about suicide more. To talk about it, to accept it — doing that will make it easier for those who are suffering to talk about it, to ask for help. There is a great organization that I have supported for many years called To Write Love On Her Arms. They have much better and more insightful things to say than I do.
Note from Life As A Human
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, there are many free resources you can contact to find understanding people you can talk to anonymously:
In the US – National Suicide Prevention Hotline
In Canada — Centre for Suicide Prevention
In Australia — Suicide.org
“Blue Flowers” Bruce Foster @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
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