Life After Suicide

Hello, hello!

Whoa there, another post about depression / suicide / dealing with these taboo topics…yup, I’m afraid so! I don’t know if any of you watched it but there was a brilliant programme on the BBC last week, called Life After Suicide and it really got me thinking so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. (Incidentally, I caught the show on iPlayer and it’s there for another 22 days.)

The programme took us on a journey through the after effects of bereavement by suicide, through the eyes of Angela Samata whose own husband took his life 11 years ago. She talks about her own experience and also meets others who’ve been affected by loved ones taking their own lives.

It was interesting to me for obvious reasons and one such reason was talking about the stigma that is STILL attached to suicide. When my mum died, my grandmother, (dad’s mum) told me to lie about what had happened. Clearly she was ashamed of the situation but luckily my dad wasn’t and enforced an “honesty is the best policy” approach. I could blame it on the fact that past generations had a very stiff upper lip, but I know that many people in later generations also feel this way about suicide.

Outside of these obvious things though, the programme stimulated a lot of thoughts that had just never occurred to me. If you watch it, you’ll find one of the people Samata speaks to vocalising her anger at the fact that her husband has left her with all of the things he couldn’t deal with. Not only that, but she now also has to deal with his death and all of it on her own while continuing family life for her children. Well that just plain old never occurred to me; I never stopped to consider that my dad had to deal with so much more than I did, because there’s a whole heap of stuff that happened that he shielded me from. I never went to the open inquest; he did. I never identified the body; he did. And I most certainly didn’t have to arrange the funeral, but guess what? He did. 

Somehow, the amazing man that he is, he managed to do all of that with virtually no support from family or friends. He just stuck his head down and fixed our lives, all the while dealing with another huge worry which surfaced in this documentary: “What if my girls follow their mother’s footsteps?” Being one of the girls, I’ve never really thought about that either because I know I’m not about to take my own life, but watching all of the people in this documentary talk about exactly this fear really hammered home the fact that this is very real and many people carry the burden of this fear forever as a result of another’s actions. The most significant revelation that’s come from this is the beginnings of an understanding of why he and I feel so very differently about the events of the past.

There really is very little support for people who find themselves left behind after a suicide. As my dad has said to me, no social workers called, no nanny state took care of us, there was almost nowhere to turn. Luckily, there are some organisations which exist to help people affected and one such, which featured in the programme and also in my dad’s life, is SOBS. SOBS is a support group for normal people who find themselves in this situation and like any support group, they provide an open forum where people can express themselves but that’s the only one I know of and it was the only one featured in the programme. What else is there?

This remains something that annoys me on an almost daily basis. Once you have found the strength to tell people what’s happened, often you’ll find they know someone else who has been left behind in the same way. Depression is a real illness and suicide is a very real killer. Nearly 6,000 people committed suicide in the UK in 2012* so that’s thousands of people impacted and left behind in just that one year; yet when it happens to you, it’s surprisingly difficult to find support. The internet goes some way to combating this but it’s not enough. So here’s my plea to everyone reading this – please be open, please point people in the direction of others who’ve been through the same when they reach out and please, please don’t ask anyone to lie in order to save face. As in an situation when you’ve lost a loved one, people who are left behind following a suicide just need love, support and ideally someone to speak to who’s been through it and come out the other side.

Thank you.

Now go and watch the programme because I’ve barely scratched the surface of it! x

*Samaritans Statistics Report 2014

If you’re struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, here are some organisations which might be able to help:

Maytree Sanctuary
Mind
NHS
Depression Alliance

A Controversial View on a Controversial Subject

I can’t imagine a day when talking about suicide won’t be a controversial topic but once again it’s been thrown into the air as something people are openly discussing on the back of the recent passing of Peaches Geldof. There’s no current evidence that her death was a result of suicide but due to the Tweet she posted the night before, speculation seems to be rife. I’m not especially interested in discussing what happened to Peaches as I think rumours are rather disrespectful when somebody’s family are grieving. However, the wider topic of discussion that this throws up is something that is always going to be interesting to me.

Today in the office, a couple of the team started talking about this and then discussing how selfish it is for a mother of young children to commit suicide. While I can see their point, I popped my opinion out there and I’m popping it out here again to see if I receive anything other than shocked responses. My opinion, and I promise this is the honest truth, is that it is more selfish for someone who is that seriously depressed to carry on than it is for them to move on to whatever comes after the life we know.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting this is a decision that should be taken lightly and that human life should be wasted but I do believe that people who have spent long enough wishing they weren’t alive will never truly come back. I’m talking about those who can’t get through daily life without throwing the lives of all others around them into disarray. Essentially, I’m talking about people who are like my own mother was. For a good 10 years, (the entirety of the time I remember when she was alive) she wasn’t right. The tiniest things would cause her world to collapse; the sausages not being defrosted leading to hours of tears and anger is one of my earliest memories of such behaviour.

As a child, this is distressing. You’ve no idea what to expect from your parent, no understanding of why they’re so different to everyone else’s parents and no idea what it is you’ve done to deserve having it all taken out on you. Now multiply those confusing feelings by 10 years and factor in physical violence but also mixed with a huge amount of love and I hope you can start to understand why my opinion on this is the way it is.

How can one person love you so much and be the absolute centre of your world, pushing you to be the best version of yourself you can be yet also be the person that screams at you when the car won’t start? Or the person who cries and then screams and then slams doors, punches worktops and shouts at you because they spilled their dinner. It’s a very strange world to live in, is that and to be perfectly honest, life is a lot easier without it.

So, for those on the outside looking in at a world they have no experience of, I challenge you to say that it’s always better for a suicidal person to keep pressing on now that you’ve had a glimpse of the reality. Yes, when a mother leaves her young children, they’ll probably never get over it but they’ll probably also never recover from the damage she could inflict by sticking around for an eternity. So what’s best? My opinion is that every situation is different and requires a resolution unique to itself but sometimes, the controversial answer is the right one.

I’ll never change what the masses think but I’d like to at least challenge it so here’s hoping I’ve achieved that today! X

 

P.S. – All of the above is an extremely moderate version of real events, so if my viewpoint seems extreme, consider the words I haven’t written as well as the ones I have.