In the past two years, I have grieved four times the loss of friends who took their own lives. The latest was the most devastating—the online rage machine made my friend’s death feel more like a public lynching than suicide.
I’m not here to put blame or pass judgment. Rather, I write this to reflect on my own experience and hardship in grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide and the life that follows.
Grieving is different when someone you love takes his or her own life. You go to the wake and realize that everyone in the room is racked with guilt, as if asking themselves if they’re at fault, or what they could have done to stop it.
Those closest to the deceased silently point fingers and are filled with anger, seeking a way to avenge the death of their loved one while trying their hardest to be civil. Some may even feel anger toward the deceased for being “selfish enough” to make such a decision.
And while we’re all entitled to our own emotions and way of grieving, it still doesn’t change the fact that someone we love is dead, and that he or she has chosen to die.
Many of us find comfort in the presence of friends and relatives. I have cried on countless shoulders. I have been told countless times that I will always have someone to talk to. And we promise to be better versions of ourselves.
We try to step up to the plate and become advocates in our own little ways. But as time passes, wounds are healed, memories fade and each of us loses momentum.
This is what troubles me most every time I think of the four friends I have lost. Each of their deaths was a chance to stop the next. And while their deaths are not connected (they belonged to different circles), the thought that I could have done more is still there. In my head, I failed to make life more bearable for others.
But in between the failures are pivotal moments where one makes a positive impact on someone else’s life. Most of the time, these moments come and go unnoticed. And we don’t count our attempts that might have discouraged them from committing suicide. We count only our failures.
What frightens me is that no matter how many suicide attempts we stop, it takes only one successful attempt to end a life. The hard truth is that even if we do our best, we can’t save everyone, but we need to keep trying. This is the paradox of life after others have taken their own. It is a hopeless situation yet we cannot afford to lose hope.
Coping with the suicide of a loved one is not just about moving on with our lives, but also about accepting that our actions have repercussions—both good and bad—and that we have to live with them.
We all have our own way of coping—there is no one-size-fits-all approach to moving on. Some seek the warmth and comfort of loved ones, while others find solace in isolation.
But at one point, we still deal the same question—what now? We’ve already failed, what do we do?
We can choose to blame each other or ourselves, but it won’t change the fact that we’ve lost someone near and dear to us.
Anger and resentment are valid emotions we are entitled to, but what will they accomplish? They will only add to the hate and unforgiving nature of the world that sees 800,000 people die of suicide each year.
Suicide is a reminder of how cruel the world can be. But the responsibility of making the world a little more bearable any way we can falls on the people who are left behind.
Alternatively, and hopefully, when we ask ourselves, “what now,” we can tell ourselves that we can stop the next one and try not to lose hope.
We need to change our mindset from “what could I have done to save my friend” to “what can I do to save my friend,” because the two could possibly have the same answer.
The best we can do is to make life a little more bearable for others to handle.
At the end of the day, life after others take their own needs to be a life of saving others any way we can.—CONTRIBUTED