Expected, yet sudden.

Death always seems to come suddenly, even when you know it is the expected outcome of a terminal illness.

This morning we are shocked to hear of the death of a dear friend, whose mortal life has ended.  She had suffered for a long time, and her family  along with her.  But in every aspect of her illness, she met the setbacks with simple courage, grace and wisdom.

I didn’t  see her that often but when we met, she never complained, just kept right on living her life to the fullest, tackling the next creative project with vigour.

She will be sorely missed by her family, her husband of forty-five years, her daughters, son-in-laws and her grandchildren.  Then there are her surviving siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews and her ever expanding circle of friends.

So at some point in the next few days we will all meet to say our last goodbyes, we’ll listen to eulogies from family and friends, shed tears for our loss and catch up with those we haven’t seen for years.    It will be quite a contrast to the funeral we attended last week for the ninety year old father of friends.  Then we celebrated a life well lived with goals achieved and a simple sadness that we will not see him anymore.

The next funeral we go to will have sadness, raw grief for a life cut short.  A life that still had much to accomplish, as that was her way — to take on more new challenges conquering them before moving on to the next.

So we grieve — those of us left behind, but I’d like to remember — with love, gratitude and thanks for having known her.

And I’d like to imagine that I will have at least a fraction of the courage she showed when faced with death.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.

Love leaves a memory no one can steal. — From an old Irish headstone.

R.I.P Louise.

Why is talking about suicide so uncomfortable ?

For too long the subject of suicide has been taboo in our society.  This may have been fuelled by the early religious belief that a person who died by suicide could not be buried in consecrated ground.  Rather than face that shame, families would hide a suicide.

Although the topic does seem to be talked about more easily today, there is still hesitancy and reluctance around the it.

It maybe that we are afraid to upset someone who is thinking about suicide, or it could be we believe the old myth that if we talk about it we could be giving them the idea!

I get too that  people are careful not to upset those who’ve experienced a loss to suicide, but unless we talk more about it, then it will keep its taboo status and we will continue to lose loved ones to this scourge of our society.

Maybe we have a  friend or loved one we  think are not doing well mentally, yet we are still hesitant to actually ask straight up if they are okay or even if they are thinking about suicide.

Saying something like “Please don’t tell me you’re thinking about suicide!” only tells that person that you don’t want to know thats what they are contemplating .  The question needs to be asked directly, so you can expect a more informative answer, and then take the appropriate action.

It can be a difficult thing to ask, in fact it can be downright uncomfortable, however it is far better to feel like a fool for a little while, than have to front up to a funeral in the near future.

Asking “The Question” shows that you care about them, and you may be able to help them get the assistance they need.  Perhaps just to have someone there to listen to them might be all they need, or it may mean encouraging that person to call Lifeline, Suicide Help or similar organisation. Somewhere there are trained counsellors who can help or direct them to the appropriate resource. Reassuring someone you love by being bold enough to ask about their mental state may be all it takes to keep them with us.  It may be just what they needed to have them seek help, or to feel worthwhile again.

Years ago, when I was doing my nursing training, we were given a brief talk on suicidal people.  The outcome was that those who talk about suicide don’t actually follow through.  When Kelly told me she was going to do it –  to my everlasting regret –  I didn’t  believe her. So instead of planning her twenty first birthday party, we had to organise her funeral.

For me, in the early months after Kelly died, even though I wanted to talk about her, I would cry and get upset.  But that was just a normal reaction to losing my beautiful girl in tragic circumstances. A perfectly normal reaction.   I wasn’t the only one who felt that need , the other members of my family and her friends did too.

Now we have ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and ‘R U Okay Day’, which are a great way to raise awareness, however we need to be vigilant all year round – not just on specified days.

The only way to reduce the incidence of suicide is to talk about it more, to become more at ease with the topic.  Maybe then we will see the statistics go down instead of continually rising as they have been doing.