The news seems to be always in your face.
Walking down the street, there are signs outside the Newsagents advertising the daily papers often with gruesome headlines about someone else’s misfortune. But we don’t seem to really notice, we just take it all in our stride. That’s life.
I rarely buy a newspaper now, as it appears that all I’m doing is reading about someone else’s troubles, when at times it seems that I’ve got enough of my own. If we watch television for any length of time we are bombarded with adverts for the news, some channels even have the rolling banners at the bottom of the screen to tempt you into watching their bulletins. Because I’m a bit of a footy tragic, I’ve been getting quite a bit of air time lately, although that will all end after the AFL Grand Final on Saturday. But, as a rule, I don’t like to watch too much telly as it is so unproductive – except when I can crochet and produce something useful.
We’ve become accustomed and desensitised about natural disasters, bombings, murders, suicides and terrorist attacks. We may feel some sympathy for the victims, express our horror at what is being done and then go about our daily lives. Perhaps we may even discuss some event with friends over coffee or wine, but generally it is forgotten rather quickly.
Until it happens to you.
For me, suicide was something that happened to other people. I’d never had any close experience of it, and really it wasn’t something that was spoken about very much. I do recall hearing about a colleague who had lost a child to suicide, and felt very sad for her. But as she worked on another unit, I didn’t see her very often so I didn’t think about it too much. Plus, I’d coped with both of my daughters attempting suicide, and though it was extremely distressing at the time, it seemed that it wasn’t too big a deal when both girls were getting on with their lives again, seemingly okay.
On the surface – which I learnt too late.
Then when I had to face the awful reality of it with my own child, it was devastating. Why didn’t I know about this before? How did I get beyond my children’ teenage years – and surviving two suicide attempts – without realising the catastrophic impact it has on your life. Not only your own, but the lives of those close to your family and the victims friends.
I think Kelly was the first – and I believe only one – in her group of friends and it left them shell-shocked. They had no idea how to deal with the death of one of their own. I watched them after the funeral; they seemed to have difficulty expressing themselves around us. Then when we had Kelly’s twenty-first birthday party, we encouraged them to talk about her, to tell the stories they fondly remembered. It seemed the dam had burst, when – after the initial hesitancy – they really let their hair down and laughed together over their remembrances. It was cathartic and healing.
So, yes, it does happen to others, but there is a new compassion for others in their grief, now that I’ve experienced my own.