Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dead Serious: Suicide

Almost 30 years ago, my brother stuck a hunting rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He died instantly.

Each of my family members handled their grief differently and, for the most part, alone. Not until I wrote a book called Dead Serious did we begin to share the hurt, anger, aching sadness, and endless unanswered questions. Why, when he seemed to have emerged from a serious depression, did he take his life? With the support of a loving family and friends, how he could have seen death as the right path? How could he have been so selfish? Didn't he know the pain he would leave behind?

We'll never have a chance to ask my brother those questions; we are left with coming to an uneasy truce, each in our own way. There will never be a complete resolution.

When the phone call came in last week that my husband's first cousin, as close as a sister, had attempted suicide, I was thrown back into my own pool of sadness and "what ifs." Thankfully, the overdose of prescription pills she swallowed didn't kill her, and she is now recovering. She is filled with remorse and so very, very sorry.

When the time is right, I'll be able to ask her the questions I could never ask my brother and get answers - answers that may be confusing, at times nonsensical, but answers nonetheless. I'll be able to get a glimpse of what it feels like when depression and pain turn to utter hopelessness. I'll be able to ask why concern for her son and the rest of her family didn't trump her decision to end it all. I'll be able to know what it's like to return from the precipice and confront your living hell once again. Did she think she'd really die? Or was this the proverbial cry for help? And, most importantly, what can be done so she can begin to heal?

I recently bought a new frame to hold the photo of my brother that sits on my desk. The old frame, made of cardboard, had miraculously survived since better, happier days when he was just a seventeen-year-old kid about to go off to college. And I was his big sis, his good buddy, and a loving guide.

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