Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The S Word

When I was younger, I knew someone who committed suicide. I actually dated him, but it happened a little over a year after we stopped dating. There were signs while we were dating. A lot of signs although I didn't know that at the time. As soon as I found these signs, I was uncomfortable because I knew something was wrong and didn't know if my loyalties should be to keep his secrets or to get him help by telling someone. I confided to a friend of mine, but she misconstrued the whole thing as I was in danger. I wasn't ever in danger; he was purely a threat to himself. A few times I lingered around his mom, hoping she would ask about him so that I could casually mention what was going on in such a way that it wouldn't be me ratting him out but would raise her alert. Toward the end of our relationship, things were so messy (his drug use, his cutting, his gun, his new group of friends, my intolerance for all of his behaviors) that I basically walked out. We were young. He was 19, I was 16. I wanted someone who knew his place in the world as well as had all of his good qualities, and I didn't have the energy to put into a relationship that was such a struggle. I still carry a lot of guilt about him, particularly at that point. After our relationship was over, I could have told his mom what I knew, which I know wasn't everything but it was a good chunk. I would have been seen as the bitter ex-girlfriend by him even if I said the truth. At that point, I just wanted him to get help because he needed more than I could give. I didn't ever say anything beyond that one time I said too much to that one friend. I never broached my concerns with his mom.

I approach the subject of suicide with that past experience of regret and guilt. Fortunately, no one close to me has committed suicide since. One of my husband's family members committed suicide a year or so ago. It was the son of a cousin he hadn't seen in 20 years, and I don't think he'd ever met the boy. And the whole thing was kept hush hush, don't talk about it. So we didn't.

In October one of my friends on Facebook lost her son to suicide. I actually haven't ever met her; she's the sister of one of my friends, and she lives several states away. She has never acknowledged that he died by suicide--just that her son died suddenly. Being one who takes comfort in facts/things that can be verified, I sleuthed around to try to understand the general context of what happened so I can understand. Maybe I don't need to understand why a senseless death occurred, but something in me feels compelled to learn and at least try to understand. Maybe what happened so long ago (almost 20 years now) is catching up with me.

What I have pieced together: C was a senior in high school. He went shopping with his mom for a tux on a Sunday in October to wear to Homecoming the next week. C was a wrestler and on the football team. On Tuesday morning he was found dead. A tape produced by a pastor the next day addressed the recent suicide in that town. C's profile picture on Facebook when he died was him holding a rifle. On C's Facebook timeline a few posts said they were confused about why he did it. Even when I search right now, his obituary reads "passed away unexpectedly."

That is all I know. And I know there were commemorative tattoos, candlelight vigils, gifts given to the family, sadness. But as for the circumstances (his mental health, how it happened, why it happened), there has been so very little revealed.

Being a mother myself now, the guilt his mother is going through has to be tremendous. I'm presuming here, but I would think that the mother constantly reflects to that day she took her son to the mall to get a tux. She had him to herself for a couple of hours only a few days before he did it. He had to know he was going to do it by then. Yet he went through the motions of getting the tux with his mom. What did they talk about that day? Was she in "mom" mode where she's trying to get ready for her work week, checking things off her errand list, and not really paying attention to what was going on? Or was she intensely talking with him? Did she have any gut feeling that her son was in a bad place? For all I know, he could have been seeking some sort of professional help for several years.

There's so much I don't know. I want to be a good mother to my daughter and friend to others. I don't want to be in a situation where someone I care about makes such a drastic, permanent decision without me trying to help in some way. I feel like understanding more will help me help others. Hearing others share their stories would be so helpful. It's such a taboo subject, and I have a lot to learn.

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