Coping With Suicide

Coping With Suicide

The following morning there was no phone call.  As Jeff sometimes slept in I did not become overly concerned until about 1 p.m.  Then I contacted the girl he lived with and asked for him.  "Jeff's not here", was her response, "he has gone to play pool with Don, but he is picking up my daughter from school and will be here by 3 at the latest.  I'll have him call you."

Instantly the hairs on the back of my neck were on alert, but not wanting to alarm her, I thanked her and hung up.  Jeff had not played pool with Don for months…in fact he had not been anywhere in months.

Within ten minutes I called her back and asked her to check with Don, and let her know how concerned I was.  Within minutes she called me back.  Jeff was not with Don…in fact it had been weeks since Don had heard from him.  "Call the police" I urged her.  "I can't do that, Jeff is driving without a license and will be furious if he is stopped by the police.  He has never failed to pick up my daughter when he has promised…let's wait until 3."

When the phone rang shortly before 3 I knew, deep in my gut that it would not be good news.  Her daughter had phoned, and Jeff had not shown up.  Still she did not want to call the police, but had no way to look for him, so I picked her up.  "Go to the river she said" referring to the spot where he had jumped in before.  Instead, recalling the clues Jeff had given me I unerringly drove to the city dock.  It was a horrible snowing windy day and as I pulled to the end of the dock, I saw the van…drivers door open and engine running.  I breathed a silent sigh of relief…we were in time.

As soon as the car stopped we were out, calling for him.  Then I noticed one set of footprints in the snow going to the edge of the dock.  That was enough for me.  I ran to a nearby dive shop and asked the man to call the police.  We were suddenly surrounded by emergency vehicles of every kind, and curiosity seekers began to gather.  As we saw two divers jump into the water, and an ambulance back up to the edge of the dock, we were placed in a police cruiser and moved to where we could not see the events taking place.  Then the ambulance left, siren screaming.   We clung together in the car, hoping that the siren meant he was alive.

It was February 28, 1994.  Jeff was dead at the age of 36.

I was numb.  The next days I lived in a cocoon of silent misery, his funeral a vague and blurry memory.  I didn't cry.  I couldn't.  I was frozen solid, all my emotions encased in a block of solid ice.  People rallied around me knowing the closeness of our relationship, but I was barely aware of their presence.

The nightmares started…every night I woke in a fever of tortured pain.  And during the day I minutely examined every thing I could remember about our relationship.  When the block of ice melted it left behind a searing pain and a guilt that I would bury within me and live with for many years.  What more could I have done?  Did he think I was giving him "permission" and my blessing the night before he died?  I questioned myself constantly, certain that I was in some way responsible.

For two and a half years I held it all inside of me, unable to release it, unable to trust another to see so deeply into my soul.  With time I recovered on the surface, took up my regular duties and went on.  Time truly is a wonderful healer.  The poison deep inside of me remained…I would take it out and examine it…and promptly bury it again.  The nightmares receded in time, though even yet they return to haunt my sleep occasionally.

I met a bipolar online in 1998 who was to have great influence in allowing me to release and express my grief.  Without ever pushing me he let me know he was interested in hearing my story and that he cared.  I don't think I would ever have been able to do it in a one-to-one "in person" conversation, but gradually I opened up to him.

As I came to know him better and trust him, deeply buried thoughts came to the surface…my own suicide attempt and my feelings about it, the years of agony I had gone through and my present feelings were all discussed.  He knew, and so did I that there was still a huge blockage to overcome, and until it was out in the open I would never heal.  I tried, several times to tell him, and couldn't do it.  Finally, one day he suggested that I write about this obstacle, that there would be catharsis and healing in just getting it out, and no longer internalizing it.

This suggestion made a lot of sense to me.  Journalizing and getting things on paper had stood me in good stead had helped me before.  And I wrote…a brief, unemotional one page summary of what was a very large and very special part of my life.  When I finished, I mailed a copy to him.

Our online meetings continued and over time he was able to pull out the emotions…the anger, the rage, the sadness, and the grief.  I ranted, raged, and at times spewed venom at him.  And I cried…rivers of tears…and the tears cleansed me.  I gradually accepted his words that I did not have the power to make another persons choices, that I had done the best I could, and that no one could ask for or expect more.  Through our sharing we became very close friends, and there will always be a special spot in my heart for him.

I still don't like to talk about it, or think about it for that matter.  It was an experience that totally devastated me for a long time.  Now though, I feel freer to talk with people going trough the same thing, offering loving support from one who has been there and understands. 

I have become a better person for having gone through it, survived it, and learned from it.  When in my darkest moments my own thoughts turn again to suicide, I no longer look at it from a purely selfish view, "I can not stand the pain!  I need to end it now"!.  I also think of the everlasting effect it will have on my loved ones.  This thought has stopped me more than once from acting.

Have I coped with suicide?  I think so, at least as well as anyone can cope with the loss of a loved one.  The years I lost between the event and my acceptance of it were very, very difficult.  My wish is that no individual will ever have to experience the things I went through…but sadly I know it will happen over and over again. 

 CONTENTS                        ABOUT ME


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