/*amazon_ad_exclude = "christian"*/ The Skin I Am In: January 2009

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Suicidal Thoughts

Don't worry. I have no current plans to do myself in. But because while in my hometown visiting my family for Christmas last week, I was informed -- for the second time this month -- of a suicide, I must say that it has been on my mind. Because the holidays are so incredibly commercialized as being "the happiest time of the year" it seems counter-intuitive to imagine how those very expectations have the opposite effect on so many. But if things are not going swimmingly, I can see how it could be hard to cope having such excessive cheer rubbed in your face everywhere you turn for the better part of two months. After all, Christmas day is probably the last day on earth anyone would want to spend alone.

I didn't know either of the individuals well (one not at all) and they were in no way connected to one another; one was a friend of a friend and the other a friend and neighbor of my parents'. Tom killed himself two weeks before Christmas and Mary, my mom's walking companion, three days after. Obviously without knowing their situations I can not begin to fathom the pain they must have suffered to lead them to choose such a devastating end to their problems, but considering the timing it would seem negligent not to deem the holidays an aggravating factor. Other than the proximity of their ages, the only common denominator in their lives that I am aware of was a failed marriage. Although Tom was still married, it was rocky at best. Mary's husband of 25 years had left her some time back, from which she had never emotionally recovered; in fact, she had already attempted suicide once, the details of which are rather graphic and disturbing. She was hospitalized for several weeks as a result and treated for depression, but unfortunately it never really resolved.

Albeit the most important in many of our lives, marriage is still but just one of our relationships, and each of the remaining individuals to which these two were connected were therefore left behind. Tom's three daughters -- who happen to be triplets -- are 13 years old. While Mary's children are grown and able to fend for themselves, she had 5 grandchildren all under the age of ten. These two strangers, who were apparently overwhelmed with hopelessness and despair, both chose to selfishly unburden themselves at the cost of inflicting immeasurable grief upon those who cared for them the most -- upon children who will never fully comprehend and who will bear the weight of guilt indefinitely, quietly wondering why they weren't enough, thinking that perhaps they could have saved them if only they had smiled more or hugged them more or reminded them how much they loved them.

We have all been anguished at some point in our lives. Some of us, myself included, at one time or another have probably even asked, "what's the point?" But obviously for most of us the answer comes or we find something, anything, worthwhile to hold onto. Being a soul who rarely takes things at face-value, I have to wonder what factors weighed the most heavily on these people in making such an irrevocable decision. Was it a vision of disturbingly grim futures they saw for themselves? Or were their current circumstances so overwhelming that they were unable to see beyond the present? How much did their pasts tip the scale? For on one hand, if life had previously been relatively happy and unburdened, it may have been more difficult to cope when things are falling apart and made what they envisioned the future to be that much more daunting. Alternately, if life had frequently been tumultuous, perhaps they simply hadn't experienced enough joy to envision a future worth living.

I believe at least one of them did leave a suicide note which would likely answer some of these questions and possibly give the slightest sliver of peace to their loved-ones. I can't imagine someone taking their own life and at least not giving their family that -- for although they no longer bear the burden of their pain, it is by no means over; it has become their legacy, passed on to the hearts of their near and dear, an inheritance like no other. An inheritance no one would claim if given the choice.