This story is part of a blog series called, “Your Story: a conversation on mental and emotional health and disabilities.” Please read with a heart open and understanding – free of judgement.
Suicide Warning Signs Or Suicidal Thoughts Include:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
If you are experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, please seek help immediately!
If you are safe, talk to someone you trust and tell them what you are experiencing and share with them your plan; Contact a mental health professional about your thoughts, feelings, and plan; or Call the Suicide Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255).
If you feel out of control or like you may hurt yourself, make your way to the nearest hospital emergency room and tell them your plan.Your life matters, and there are people out there who love and care about you. Please don’t give up.
Please be aware that, in this story, you will read about losing a loved one to suicide. If this affects you in any way please stop reading, talk with a someone you trust, or contact a mental health professional immediately. You may also call the Suicide Hotline 800-273-TALK (8255).
A Note On Editing
Minor changes were made to help make the interview easier to read.
By Way of Introduction
This story is from a woman who learned that a beloved friend and former roommate had taken her own life.
In this story, we are reminded that we can’t always wait for someone to cry out for help because they may choose not to. When someone we love and care about is struggling with mental and emotional illnesses and all of their side effects, it is imperative that we invite them to talk about what they are experiencing. No one has the ability to read another persons mind. So, we can’t know what an individual is really experiencing unless they open up and tell us. Their story doesn’t have to be grand for us to help them. Even a simple statement such as, “I’m tired and sad all the time” is enough.
Please don’t be discouraged when you miss the signs that someone is struggling. Life is always moving forward, changing, and can be chaotic. We wear many, many hats: child, parent, partner, friend, co-worker, boss, student, teacher, etc. Sometimes these roles can be overwhelming and cause us to overlook those who need us the most.
May I offer up a challenge: Pray or set an intention each morning, before you set off to accomplish the tasks in your busy schedule, that you will be able to notice and reach out to someone who is struggling with their mental and emotional health to encourage them to hope on.
What was your relationship to the individual who took their life?
I met R when I was looking for housing, and she posted a room for rent. We were roommates for over a year and became close friends.
How has their loss changed your perspective on mental/emotional health and suicide?
I work in the field of social work, and I was well educated about signs and symptoms of mental illness. I saw it in my work daily as the majority of my clients struggled with mental health on some level. I helped my clients set up safety plans and decide who they would call and what they would do when they were struggling. I guess my mindset was “if you reach out to me, I will be there for you.” When R died, I felt a lot of guilt, and I realized I can’t just wait for my loved ones to reach out to me when they are struggling – especially when it comes to the point where they are suicidal. They might not be in a place where they can reach out to me, so I might need to reach out to them first if I am going to be any kind of help.
What unanswered questions do you still have about the incident?
Everything about this incident was a mystery to me. Most of my questions still remain unanswered. As often happens in friendships, it had been a while since R and I had talked. I had reached out a few times and not heard anything back, but figured she was busy. Eventually, I got a message her phone was no longer in service. That is when I started to pay more attention. I went on her Facebook page and realized it had been months since she posted anything which was unusual for her. Unable to reach her, I had a random thought to google her name. I thought it would lead nowhere – just calm my paranoia. But, I found an obituary page for her. I thought – I prayed – it was a sick joke. I got up the courage to message her sister to ask if it was true. How do you reach out and ask someone about that? What do you say? Her sister confirmed that R was gone. She had been gone for almost 6 months. It was never actually 100% confirmed to me that R died from suicide. I just assume so. She died on her 28th birthday. All her sister said was that she “had a mental break” and “lost the battle to mental illness.” I want to know what happened. I want to know the details. I will never know because I will never ask – because I don’t want them to have to retell it if they don’t want to. I want to know how long she was struggling. Why didn’t her family post anything on social media so that people know? Why didn’t they tell us? How could I have helped R? How could I have helped them? Because of the way I found out and the little details I know, part of me still wonders if it is real even though I have been to her grave. Part of me still makes up scenarios in my head that means she is still alive somewhere.
How have you come to terms with the negative emotions, for example: guilt, shame, loneliness, and hopelessness, surrounding their death?
Life took R and I in different directions. I had moved to the other side of the city and gotten married. We hadn’t seen each other for a year or more. I always knew that losing R wouldn’t affect most aspects of my everyday life. But I still thought through all the if-then scenarios and had a lot of guilt. I have to remind myself that I can’t change the past, but I can change the future. All the things that I wish I could have or would have done for R, even simple things, I can do for those who are still living. I also had to let myself grieve even when that didn’t make sense to others. I took a long trip to see her grave to say my goodbyes, and that really helped me be at peace.
Where have you found comfort and healing following this loss?
I kind of answered this in the last question by letting myself grieve and visiting her grave. I also find a lot of peace from my religious beliefs. I don’t believe that the last time I saw her living on earth is the end. I hope that I can have an opportunity to be a better friend. I feel better knowing R was not responsible. I don’t think she would have taken her life if she was really the one in control of her thoughts. I can never understand what she was going through, but realizing that it was not the R that I had known helps me have compassion for her rather than anger at her.
What would you say to someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts and ideations?
More people care than you realize.
What would you say to someone who has just lost a loved one to suicide?
It’s not their fault. They didn’t cause this. I don’t think badly of them or their loved one who took their life. It’s okay to tell me about it.
Thank you for opening your heart to share this experience.
Moving On After Suicide
It can be exceptionally difficult to know how to talk about the death of someone you love and even more so when the individual took their own life. Please know that you are not alone in your feelings of grief, anger, and confusion. It is important to talk about their death in a healthy and uplifting way. The best way to do this is to talk to a professional mental health counselor. You can also talk to a trusted spiritual leader. And it is important that you continue to talk to friends and family members as you seek for comfort and healing.
These individuals made a choice – a choice that ended their life on this earth. This single choice does not and never will define them. Let us remember those that have taken their lives by suicide for all of the good that they have added to this world. Think fondly on the memories you have of them and share them often with others. And let us celebrate the life they lived rather than condemn them for the way they died.
Continuing The Conversation
You are invited to continue the conversation on mental and emotional health and suicide in the comments below. Use this as a place to share memories of the people you have lost to suicide. Please be loving, reverent, and respectful of all comments shared. DO NOT ask for or share details about how an individual died. Comments are being moderated and will be deleted if they are hurtful, hateful, or inappropriate in any way.
A Note For Readers
If reading this story has inspired you to share your own story, please click here to be taken to the introductory post where you will learn where the inspiration for this blog series came from as well as how to participate.