Survivor Rochelle Fritsch reminds us that asking “Why?” won’t help prevent suicide or comfort survivors. In fact, it may be the worst thing to say.
A little over one year ago for the kid barely in his twenties. A month ago for the forty-nine year old rock star’s girlfriend. Barely a week ago for the twenty-two year-old entrepreneur. Soon, it’ll be two years for the thirty-year old mom of two not yet in their teens.
Sometimes death by suicide makes headlines. Sometimes, loved ones drown in its wake and are the only ones who know. When it’s a headline, count on news anchors to assume a pseudo-sad tone as they report with heads cocked to one side, staring through the camera’s lens and ask “Why?” Then they move on to the next news bite for popular consumption.
In suicide’s shadow, “Why?” is the worst of question of them all.
Answers are unproductive. They don’t restart the heart, cause oxygenated blood to re-course through the body to the brain and restore the chooser of death to live again. Answers are never justifiable. What answer is there for parents who find themselves suddenly childless, or for children who will never get another kiss to make it all better?
Are there any answers to “Why?” that will ever make anyone say “Ah, yes, now it makes sense. Death over living is a wise choice indeed.”
Of course there aren’t. So, I don’t ask. My gut’s ache, there is no room for asking “Why?” because I am too busy churning at the thought of personal demons chasing someone to the end of a rope, the bottom of a prescription drug bottle, or the gun barrel’s end. I ache, not because of the senseless, tragic nature of death by suicide, and not even because it is the ugliest possible side of life, but because I have seen suicide up close and personal, and I remember.
What I Know
I know what it’s like to circle the drain, end up in a puddle of despair and to have it completely envelope me. I know what it’s like when utter darkness blinds and deafens all senses into believing that not existing is the most logical option. I know the EMT’s expressions after checking vitals and realizing there’s a hair’s space of time between ceasing to exist and eyes opening to see another day.
Was it post-partum depression? Nope. It happened years before my husband and daughter. It was a time when, if even I could have glimpsed how wonderful life would be in a few years, I wouldn’t have believed it.
But you’re a Christian. I was then and am now. Here’s a little and sometimes shameful secret: Christians get tired, hopeless and lost sometimes too.
But you seem so strong and happy. Here’s another secret: Strong is overrated. While strong is a compliment of resilience and never-give-upped-ness, admitting weakness can be another kind of strength. And happiness? Peace trumps happiness every time.
And now you’re confused and asking yourself: Then why did you try death by suicide?
It’s easy to end up at “Why?” If I’m being forgetful and removed from where I’ve been and what I know, I’d ask the same thing. But then I get quiet and honest with myself and remember that “Why?” answers are never satisfactory, and they certainly won’t resurrect anyone. I’d remember and feel in my gut where Why lives.
It’s a twisted place where I remember dying being a reasonable option to living. A dark place where the deaths by suicides of people around me still sting, and whispers How far away from that choice is my co-worker, my spouse, or God forbid, my child? Who else is shouldering invisible burdens?
The Not So Dumb Questions and Facts
“Why?” lives in these dark places and begs for other, not-so-dumb questions whose answers:
Examine the relationship between suicide and mental disorders like depression versus money, relationships, happiness and spirituality. Talking about mental disorders before they lead to suicide is the only way to prevent suicide.
Make people aware of suicide’s signs and symptoms. What are those? Extreme withdrawl, focus on death, increased self-destructive behavior.
Acknowledge that depression can begin as early as nine years old. Watch children for signs, and know that depression runs in families.
Who knows? The right questions could yield answers that might prevent the next Newtown or Fort Hood, or the next childless parents, or the next motherless kids. Between what I know from that long ago time and seeing what survivors of people lost to suicide go through each day, I think those are the kinds of answers we’re really searching for.
But we can never get to those answers if we keep asking the dumbest question of them all.
National Suicide Prevention week is September 6 – 12, 2015. We hope you’ll join the #stopsuicide efforts online and in person. If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Photo Credit: Flickr:/Pedro Alves
Rochelle Fritsch is a Christian, Wife, Mom and a painfully human, human. She co-steers a bi-racial family in a segregated town. Rochelle was in Milwaukee’s first annual Listen To Your Mother Show and is now a co-producer. She was recently named a BlogHer Voice Of The Year. You can find her personal blog at The Late Arrival and follow her on Twitter @GeesMom.