Difficult topics

This post covers some personal topics, so feel free to skip it and come back later when I’m writing about bees! Here’s a Beatles song that’s stuck in my head for your trouble:

A friend of mine recently committed suicide. I’m still grappling with that concept…I feel like I want to write about it somewhere, to say something meaningful, but I don’t even know what to say. I somehow think, if I were a better human, I would know exactly how to express the depth of my sorrow, and extend some comfort to others, but instead I feel…confused?  I don’t even know if this is the right forum in which to discuss it…

I didn’t know my friend was feeling depressed or even close to suicide. I had long conversations with her about nature…she liked all of my photos on facebook. We talked regularly, but she didn’t mention her health problems, or how much pain she was in, or her feelings of despair.

I think it’s natural to feel somehow responsible when a friend commits suicide, but that doesn’t ease the guilt. Should I have said something differently? Should I have called her or visited? I never even drew her a bird. 😦

The other day I lay awake in my bed and I couldn’t stop thinking about Robin Williams. I’m not a big movie watcher, so I haven’t seen all of his films, and I don’t usually remember actor names, but I remember him. He had such a dynamic charisma, he was difficult to forget. My friend was similar; she had a loud, dynamic personality.

I was told by her mother after her death that my friend had a number of medical and mental problems, and she was in pain. She feared that she would not be able to take care of herself into the future and didn’t want to be taken to a home to be cared for by someone else. I can’t imagine what her thoughts were in those final hours and I don’t ever claim to know what was best for her. She made the decision that seemed best to her at the time. I hope I supported her in the ways she needed me to.

In this same week, my grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, was moved to a facility where he could be better cared for. This was an incredibly sad time for my family. My grandfather was always incredibly intelligent and well read (his IQ was well above average) and virtually unbeatable at puzzles and games of strategy. I remember him scoring more than two hundred points on a single word in Scrabble when I was a child. Though it seems fast to me, his disease has progressed over the past two years from mild confusion to hallucinations. It was decided that he needed more supervision and care in February when he was found wandering around his neighborhood in his pajamas on a very cold night.

These two stories are linked in their timing and their impact on my life, but also because, in the response to the news about my grandfather, so many well meaning people have said that they would rather “off themselves” before going to a facility.  I don’t think they understand how deeply upsetting it is to hear that (this is my grandfather after all), especially in light of the fact of my friend’s suicide.

We all love my grandfather very much and would never put him in a place where we think he would be miserable.  I very much hope that he will be even happier there…he has already begun to make friends and to play games and socialize, whereas he was quite isolated at home.

This story does not have a happy ending…I wish it did.  And I wish I could impart some wisdom that I have learned in the process, but all I can do is leave you with the second to last thing my friend said to me*.

I have a few regrets about my life, but it has been a remarkable one.

DSC_0056

She liked fungi

*The last thing she said to me was “Please stay away from electric eels!”

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13 thoughts on “Difficult topics

  1. A “better human” would not know how to say it better than you already have. The truth is that we can’t express ourselves properly about these things, though you have done a very good job of putting words to it. My father has Alzheimer’s. Twenty years ago he used to be a terror in business and won several high profile awards. Last week the high point of my visit was when he managed to complete a 12 piece jigsaw from the Early Learning Centre. One day that will be me.

    After falling at home and lying on the floor all night, he had to go into a care home, but there are worse places to be.

    As a result of reading your words I now feel slightly better that it’s not just me in this sort of situation. I also know that I’m not the only person who has reservations about electric eels.

  2. Thank you for sharing. As much as we all want to be happy all the time, dispair and sadness are very real parts, too. They can stimulate growth, apathy, or a spin-cycle of pain. The choices are all ours. I’m sorry for the loss of your friends and the loss of your grandfather as he was in your youth. Sending you thoughts of peace and solace. It’s. It much, but all I can do. Hugs.

  3. Im so sorry soimf, You write beautifully and eloquently about it. My heart goes out to you and your not alone, I lost my best friend to suicide years ago, there’s no more understanding than what you actually said. They made the best decision they could at the moment they were in. Thankyou so much for sharing, my thoughts and prayers and warm healing energies are with you. Im really glad you had the time and sharing that you did. Thats great advice… Stay away from electric eels. Hug!

  4. Maybe not happy endings, but the fact that your father and your friend were and are cared for deeply expresses the worth of all human lives, and the depths of our compassion. Bravo for finding words for such difficult topics. I wish you comfort and healing.

  5. Thank you for sharing these terribly sad realities of life. I appreciate you opening up about this. A very close relative of mine has attempted suicide on a few occasions and continues to talk about it. He is getting some help, but I never know if the next phone call will be to tell me he has succeeded. I am at the stage of having to make arrangements for my mother to move into a care facility. I am simply not physically capable of caring for her as I am not strong enough to lift her or even roll her due to the massive weight gain associated with her condition. It is such a heartwrenching decision to place a loved one in care, and not made easier by the insensitive comments of others. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through these traumatic events.

  6. If your friend liked fungi and told you to stay away from electric eels, she seems to me to have possessed all the characteristics of a remarkable person–I am so sorry to hear about her death and your grief. People often don’t take into account how their offhand comments sound. You’re very generous in recognizing that no one means to be insensitive, but I cringed when you wrote:

    “in the response to the news about my grandfather, so many well meaning people have said that they would rather ‘off themselves’ before going to a facility. I don’t think they understand how deeply upsetting it is to hear that (this is my grandfather after all), especially in light of the fact of my friend’s suicide.”

    Perspective, as you well know (photography and all), changes everything.

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