There are so many little cliches that we throw around like "there is always light at the end of the tunnel", or "look on the bright side", "death is not the answer", or even "things change!", but they kind of sound hollow nowadays. I see so much speculation on the whys of suicide, but I don't think it's a question anyon can answer, and I also think that comfort lies in being able to leave that question well alone. I have lived with this personal story for nearly three quarters of my life now, and learning to accept the unacceptable became the way for me to also accept that I have the right to be happy. If you are triggered by stories of parental suicide or just suicide in general, don't read any further please.
I've spent nearly 30 years of my life wondering why. I've spent some days contemplating it myself, but then realizing that I'm not sure I want things to end just yet. I've seen the rising sun through the bottom of a whiskey or vodka bottle many a time, but there has always been something that keeps me going until the next sunset and sunrise after that. Nothing has ever seemed so bleak that complete darkness takes over the glimmer of hope.
I've spent more time wondering why, and feeling guilty. See, when you are a child and one of your parents decides that they can't go on, it kind of messes you up mentally for a long, long time. You start off going through all the usual stages of guilt, coupled with a lot of incomprehension, and then, as you stumble along in your young life you start to wonder what you did wrong. Were you not good enough? Was your presence not enough to stave off the darkness? Was there something you could have done??
I would look at my friends and wonder what it was like to have a father. I'd feel uncomfortable talking to my friends’ fathers sometimes as they just seemed so alien, something I would never have again. I spent my teens feeling anger and hurt, hurt and angry, thinking that somewhere along the line it was my fault. Even though rationally I knew it wasn't.
I cherish certain memories, such as feeding the ducks in the park, going up to Sunderland surrounded by punks and getting my ears pierced back stage, listening to music, Christmas at Nana's, having a "cool" dad. I don't cherish other memories, but I still remember the drugs, the anger, and the sadness. There was a darkness behind those tinted glasses that would sometimes cloud over those sad eyes, a distance that not even a cherished child could breach. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was for my mother to tell her little girls that their father had died.
It took me a long time to realize that sometimes there is no choice. That sometimes the end arrives sooner than we would want it to but already much later than he or she wanted it to happen. Sometimes life IS too hard. And it's not up to us to judge or to speculate or even to demand a reason why. I know that acceptance seems to be impossible, but in order to move on it has to happen. It took me many years to accept my father’s death, but once I did, I also began to accept myself a lot more too. It wasn’t my fault, it wasn’t even his fault, it was a choice and he consciously made the choice at that time in his life. Yes, he suffered from mental illness and addiction, but that didn’t make it any easier, it just made it a little easier to understand. But only when I had also lived through my own pain, depression, and love for going off the deep end.
It took me a long time to realize that not everyone has the will to live constantly. Some people plan their moment for years; others just do it on the spur of the moment. Some have a reason we can understand, some don't. Suicide hurts and continues to hurt for lifetimes, and there is nothing to lessen the pain for those who are left behind. It does get easier over time and the question "how did your father die?" does get easier to answer over time, but the pain doesn't really go away, it just dims somewhat.
But, after a while, as you grow older and experience more in life, juggling your own spouts of depression, you start to understand. No, you never understand why your father left you, but you do start to understand the reasoning behind his suicide. And that not everyone's strength is your strength. My strength is to always fight through and choose life, but I can't expect that to be everyone else's. Pain is felt in so many different ways, and feelings and emotions can sometimes be so overwhelming that there is no easy exit into dry land. Anxiety can turn you into a completely different person. The drugs you are prescribed may stop working or never work. You may not have the medical insurance or the right doctor to receive the right medication for your needs. There is no stronger or better or easier way. We are all human and sometimes there is just no answer.
Telling people that suicide is selfish is a selfish act in itself. Not trying to understand someone else's pain and suffering is selfish. Speculating on how it happened to fulfill some morbid need for entertainment is also selfish. Digging up someone's whole life publicly to try to understand a death is selfish too... I could go on. Yes, we want to understand, that's natural, but sometimes there is nothing to understand. Death is shit, whether it is intentional or not.
Too many of my teen idols have dropped away from this world now, suicide or drugs, and it just makes me so sad, sad that some of them have left kids behind, sad that their immense talent is no more, sad that it had to be this way. I will always miss my father and I will always wonder what I could have done, but I hope that in the end I turned out a little less judgmental and a little more understand than some of my peers. Mental illness comes in all shapes and forms and for some people there is no light guiding them through. When I learnt of Chris Cornell's death the other day I could only just hug my kids a little harder and send my love to his family. He was a wonderful, talented man and the world is just a little bit less bright without him. But I don’t honestly want to know the details of his death, it’s none of my business, and I just hope that his family gets the answers they need to process their grief in their own way. And just so that nobody forgets: when someone ends their life it doesn’t mean that they didn’t care about those around them anymore, but probably because they cared too much.
If you ever feel like you need help but don't know who to talk to there are some amazing organisations out there who will do everything to get you what you need. This piece was in no shape or form condoning suicide, but a personal view on how to deal with the suicide of a lost one. There really is nothing glamorous about death and there are many ways to find help out there, starting with the ASFP, IASP and The Samaritans.