The door is off the hinges…

He called tonight.  Tentatively asked for me, and asked if I was sitting down.  I told him I’d already found the obituary in the papers here and in CA.  I asked what happened as the obit didn’t list a cause, still assuming illness or car accident.  After all, 24 is pretty young to die.

It was suicide.  Leaving behind a 16 month old baby.

This was not just a regular, run-of-the-mill female-type suicide.  Studies show women will attempt more often with less success than men as a cry for help.  In cases where they are successful, 20-24 YO women typically choose or hanging/suffocation over firearms according to JAMA.

My brother- still odd to say that- told me of her long struggle with drugs, alcohol and what some in the family perceived as mental illness.  He said they’d all taken their turns trying to convince her to get help for any and all of the above, but her attempts to do so were short-lived and exacerbated by her lack of truthfulness with her doctors.  He said they all knew she’d been having a rough time of it lately, and her husband had been trying to get her into some kind of treatment.  They did not lack for options- they had health insurance that would cover treatment, and family willing to support that choice.

She made the choice instead to shoot herself in front of her husband.  She cocked the gun with that distinctive “click” sound, he turned around and saw what she was about to do, yelled out to her, running to her, and when he was within arm’s reach she pulled the trigger under her chin.

I cannot imagine witnessing something this awful.  I cannot imagine the pain her husband, mother and other family members are going through.  I am shaken by this entire development of events.

I said before that I didn’t feel the need to grieve.  I’m feeling something very different right now, a sadness, questioning and sense of tragedy I didn’t feel before.

My brother told me he was at my stepsister’s home in CA with his mom and that the husband and baby were with them.  He expects to be there a week or two, and then will come home.  He was happy to hear I was open to meeting with him, and promised to contact me when he gets back in town.  He sounded exhausted, saying the family was going through the whole range of emotions, questioning every recent interaction with his sister, going over anything they could have done to stop this from happening- just raw emotion.  I did the same thing, and I didn’t even know her.  I was only related to her through my father.  We talked of the tendency towards depression that runs in our family, how our father fought it most of his life, how we’d each dealt with it ourselves.  He is so young to have this much loss, a father and a sister, especially in this way.

This is the second suicide I’ve dealt with in my life.  The first was a good friend who jumped off a bridge after he was diagnosed with AIDS.  It was horrible and tragic, just like this one. I’ve not had a lot of loss compared to some folks, other than my father’s death 14 years ago, and the death of a good friend in a car accident 20 years ago.  I worry how I’ll cope when it’s someone I’m really close to.

I worry for the husband, and how he will be able to move on from this to parent his daughter.  I worry about the daughter, growing up without a mother and knowing why.   You can tell a kid all day long it didn’t have anything to do with them, but they always question, always wonder, and turn that finger of blame upon themselves.  It happens with divorce, death, addiction, abandonment, all of it.  I pray she will grow up with a strong family support system around her that will outweigh this.  The impact of suicide never stops- the rings in the pond that rock was dropped in just keep coming for all those involved.

My heart aches for the survivors of this tragedy.  I will pray for all of them.

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