The Purple Elephant in the Room

“Every minute, a suicide is attempted.” — everyminute.org

“With over 30,000 people dying by suicide each year in the United States, averaging 82 per day, there are almost twice as many suicides as homicides each year.” — stopasuicide.org

gun82 per day. Despite the fond memories the “Thompson” family will always have of Bob’s grandfather — whom we’ll call Grandpa — he is now logged as a suicide statistic:

  • Suicide per minute
  • Suicide per hour
  • Suicide per day
  • Suicide per year
  • Suicide in the town
  • Suicide in the state
  • Suicide in the nation
  • Suicide in the world
  • Suicide by age (elderly)
  • Suicide by gender
  • Suicide by firearm

The list likely goes on.

Suicide is the purple elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. It’s never a pleasant subject, especially when it’s by someone you know. The pain of losing someone by suicide seems to surpass the pain of all other kinds of death. There’s something about suicide in which we feel that the deceased had control.

  • “It didn’t have to be that way.”
  • “If he’d just gotten help.”

Grandpa was in a lot of pain. He suffered from a heart blockage,
terrible arthritis in his knees, Type 2 diabetes, hadn’t eaten for
nearly 4 weeks, and apparently, had a bout with bladder cancer 5 years
ago. Who knows what else his medical records say. Except maybe for
Grandma.

“I wish he would have talked.” was the common theme mumbled among
family members. ” I wish he would have said something so we could have
helped him.”

“Tragically, suicide is a fatal response to a
treatable illness, usually depression.” — Douglas Jacobs, MD, President
& CEO, Screening for Mental Health and Associate Clinical Professor
of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School

Then there was the reasoning away:

“Well, I have to believe that he was in a lot of pain for him to do that.”

Let me make myself clear:

In no circumstances, can we ever reason away the act of suicide.

Doing so would imply that it’s OK. It’s not.

I’ve also been told:

“Emotional pain and physical pain are not the same.”

No,
they are not. But the thinking that leads to suicide converge. The idea
is that the pain is so great and so strong that the only way out is to
end one’s life. A few of my triggers always seem to be:

  • “I can’t deal.”
  • “No one cares.”
  • “They’ll move on without me.”
  • “Everyone will be better off without me.”
  • “I’m worthless.”
  • “It’s always going to be like this.”

I’d bet everything I have that some of those thoughts ran through
Grandpa’s mind. Sometimes, it’s easier to believe lies than to talk
yourself into the truth.

Bob’s mother and father are well aware of what I deal with. So much
so that they didn’t want to tell me how he died on the day we found
out. Now, I seem to get glaring looks when the issue comes up.

“We can’t let this happen again in our family.”

Sure. No pressure.

So, how can we offset this from ever happening in our family again?

“Talk about it.”

Oh yeah? No one’s talking about it now. Who’s to say anyone will
talk about it later? How is it possible to reduce the pain and the
stigma associated with getting help for depression?

The last people I want to talk to about suicidal feelings are people
in the Thompson family with the exception of my husband. Instead of
being seen as an individual dealing with this issue, I’ll be seen in
light of the situation with Grandpa.

“You know what happened with Grandpa, right? You wouldn’t ever want to do this to this family, do you?”

No. And if I ever got that response, I’d sink into a deeper
depression. I’m not Grandpa, and unlike him, I would be trying to seek
help from a solid support base.

Maybe I’m some idealistic Hare Krishna that hopes if people sat down
and talked about how suicide and depression affected them, maybe it
would open up a dialog for an awareness of depression and its symptoms.
Perhaps no one struggles with depression now but it can always crop up
later as a result of a medical condition. That’s what likely happened
with Grandpa.

No one wants this to happen again. However, I fear that this
incident will prevent people from discussing the issue than ever
before.


Also, thanks to everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers. It’s been good to have a support base during this difficult time.

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4 Comments

  1. July 7, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Yeah, talk about pressure… I wouldn’t want to be willing to talk to my family about my feelings if I were treated like that. Ugh.
    And yet another suicide statistic… one of my dear friend’s cousins committed suicide last week. My friend is completely devastated. The funeral is tomorrow.

  2. Marissa said,

    July 7, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    *sigh*
    Hearing about completed suicides is becoming way too common for my taste.

  3. Shiv said,

    July 8, 2008 at 4:27 am

    Excellent post, thank you for writing this!
    ~Shiv

  4. Bob Thompson said,

    July 8, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I don’t want my family to bludgeon you with what happened. But, said in the right way with the right tone, a reminder of what Grandpa did and the pain it caused (and has left behind) could help you to overcome some of the lies that you pointed out.
    I wish the family would talk about it more. Hopefully one day soon we will.


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