Dr Ciara Kelly on losing a friend to suicide: 'There is help and there is hope - you need to know and believe this is true'
I lost a friend recently. Oh I know that I am coming to that stage in life where that happens. And indeed will happen with increasing frequency; you only have to look back at 2016 to see the number of deaths that affected people of my generation.
We felt there was a disproportionate number of them - while in reality it was just that the icons of our youth were passing, as is to be expected in middle age. However, my - like every other - generation believes itself to be the first or indeed the only group affected by commonplace life events like death, despite every generation ahead of us having gone through the exact same things.
But there's a poignancy, a certain sense of feeling of waste when you lose someone to suicide.
It adds a layer of regret and oftentimes confusion for those left behind that stays with you long after their passing as you try to get your head around it all. Could you have done more? Why didn't you reach out to them better? A list of 'what ifs' that leave a pain and maybe a feeling of guilt beyond that of normal grief.
As I stood in the packed church on a suitably funereal winter's day, I thought what I always think at funerals where someone has died by their own hand; if only they had lived long enough to see this gathering of people. If only they could've seen the outpouring of sadness and grief that their passing had caused. If only they could see how much they were loved by their family and their community. If only they knew how many lives their life had touched. Would it have made a difference?
In that moment when they decided that their struggle was too much for them and when they felt there was nowhere else or no one else to turn to - would knowing how much they were actually cared for, how much they would be missed - have made them feel that they could keep going?
That this wasn't the end - that this was just a painful hump to climb over in the road of life? And that if they had got beyond this dark time then rebuilding their life and joy and happiness would all be possible again.
I always like to think that if they could see this, that they would change their mind in retrospect and see that bad times - just like good times - pass. And that there are always highs again even after serious and terrible lows.
I also wondered as I stood there in the solemn congregation, how many people in that church had been there themselves? How many looked at the coffin not just with sadness but with recognition? How many could identify with the road travelled by that person we'd loved and lost?
I hoped that for anyone there that day who had felt that kind of despair themselves that the outpouring of love and sadness might have helped them. Might have helped them see the devastation that is left behind when someone kills themselves and might have made them pause for thought about the value of their own life. And the awful legacy that suicide leaves behind.
I also thought long and hard about writing this column. Suicide is always a very difficult subject and it's very easy to hurt or offend someone affected by it with an ill-thought-through remark or a comment perceived to be insensitive or uncaring.
But I decided to write it all the same because we know that every day in Ireland someone decides, 'Today I will end my life'. And many, many more battle those thoughts daily - even if today is not that day.
And I'd like you to consider just for a moment - if you're reading this and are feeling that way - the possibility that people are not better off without you. That they are much, much worse off. That they will never forget you or stop missing you. That they may, in fact, never lose the deep and lasting sorrow that your death would cause. That they may never get over it.
And even though your pain and your struggle is real, you should know that that is the value of your life - the genuine love others feel for you. And that this crap time - like all crap times - will eventually pass.
There is help and there is hope. You need to know and believe this is true.
Sunday Indo Living