I just found out today, through the saturated flows of Twitter, that 7 October is R U OK? Day. It had its inauguration in 2009, so this is only the 2nd time it has happened.
From their site: “R U OK? is an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to provide national focus and leadership for ending suicide by empowering Australians to make a difference, encouraging open and honest communication and driving real connection.”
A very close friend of mine committed suicide in 2002. She planned it so it would coincide with her 32nd birthday. A whole group of us were expecting to meet up with her for a big dinner celebration that night. Instead, we gathered at another friend’s place, struggling to digest the news that she had killed herself that morning.
If a close friend commits suicide, the thing that you will never stop asking yourself is: “Could I have done/said something to change their mind?”.
You will never know, and it’s a pointless thing to dwell on, but human nature is what it is.
More than eight years later, it’s easier not to think about her too much, or of her two daughters who are being brought up by her ex-husband with whom I have no contact. It would be spurious to say that I miss her all the time. I don’t. Life moves on, and the immediate gap of losing a friend closes. It fills with other events, people, connections.
For her family, I’m sure this is not – and can never be – the case.
I live with many regrets about my friend’s suicide, and one of them is that I postponed having coffee with her less than a week before she killed herself. Meeting with her would probably have made no difference to the situation. I’m not conceited enough to think that I could’ve snapped her out of her depression, but at least I would’ve had one more memory of her to keep. Getting her to recognise that she needed help would’ve been the way to go, but – as the banal response to suicide often goes – we didn’t realise that things were that bad.
Perhaps this is an odd thing to write about after seemingly promoting a day that’s all about connecting and making that difference in someone’s life. The aftermath of suicide is emotionally messy for everyone, and doesn’t really dissipate. My friend had said to me that I didn’t realise “how good my timing was” when I sent her a spur-of-the-moment card that encouraged finding peace in one’s everyday rather than seeking a perfect (unreachable) serenity. After her suicide, we realised that she’d been thinking about taking her own life for at least six months. She’d left a diary stating as much. That’s a long time to contemplate not-being, and that’s why I don’t think about her too much. The depth of sadness can be overwhelming.