Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When It Rains, It Pours ...

My friend, Brady, plays with my dog
(who died many years ago after running into
a street and being hit by a vehicle).

Well, that's the saying, isn't it?

And I'm certainly feeling that way this week.

As I wrote yesterday, I learned that an old friend of the family died during the weekend. And then, a few hours later, I learned that the brother of one of my dearest friends, Brady (who can be seen in the attached picture), killed himself last night.

At this point, I don't know all the details. But I know Sam had a troubled life. His marriage had many bumpy spots — and, yes, I know that most marriages do, but his was complicated by the fact that his son shot and killed himself in the presence of Sam and his wife a few years back.

I know that was a difficult thing for Sam to come to terms with, but, in my last few conversations with Brady, he told me that Sam was handling things better and appeared to be more like the old Sam we all knew back in the day.

Appearances truly can be deceiving.

I've been away from Arkansas for a long time now, so I've been out of the loop on a lot of things that have happened there, but I presume that depression played major roles in the suicides of both Sam and his son.

Depression is a tricky thing. People struggle with it for all kinds of reasons so there is no one–size–fits–all remedy for it, nor is there a simple checklist of symptoms to watch for in making a diagnosis about depression.

In the last couple of years, I've heard reports of people who killed themselves and their families after losing their jobs in the recession — which led me to believe (and I still do) that a prolonged period of high unemployment in this country will be accompanied by a spike in the suicide rate.

But joblessness certainly isn't the only thing that depresses people and leads some to commit suicide.

Earlier this year, a member of my church killed herself. She was fairly new to the congregation and wasn't particularly well known, but, as the pastor told us one Sunday after she died, in hindsight he saw no red flags that anyone had missed. In fact, he had been deceived because, in her final weeks, things in her life seemed to be moving in a positive direction.

She wasn't unemployed. Whatever demons were tormenting her went with her to her grave.

A few months ago, I wrote about the suicide of the father of two of my childhood friends. He was in his mid–80s and, when I spoke to one of his sons a couple of years ago, had been in good health. His son told me at the time that his father had been working out in a local gym three times a week.

But his health apparently took a turn for the worst in the last year or so. When he took his life, he had been home from the hospital for only a few days.

All these recent suicides are a bit ironic, I guess, because I actually wrote about suicides last year, and I made the point at that time that people commit suicide for all kinds of reasons.

Sometimes the reasons aren't obvious. Life isn't a movie. People don't always leave notes that explain why they decided to take this step. Sometimes it's a burden that the folks left behind have to carry. For some, I suppose, it's too much to bear.

We've always known that some people handle adversity better than others do. I'm not an expert in mental health, but I wonder if there is some genetic factor involved. Maybe it's something that is missing in some people.

Perhaps that would explain a lot. But it wouldn't explain everything. Unfortunately, that is what the parents and siblings of a suicide probably need most — an explanation for why this happened.

I guess that is the greatest barrier to reaching a level of acceptance — not knowing why.

I know that, when my mother died, I heard a lot of people talk about "closure" as if it were the holy grail for mourners. It may be possible for some to achieve closure, but, in 15 years, I haven't found it — and I know why Mom died. I'm sure closure is even more elusive for those who lose loved ones to suicide.

My friend Brady has been through a lot. He was close to his brother, and I'm sure the days ahead will be tough for him, his family and his friends.

But Brady and I have known each other for many years. And if it is possible to achieve closure, he can do it.

1 comment:

askcherlock said...

David, I am so sorry about your friend and the other losses you have had to deal with. Suicide. There just seems to be a spike in it for some reason and I would be interested in seeing the numbers.

As to the reasons, they will always be subject to speculation, I suppose. My brother, who was my best friend and only sibling committed suicide a few years ago. I still have to compartmentalize that in order to sustain my own health. I have often thought in these last years that he was just too tender for this world. Still, that does not make it easier to bear.

Loss of loved ones leave empty spaces at the table of our lives. My faith has gotten stronger because I need it to do so. I cling to the hope that one day I will see my brother, as you may again see your mother and your friend, in an afterlife much better and more peaceful than this.

My thoughts are with you....