Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Sorry" doesn't change it

I've been using email longer than almost anyone I know, thanks to an early career on the net. There are some email subject lines that I've come to view with a certain amount of gravity.

The first is a person's name. It almost always means they're dead.

The second is "Sorry." This isn't always a suicide note, but recently that's just what it was.

There's something especially agonizing about losing someone to suicide. The pain ripples out in circles around the person to family, friends, communities. It affects far more people than they could possibly have guessed.

Every time I'm touched by a suicide, I want to reach out to all the people in my circles, just in case they might be thinking that way. I want to say this:

Friend, I don't dispute your right to check out early. Your body and consciousness belongs to you as much as anything can. I know life can be some hard shit, and yes, there are times to consider bailing.

But I want you to know something first.

People will suffer. You killing yourself causes deep emotional pain in more people than you realize. Even if you're considerate and avoid leaving blood on the walls, even with your thoughtful final instructions and that nice note about how it's not our fault -- even then, my friend, suicide is a violent, shocking, and brutal act.

We take the loss of you hard. Far more of us will be affected than you suspect. We'll be angry. We'll be hurt. Some will hurt a lot. Some our whole lives.

Given that you're considering throwing it all out anyway, I'm asking you to consider some other answers first. You think you've tried it all, but a sudden exit is evidence you haven't. Instead, throw out your career, your city, your clothes, your assumptions. Shake it up. Why not?

Listen, I've been where you're standing. I'm don't claim to know your pain, but I've stood at the edge of the cliff and looked over. I found other ways.

So I ask you to look for other ways. Find someone who understands. Ask for help. Take new risks. Seek out cohorts. Even meds. Why not? You've given up all other approaches anyway, right?

It's your choice, of course. But if you decide to take your life, be very clear that you're also taking parts of other people's lives with you. Being sorry doesn't change that.


  1. Thought I'd add this: 24-hour national talk-line: 800 273 8255 (800 273 talk).

  2. Sorry to hear you lost someone recently. My dad passed away last month, so I know there are no words to make you feel better, but I want you to know that you're not alone. If there is anything I can do to help you out, please let me know.