But the topic I’d intended to share suddenly didn’t seem very important. I couldn’t stop thinking about Robin Williams. I’ve been a fan since “Mork and Mindy”. I have friends who worked and played with him, who are devastated. So I still could’ve written about him. I mean, why not? Everybody else has.
Like many of you reading this, I know people who have committed suicide. One was a high school classmate. One was a girl who lived next door when I was growing up. Another was the husband of a family friend. Each situation was very different. But my reaction when I’m told of the suicide of a friend is almost always the same: delusional.
Why delusional? Because – like the friends who gathered for Alex’s funeral in The Big Chill – I immediately assume I could’ve made a difference. “You think you can keep everyone jolly?” one of them demands. Not exactly, but I think most people, when told a friend committed suicide, will feel some level of survivor guilt.
It’s not the survivor guilt of someone who lost friends on 9/11 or from AIDS or on the battlefield: “Why did they die and I lived?”
It’s the survivor guilt of “Why couldn’t I stop them?”
I’m not going to offer some dime store version of therapy and suggest that if you’d been a better friend and kept in touch with them that that would’ve made the difference. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that I can understand what goes through a person’s mind as they contemplate suicide. But I’m pretty sure the reasons are more profound than “she didn’t return my phone call”.
What I will say instead is this: suicide leaves a long trail of broken hearts – not just family, but friends. It incites grief and guilt and overwhelming anger.
I’m a little early, but September is National Suicide Prevention Month. If you ask me, it should be every month.
There is help out there. There really, truly is help out there. And here’s where you can find some: