I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time, and putting it off again and again because it's impossible to know where to start. But the need to write it has built up so much within my heart that for better or for worse I just need to get it out.
Two years ago today my stepfather passed away. It's too long and complicated and personal of a story to ever go into it in any detail, but one day in February two years ago Robert disappeared into Istanbul on route to Mumbai. So much went into finding him and bringing him home, but for reasons that no one will ever really know the truth of, he never came home and his life ended there in Istanbul.
I used to consider myself a pretty tough person, but on that day I lost not only a stepfather I cared about so much, but most of what I ever understood about life and the way of things. Everything changed completely, my relationships with family and friends shifted or vanished altogether, and I lost any sense of being anchored.
I would love to be able to write clearly about grief, how I got through it and made peace with it but I can't. Losing a loved one is incredibly hard, but suicide? How do you even begin to process that.
I'm not qualified to give advice to anyone who is afraid for their own life or for the life of another. But I can talk about my own experience with it and what I've come to understand from my own perspective. In the past two years this is what I've learned about how to ask for help and why it is so important that you do.
When a loved one commits suicide, the damage extends far beyond that one life that is so brutally extinguished. And what they leave behind are individuals who are unable to deal with their own grief, pain, guilt and anger. Even two years later I often find myself feeling an overwhelming sense of isolation and I just can't bring myself to reach out to anyone, because no one knows how to talk about it, least of all myself. There are no answers with suicide. There's no making it ok, and it is so hard to make peace with it because I will never understand.
When you make the choice to commit suicide, it's not just your own life that you're taking, you take a part of others' too. Those who love you most will never be the same again. Suicide doesn't end pain, it spreads it. It is not the answer you are looking for, it is not the solution you think it is.
So, no matter how heavy life weighs on you, no matter what has happened that you cannot stand to live with another moment, there is still something you can do for some relief: tell the world you need help, and then ask for it.
Make sure everyone knows you are not ok, and that you are in trouble. Give your loved ones the chance to rally around you and give you some protection - and then ask for help. Ask the right people. Not everyone has the answers and don't be discouraged if people try to help but get it wrong, there are systems set up and people out there who know how to get it right.
Please, if you can't do it for yourself, do it for the people who love you.
I don't mean to try and present a simple solution to a complicated problem, and I am only talking from the point of view of someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, not from the position of someone who has ever had suicidal thoughts. I just want to tell a true story about my experiences in the hope that maybe it will resonate with someone who needs it.
I had a look through my analytics and found help line numbers for some countries where I've had the most traffic from in the last few months... make use of them if you need to, please do it now. And share them with anyone you think may need help.
UK 0845 790 9090
US 1 800 273 8255
Canada 1 800 273 TALK
Australia 13 11 14
Germany 0800 111 0111
Spain 902 500 002
Netherlands 0602 222 88
France 01 46 21 46 46
Singapore 1 800 221 4444
New Zealand 095222 999 (inside Auckland) 0800543354 (outside Auckland)
Italy 800 86 00 22
Russia 007 (8202) 577 577
India 91 22 2754 6669
Finland 09 731 391
Belgium + 32 (0) 2648 4014
Sweden 020 22 00 60
Norway 815 33 300
Denmark 70 201 201
Japan 03 5774 0992
Portugal 00 351 225 50 60 70
Ireland 1800 247 247
Poland 52 70 000
Indonesia 021 500 454
Malaysia 604 2815161
Philippines 02896 9191
South Africa 0861 322 322
Argentina 902 500 002
If you can recommend any better numbers than what I've put above, please let me know. And if you have lost someone close to you through suicide and you live in the UK, I really recommend asking your doctor about bereavement counseling on the NHS.
*source for above image unknown.
A final note on comments for this post: please understand I'm not looking for sympathy, that's not what this is about. Of course opening up is hard, but my purpose in doing so is to try and dispel some of the stigma around suicide and give a first-hand account of what it's like for those left behind. And I hope that by putting it out there, I can help in some way - it's so important that we are not afraid to talk about it.
Edit :: I just wanted to add a link to Robert's obituary, because I don't want him to be remembered on here just for the way he died. He was an amazing man and I am incredibly proud of him.