One of the hardest things in life is when a loved one is going through a terrible time and there is nothing you can do to save them. There are no shortage of ways that life can fall apart. Loved ones can become seriously ill, they can be bullied, abused, attacked. You try to do all you can to help (and if you’re British this will involve making gallons of tea); You call and visit them, take them to places that will cheer them up, send them gifts, send cards. Hopefully, with your support, your loved one can start to rebuild their life. But what happens when things don’t get better?
Unfortunately, that was what happened in my case. My cousin's world was crashing in around her and I couldn't stop it. I watched as she tried to take steps forward, only to be knocked back down again with new difficulties. Eventually, at just 22 years of age, I lost my dear friend and cousin to suicide.
August marks 2 years since I lost her.
Mental illness is cruel. The hardest part of surviving a loved one’s suicide is that you can never make things better. They are essentially frozen in time, and they are forever stuck in a state of terrible pain. They will never feel happier, never live out any of their dreams, never grow old with you. And you will never be able to answer their questions, never fulfil your promises. You are left with an itch you can’t scratch; a hellish limbo where you still long to make things better, but have no chance of doing so. I think that this is the reason why so many people become mental health activists after losing somebody to suicide.
There is an incredible amount of helplessness and guilt following suicide. There is an intense feeling of having no control of the world around you, of not being able to protect yourself or others. For a long time now, I’ve struggled to regain authorship of my life. I feel as though my actions are futile, like I’m trapped in an impenetrable metal cage and I’ve only got a chocolate spoon to get myself out. And guilt, oh God, the guilt. If I had just called that one time. If I’d popped in for a chat at that crucial moment…
One week before she died, I was trying to find a way into my local park well after closing time, trying to find a tree I could hang from. I go over that night a lot. If I hadn't backed out, if I had died in her place, perhaps the family would have been able to rally around her instead. Perhaps people would have been more understanding. And perhaps it would have been her 2 years later writing this blog, broken but alive.