Suicide: The Inability of Family to See Past they Own Agenda
By: Beth McHugh 2009
I once lived next door to a man who committed suicide. He was a lovely guy, with a wife and young child. But he was desperately ill and he was not getting the help he needed. In fact the local newsagent shop owner was more interested in him than his own family, and his wife left him on two occasions in an attempt to get him to “snap out of it”. The latter is always a pointless exercise to use on depressed people.
He moved a few streets away from us but we still saw each other at the local shops and he was always keen for a chat and to talk about how bad he was feeling. Yet still there were no visits from his family which was quite a large one and his in-laws were quite numerous as well, his wife being one of nine children.
Where were they for this man? Even the resident psychic who lived nearby was worried sick about this man and would visit him in his down times which became more and more numerous. Sadly, after a battle lasting over two years, this man took his life because he could stand the pain no more.
Fast forward eleven years and today I met this man’s ex-mother-in-law. I had not met her before – presumably I would have had she bothered to pull up her car in front of our place and gone in to see her then son-in-law. Ironically, this woman was a nurse in her younger days.
When I met her today in was in the capacity of a church carer who was volunteering with another woman to visit the sick. Unfortunately for her, she and I met because of a woman who was going through a nervous breakdown, and we were all going to meet her. Ironically, the woman also knew the son-in law who had committed suicide and began to speak of him. She also told this ex-nurse of her own troubles that she was experiencing. I also commented that I fondly remembered her son-in-law.
Sadly this woman dismissed both the sentiments expressed in the room and her ex son-in-law in one easy swoop. She calmly told us that that was a long time ago and it was unimportant. It struck me that the person we were visiting could have been suicidal herself but this lady did not pick up on that. Instead she callously dismissed the life of a man and the pain it would have caused to his little girl, if not his wife.
She then proceeded to argue with me about what street her son-in-law lived in. Living on a corner, he could have had his street address in either street and she told me quite firmly that I had the wrong one. I in turn wondered why she placed herself in the position of visiting the sick when she clearly had no time for her son in law when he actually needed it and she wanted to remove any trace of him from her life in the present.
Yet I know that his daughter still grieves for her father, but what help is this woman—her grandmother—to her? What is it that makes this woman, and others like her, unable to accept that suicide in real, in its own way it is a part of human existence, it will go on happening, it is the result of a total loss of hope, it can mostly be prevented and that just a simply word or squeeze of the hand can be enough to keep a suicidal person alive for one more day?
What I’d like to know is, where was this woman when her family needed her the most and why hasn’t this event changed her perspective on life? She was unable to engage the person she was visiting today in any real way, keeping the conversation on superficial topics, so why does she bother? She has something of great value to share with the woman she visited – that she too had been touched by a tragedy. Yet she chose to dismiss it and therefore failed in her duty of care.
It is a shame that she has been unable to grow from the painful experience of her son-in-law’s suicide but continues to wheel out platitudes to others who may be in the same position. Sadly, she is not alone. Fortunately, her visiting partner was a wonderful, caring woman who was immediately able to zoom in on the troubles of the woman in pain and communicate that concern to her.
So there is hope out there!