Suicide: Why Do the Neighbors Talk but do Nothing?
By: Beth McHugh 2008
This weekend I happened across a woman who needs help. She had a For Sale sign out front of her block of units and I stopped to ask her which one was for sale. She told me but it became obvious that she was distracted, depressed and anxious.
So I stayed and talked about her garden a little, as she had been working in it when I approached her. As we talked I could tell she was not well emotionally and finally she made a comment that she had lost her daughter. The tears welled up but she didn’t want to talk about it, so we kept on with the garden talk.
I invited her to take her pick of cuttings from my own garden and she was grateful and asked me inside to help her choose which shoes to wear with a dress she had just purchased. When I finally left, we exchanged phone numbers and I repeated my offer to come get any plants she wanted. She was so grateful for the contact that she hugged me.
Later on in the week I questioned some of the neighbors around her about why exactly she was so sad. They all knew the reason. Her adult daughter had committed suicide three years ago. They told me all sorts of intimate details about the death and more importantly about the way the woman was handling it, or rather not handling the death.
She was on antidepressants, they said, which clearly weren’t helping her too much. Plus she was drinking to cope with the pain. Her partner was shouting at her to get over it. Was it any wonder she was not coping?
What concerned me most was not that her daughter had suicided. It was the attitude of the neighbors. Although they could see her struggling with life, they offered nothing. I carefully questioned the neighbors who knew so much but cared so little. What sort of things had they found was useful to help her through this crisis? They just shrugged. They had offered her nothing. Although many said it must be awful to have a dead child, none had offered so much as a cake or a casserole to show they cared.
The more she struggled under the weight, the more they avoided her. Yet this woman needs love, care and attention as she struggles to find her feet again. To be abandoned and even shouted at to wake up to herself is counterproductive. Ironically, she is in danger of committing suicide herself. She feels she has little to live for and no-one seems to care.
It is important for us all to support each other, because one day, this could so easily be us in a difficult situation and the feelings of abandonment coupled with the already intense grief of death are overwhelming indeed. The gentle hand of friendship is all that is needed to guide a lost soul through the darkest of days.