Taking time for conversations about suicide

When Robin Williams committed suicide my first thought, as I am sure many people had, was of his daughter. My worry in the moment was that she would feel that her love was not enough. The way it was covered, the way the story was reported may have been tactless, but it was also very real. There is no glamour in suicide and unfortunately no privacy. I do not believe suicide is selfish and I do believe the first reaction should be compassion. Compassion for those left behind and compassion for the pain in others we are not privy to. I hope this man's death, suffering and legacy creates inlets of change. I would venture to say for the person suffering they are thinking this is the only way to stop the pain, and perhaps this collective societal loss will allow more people access to help.

My biological father committed suicide when I was in college. Very few people knew about this at the time, even some of my roommates did not know. I had been living with a friend in Alaska and had to leave early, knowing from fleeting phone conversations with my father that things were changing and I was worried, although as a nineteen year old it was difficult to understand the depth of his hopelessness.

My father, committed suicide on Fathers day.

I traveled to California, met with his family, read a pretty beautiful eulogy and saved the tears for many, many years later. Thirteen years into parenthood my husband owns much of Fathers day, I still hurt but it is a soft hurt more of remembering. I have done some counseling, and read a lot of books. I have read letters my father wrote to me, I have longed for a sibling to talk to about the letters and found some solace in knowing how deeply I was loved. Focusing on the love rather than the abandonment, it has taken time but pain is a great catalyst for action. The desire to, as my father wrote me in his last letter, "plumb the depths of this life...." rather than feel shorted.

As I have thought about Robin William's death this week, and my children have asked about it, I wanted to share one perspective from a daughter who lost a father. My blessing of having an amazing mother, a steadfast stepfather who became Dad, and a faith that kept right on burning when I felt like wallowing in self pity pulled me through the early grief. I talked to our kids about pain, depression and hopelessness. How its not unseemly to feel things, really feel things. We can talk, yell and cry and still be whole lovable people. I talked about how "things" money and fame did not cure us of anxiety, how important it was to talk about worry or concern anytime. These were large looping conversations without proper punctuation, but I hope the older kids heard the bottom line: you are loved wherever you are, and if you are hurting I will be there with you to find the right help.

I hope this tragedy allows other families to have this conversation as well.

Little Deirdre by statue of James Joyce by his grave at Fluntern cemetery in Zurich. My parents were studying at the Jungian institute but anything Irish was a lifelong passion for my father.
As a toddler with my father

I miss my father on days punctuated by celebration, birthdays, holidays and
when ever a hear a Gaelic song fleetingly on the radio.

1-800-273-TALK  http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/minnesota-suicide-hotlines.html


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