As I have learned from other suicide survivors, many of us have regrets over what we could have done differently to prevent our loved one from taking their own life. I am no different in that respect. For the most part though, I have come to terms with the fact that there is nothing I could have done or said, or not done or said that would have prevented Steve’s suicide.
The last few years of his life, Steve frequently went through peaks and valleys of clarity and despair. Since he was so good at hiding his inner turmoil, he could fool many, even those closest to him, so that at times, it appeared he was coping well and possibly on the road to recovery. It is only now, going through my grief journey, a lot of therapy and connecting with other survivors, that I can understand how much pain he was in, especially for the past several years.
As an armchair quarterback, I reflect on what I might have liked to have done differently. Now, knowing more about the pain Steve was in, I would have tried to be more sensitive to that and not put him in a position to have to address something, that now, in the grand scheme of things, was really not that important.
There were times in Steve’s s final months, when I believed he was doing well, I thought it was an opportunity to approach him with some business decision to be made or some other concern that I would not have brought to his attention if he was in a pit of despair. As an example, a few months before Steve died, someone whom we both knew, was cyber-harassing me in spite of cease and desist orders. Since Steve seemed to be on the upswing, I told him about it. I will never forget what he said; “I don’t want to hear this”. Although stressful, a mentally healthy person would be able to deal with situations like this. However in Steve’s case, I believe that due to his fragile mental state, he was probably devastated knowing he was powerless to help me and that sent him spiraling down again.
I wish I had realized that my actions may have further stressed Steve even though he appeared well . I wish I was more cognizant of the fact that he needed time to enjoy his brief moments of clarity.
What have I learned in the 18 months since Steve has passed?
- Not to be so hard on myself and know that I did what I thought was in Steve’s best interests. Had I acted on it when Steve was alive, the regret I have now would not have changed anything or prolonged Steve’s life. It was his time, he took matters into his own hands; he did what he had to do for himself. I think this is the only way Steve felt he could protect himself. I couldn’t do it for him.
- Things are not always as they seem. Those suffering from mental illness, even though laughing and smiling on the outside could very well be in intense pain on the inside.
- Hindsight is twenty-twenty.