Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Suicide: thoughts from those left behind to those who are struggling

Beautiful necklace, isn’t it? It’s my favorite, made by my lovely, quirky, tender-hearted, eccentric cousin Kelly. I wear it at least once a week to honor her memory.

Kelly killed herself on November 25th, 2014, one month before Christmas. She was one of two children, the only daughter, and much-loved by her family. She was gifted at making jewelry and loved to give it away, so her parents asked us to take home pieces from her memorial service to remember her. Two Christmas trees at the front of the hall sparkled and glittered with the beautiful reminders – gorgeous and heartbreaking.

Earlier in the year I thought the untimely loss of Robin Williams would be the closest brush with suicide my immediate family would have. My children deal with anxiety disorders and depression, but overall things for them are improving. There have been times where I have walked them through suicide attempts and suicidal ideation, but we have come through it. A high-profile suicide of a beloved figure is alarming, since it can be a trigger for those very sensitive already.

Depression is one of the most insidious diseases. It constantly natters in your ear, filling your head with hopeless thoughts. And many sufferers are able to “present well.” They are able to hide their symptoms while with other people or their doctors, only to have the hopelessness come back full force when they are alone.

photo via pixabay

I don’t agree with those who say that people who commit suicide are being selfish. The deeply depressed person is so trapped and so deceived that they truly feel that it is the best option for everyone. They see themselves as a burden. With his or her death, everyone will be free. They don’t see the aftermath: the parents finding their beloved child, the paroxysms of tears and grief, or the packing up of all the belongings of the now lost child. They don’t think about all the Christmases and birthdays and holidays where they will be missed. They can’t see past their own pain and hopelessness.

My sweet cousin had her own struggles with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a recent accident requiring surgery and painful recovery. Somehow she managed to hide from us just how hopeless she had become. We didn’t see it coming.

photo via flickr

The questions from those of us left behind, both in the commentary about Robin Williams and looking back at my cousin’s life, are remarkably similar: “Was he/she on medication?” (Yes.) “Was he/she in counseling or treatment?” (Yes.) So we are left wondering how we didn’t see it. The meds seemed to be helping. She seemed to be getting better. The ultimate and most heart-wrenching question: “Couldn’t I have done more? Something, anything? Couldn’t I have seen this coming?”

At Kelly’s memorial service I heard about all the wonderful things she did in her life: traveled to Africa to build orphanages, volunteered for years at the Salvation Army, volunteered at a hospice to feed those who were unable to feed themselves. There were many people I had never seen before coming up to share how Kelly touched their lives and encouraged them. It made me happy that they came to honor her, but so sad at the same time. How many of these people would have dropped what they were doing and spent time with Kelly that night if any of us had known her plans or how hopeless she was? I know I would have dropped everything.

photo via flickr

I know there are so, so many people of all ages gripped by that same hopelessness and depression. Know this:

There are more people who care about you than you realize. More than you will ever know.

Don’t just listen to the voice of depression. Reach out and talk to someone: online, by text, or by phone. If you don’t have a friend or family member that you trust to talk to about your feelings, there are networks of caring people who are ready to listen. They care about you. I care. You matter.

photo via flickr 

If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please use one of these links below.


Kids Help Phone for people in crisis under age 20: 1-800-668-6868, toll-free 24/7 access: http://org.kidshelpphone.ca/en

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), toll-free 24/7 access 

Resources on understanding, coping, intervening, preventing, grieving, and advocating:

An interactive map to find a local crisis centre in your province:

United States:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), toll-free 24/7 access 

The Trevor Project Lifeline for LGBTQ in crisis or feeling suicidal: 1-866-488-7386, toll-free 24/7 access

United Kingdom:

Samaritans have online and phone counseling 24/7

And here is an image I found online, but can't find the original source to credit. It has a list of worldwide suicide hotlines which seems to be current. 

If you have something you would like to share, please do so in the comments. I would love to hear from you. If you would like to read more about my struggle with depresssion, click here for the link.

Talk to someone. Ask for help. It gets better. 


  1. Oh, Natalie, my heart goes out to you and your family. This is one of the most well-thought-out and honest articles on the effects of suicide that I've ever read. While it may be easy to call 'suicide' selfish for some, I think it's impossible to really nag that down to each individual. I don't think anyone takes their life because they're bored. I think there's so much beneath the surface that we will never see or understand.

    Prayers your way!

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment and your prayers, Katie.

  3. Thank you for this post and I'm praying for you and your family. I've struggled with depression all of my life and made multiple attempts on my life, sometimes the thoughts still come but not nearly as much. I have to constantly remind myself of the people who care about me and would miss me. This post was beautiful in it's clarity and understanding of both sides of the issue, God bless you!

  4. Thank you, Bec. I've been reading your blog posts about your struggle. You are a strong and wonderful woman, and the world is a better place with you in it.