Stay.

Well, that’s over now. We can all resume our regular programming. It’s been a week since Robin Williams died. The words and pictures and tributes are only trickling into the newsfeed. Maybe we’ll see an uptick from time to time as new information comes forth, as new insights are gleaned but for the most part we are cycling around again, coming back into our normal way of operating. Maybe we’ll think of him from time to time, when the quotes and memes resurface, when his films show up on television, when awards ceremonies air their tributes to those we’ve lost this year. But for most of us, those of us who did not know him personally, our regular lives just pick up right where we left them. It’s the way of things.

For those who did know him personally the loss is palpable, I imagine. The loss is daily and will continue to be felt in the day to day, perhaps even in the moment to moment. Haven’t we all lost someone at one point or another? Don’t we all know that ache? That empty? That unanswered question?

Robin Williams suicide raised important issues, awareness issues in its wake. Depression, mental illness, visibility, treatment. Between the posts of movie lines and funny tidbits and grief there were calls to action, to listen better, to pick up the phone when feeling as though all is lost. Despair has depths unplumbed to most of us, I’d wager.

I’d always thought that if someone wants to end their life there’s probably little any of us could do about it. We can see the signs, we can treat the signs, we can listen better, we can call and keep tabs and remind about medication or therapy appointments but it’s not a cure for what ails. In the end it feels to me that those people who choose suicide do so because they see no other options or perhaps if they do see options they seem untenable, temporary, too painful to attempt. Nothing will help, this is the course of action.

But what do I know? Nothing. I don’t know because I have not been there, I have not studied it, I have not survived the loss of a close friend or relative to suicide. I know nothing and of course that makes it so easy to judge. From where I sit, it’s a simple task to unpack all of the anger and regret, grief and despair. I can just pick up my life where I left off, resume my regular programming, unaffected.

Except that I don’t feel unaffected now. I feel some deep dark pressing in from the outside, the “there must be something we can do or could have done or should have done” thought. And it’s there because we don’t want to be absent anything. Loss is terrible and difficult, death seems so final to those of us who stay behind. Perhaps it’s true that there is nothing we could say or do or be that would entice someone so deep in despair that they’d consider and choose to end their own life and yet I’m compelled to try. I’m compelled to encourage all of us to keep talking and trying and exploring and listening well to those around us who struggle

And I’m compelled to put out this small plea to the struggling community at large, to all of us, to any of us but especially to those people who feel there is no other way than to leave the land of the living –

Stay. Please stay.

 

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline