This week has brought a roller-coaster of emotions. Monday, as I anticipated the formal release of my book the following day, August 12, I received an email from my publisher with the devastating news that one of my favorite actors had ended his life. They suggested I pen a statement to be included with the press release that had already been drafted and scheduled for distribution the following morning. I couldn’t even think about my book. This was a time for Robin Williams’ family – for his wife, for his children, for his dearest friends.
My mind went back 39 years to the morning my own mom died. I remembered the shock, the sadness, the pleading with God to return her to us – to return her to me. I remembered the questions and the confusion and the complete shock. She ended her own life. How could that be? How could my perfect mom leave me? Why?
I thought of Williams’ children – too young to lose their dad. And yet they did.
I sat down to pen a brief statement, and my heart hurt. “I know too well the feelings of loss, helplessness, and hopelessness that follow the suicide death of a loved one,” I wrote. “And I mourn for Williams’ family, for his wife, and for his children who must continue to live in the aftermath of his unexpected death.”
Within a few hours of the press release on Tuesday morning, six radio stations had requested an interview, and one newspaper carried the story of my book. All were trying to make sense of this one death, and to learn how to prevent the next. And yet, more than 38,000 people die by suicide in the United States each year. What can we do? We can learn. We can listen. We can love.
We can learn the signs of suicide risk (www.afsp.org). We can listen when a friend says they want to die. We can contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or take that friend to an emergency room for appropriate treatment. We can give a hug. We can love without judgment.
Suicide’s effects are devastating, its impact vast, and today a world mourns the loss of someone who we considered to be almost family as he entered our homes and our hearts through the screen.
I know there can be hope after suicide. There is light beyond the darkness. At this time of mourning, may we come together, not only in our sorrow, but also in our love with hope for healing for all those left in suicide’s wake. (Wendy Parmley, August 12, 2014)