A post about death and dying – and choice.

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Someone very dear to me has very recently lost a partner to suicide.
I wasn’t going to blog about this because there are some things that ought not to be plastered all over the internet, but it’s been on my mind constantly and I need to express my feelings – so I’ll do it without making any identities known.

I wasn’t close to the person in question, but still I am affected because I am a compassionate human being and the thought of anyone suffering is something I cannot bear to imagine.
I feel deeply sad in fact, and sad, and concerned for the person who is grieving.
And even though we all kind of expected it, it was still a shock.
There was nothing anyone could have done.

A week before the actual suicide he had made an attempt by cutting his throat.
That in itself, for “her” must have been horrific.
Then, two days after being let out of hospital, despite counseling and despite follow ups (they really were quite thorough and even checked that he got home safely the day he left hospital) he jumped off a cliff.

I think when someone loses a loved one to suicide it can be worse somehow, than a natural death. (I suppose it depends though.)
The fact that he was nearing the end of his life and had been diagnosed with cancer makes it at the very least understandable but there is just something about the act of jumping off a cliff into the ocean that is quite traumatic to contemplate.
And you DO contemplate it.

I find myself wondering if there were rocks.
Did he actually hit the rocks? Or was it straight into the water?
At the coroners they did actually go into some detail about his injuries and were careful to explain that he suffered no facial, or otherwise outward (for the identification process) trauma, but inside he was a mess.
I wasn’t expecting that – the detail, but it was done with a matter of factness that was also somehow quite sensitive and gentle.
(Everyone has been so very sensitive and kind and handled the matter with such deep respect for the grieving partner)
I was surprised they did an autopsy considering the police knew about his previous attempt.
How high was the cliff?
Was he conscious in the water or did he die straight away?
Did he suffer?
Did he have a moment as he was falling when he panicked and wished he hadn’t jumped?
Oh …what did that feel like to make that decision….that moment?
It makes me feel ill.
Nobody can answer THOSE questions.

That is the trauma of suicide, I guess.
And I’m just a bystander so I cannot imagine what it must be like for “her”.

I cannot judge a person who decides to take their own life under these circumstances.
He felt he couldn’t deal with a future of suffering, and chose his own time and way to leave this world.
It’s shocking, yes, but I can understand why he did it, and so can she.

Funny how varied peoples views can be though. I was quite surprised at my husbands reaction which was quite different from my own more accepting one.
Some people think it’s such a selfish act…and yeah, I guess it is, especially if it’s done in an act of anger or revenge, but in the circumstance of wanting to end your life because a disease is going to cause you to be in pain and anguish? I don’t think that’s selfish.

Some people fear death because it renders you powerless. You are not in control. For some people that is terrifying. More terrifying than throwing yourself off a cliff.
I can understand that. I am terrified of not having control too.

I just don’t understand why we can’t have voluntary euthanasia legalised.
I mean, in some parts of the world we have the death penalty and end a persons life as punishment, and yet we won’t allow people who are suffering the right to mercy?
How unjust is that?

I absolutely am an advocate for it. If there is a way it could be absolutely assured – of sound mind, all the legal red tape tied up…
WITH dignity….not lying broken at the base of a cliff.
Surely it can’t be THAT difficult for them to figure out?

I actually think it should be a basic human right in the case of terminal disease.
A choice.
I worked as a nurse in my younger years for a while. I’ve had people beg me to “help them die”.
It’s horrible.

Please….I don’t want “Oh I’m so sorry for your loss” comments. That wasn’t why I wrote this and
it wasn’t MY loss.
I guess I’m just trying to make sense of an experience I never in my wildest dreams imagined for this person whom I care for…and I’m just trying to digest something that , well, that we all know about, hear about, but then it happens within your circle, and it’s just a shocking sad thing that is hard to wrap your head around.

16 responses »

  1. You have written this with empathy Trace, the loss of any life devastating, to suicide..when possibly it could have been avoided, more so. I agree with you though legalise euthanasia. For those whose lives will be attached to a machine, or a slow painful death, they have the right to say no more. I’m glad you wrote, as you have expelled your feelings and this will help hopefully help your thought process and trying to understand. No one has the answers sadly, as to how someone can take their own life, but I know if my life was drawing to a close before I wanted it to, I would want the decision to be mine, if I chose to remain or leave. Hugs. x

    • I don’t know where my reply went to you Jen.
      Thanks. I somehow knew you would be on the same page as me regarding choice.
      It will be a long time though I imagine before anything is done about this.

  2. I had similar experience with a dear friend of mine, she was only 17 years old, as you said there is nothing we could do for them, that make you feel powerless and in some way guilty (my experience was quite different from yours though). It would be better if there was the option of euthanasia but unfortunately it seems there is still lots of influence from religion in this kind of argument in the political debate.

    • I’m so sorry Salvlucia. 17, my God, that’s a baby still. :( I have to say here that of course my views about suicide are vastly different when it comes to the tragedy of people committing suicide as a result of depression or some kind of mental/emotional anguish which I am presuming would have been the case with your friend? We need more resources, and more research , work done to prevent this!

      • yes she had a very difficult situation at home and nobody helping her (once a psychologist gave her strong anxiolytics, not a smart choice, she could have tried suicide even with that, she tried suicide since she was 13) . I tried to help her a lot but I was 17 too, an unfortunate situation, many regrets from her family after her death

  3. This is a tough subject. I think I agree that euthanasia should be available for people who have terminal diagnoses, so they can choose the time and place and circumstances. That seems compassionate and reasonable to me, but it is hard to get beyond a religious upbringing that says such things should be left up to God. My only close experience was with someone (a cousin’s son) who was young and physically healthy and I still can’t wrap my head around his choice to leave a wife and four small children behind, to wonder why he couldn’t find enough light in this world to stay and watch those kids grow up. But I don’t know what he was feelilng or how dark the world looked from his perspective. I can’t know that. I can’t imagine and I can’t judge. Life is mysterious and life is hard. Sometimes things just don’t make sense. I keep hoping things will make more sense when I get to the other side. Meanwhile, I try to choose love instead of fear. It’s the only real choice any of us are given. <3

    • It is very tough, yeah. Intrinsically suicide is an abhorrent thought because in most of us there is a very strong instinct for self preservation.
      It is tragic when someone takes their own life when it seems as though things COULD have changed…. COULD have gotten better. So sad in your case of such a young person you knew leaving behind a wife and children.
      I’m not religious which is why this is less complicated in my mind – when it comes to terminal illness.
      I just think, well… a compassionate loving God wouldn’t want suffering. My thought anyway.
      Thanks for reading and mulling it over with me. A heavy and complicated topic for sure.

  4. For me as a life loving person, I keep thinking that people who commit suicide must be so desperate, I cannot even imagine how they must feel,like in a hole with no way out. A friend of mine is dealing with something similar and we do talk about it. I feel sorry that the person cannot be helped and does not seek help (it was in my friends case). I do agree that if someone really wants to die we should let them. It raises lots of questions and we will often never know the answers.

    • I agree, they absolutely must be desperate to have lost all sense of hope.
      That is the saddest thing of all to me, to imagine someone who is SO in pain, whether it be physically or emotionally to be willing to give up this precious thing called LIFE.
      Every day that has passed when I see something beautiful….like the moon peeking through clouds, or when I take a walk on a balmy summers night and the mood of the night is just so perfect…All these little things – this amazing world around us….I think of this person now gone who will never see and experience these things again.
      It just makes me sad.

  5. all good thoughts and this is something i have strong opinions about. i also believe in the concept of euthanasia and the right of every human being to have a say in how their life will end if given the opportunity and the suffering is too difficult for them. i think it should be done in a peaceful, pain-free way and the family will know about it, leaving far less pain than a sudden, violent suicide.

    • Absolutely Beth. I bet all those on death row awaiting death by lethal injection are counseled and the whole procedure explained in detail so they have a full understanding of what to expect. Not so for people who end it for themselves, and there must also be the fear in their minds that …”what if I somehow survive but am left a paraplegic?” Awful to contemplate.

  6. Many years ago my grandmother screamed incessantly to die as she was in so much pain with untreatable bowel cancer for months. In the end, my grandfather, a retired policeman, smothered her with a pillow and the local GP just signed a cancer related death certificate. My grandfather was willing to go to jail for it but the GP out of compassion, knowing the agony she was in, wrote it off.

    We all make sane, loving decisions over a pet being put down, but not a human. I believe the laws are designed to enrich pharmaceutical companies to sell more drugs by paying off governments not to bring in such laws to allow the end of suffering of humans.

    • Oh Ralph, what a horrible thing to “have” to do….and yet SUCH a loving thing! I can understand him doing that. In fact I have joked with my family about smothering me with a pillow if it came to it….well, they think I’m joking but I really mean it.
      And you are dead right about the pharmaceutical companies. Oh there is so much to be said for the state of our health in general and the big drug companies.
      It pays to keep us sick and it pays to keep us existing, even if we’re suffering.
      Thanks for your comments.

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