In the checkout line of the grocery store the other day a cover of a magazine jumped out at me… a picture of a beautiful, young woman, a former contestant on “The Bachelor,” who recently took her own life. I did actually watch that season of the show and remember her well– she was stunningly beautiful and had one of the most engaging smiles I’d ever seen. The people close to her seemed to be so shocked that this happened. It’s not that uncommon, really. Though I knew how badly you were suffering and expected your death to come, I heard so many people say to me, “I had no idea he was depressed… was it a total shock to you? I never would have seen this coming.” I felt ashamed to say, “Yes, I did see this coming.”
It’s so strange how suicides attract so much attention in the media. People want to know all the “gory details.” How did they do it? Who found them? What did they look like? Was there a note? What did it say? Did they blame anyone? Did anyone see it coming? But for a death that creates so much interest and curiosity, it sure is lonely and alienating as a family member; people are afraid of us, it would seem. They are uncomfortable with our presence because they don’t know what to say to us or because our pain is hard for them to be around or possibly because we remind them of the pain that exists in their own life. I had a long-lost friend recently resurface to tell me, “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you– I didn’t know how to help you so I just stayed away.” While I can understand her feelings, it does still hurt because the alienation adds another layer of pain to your death.
There were details about your death that I needed to talk about and process but absolutely could not share with those around me– they were too intense and too difficult for others to hear. That’s where the support group at The Christi Center was so helpful– there I could talk about those “gory details” that no one wanted (or was equipped) to hear and not be judged or ashamed for needing to talk about and work through. I remember discussing one event that was really hard for me after your death. It was August of 2011– 10 months after you died. I was in my office at work and noticed an awful, awful smell. The smell was coming from an animal that had died in the rafters above my office and was decomposing in the Texas heat. I had a full-blown panic attack and had to leave for a bit because that smell was not unfamiliar to me– it was not unlike the faint smell which still remained at your home when we went to collect your belongings. You had been dead for a week when you were found and I was told had decomposed at an unusually rapid rate for having been indoors in a moderate temperature– being October in Minnesota and all. Once you smell that scent, you never forget it. It’s strange to me how those kinds of details would make for a juicy story in a tabloid but when it comes down to relating to a real person, no one wants to hear that stuff! I wish they wouldn’t print those kinds of details because it feels like an exploitation of the grief the family is experiencing– and it must feel like such a violation. While it was so helpful to me to be able to talk about it with other suicide survivors who understood the need to share those kinds of details, I can’t imagine the pain of having had your picture plastered on the front cover of a magazine along with a headline speculating how/why you did it. And to have millions of strangers reading about your life and your pain and your ultimate death… would just be so painful because so many people are afraid to talk directly TO me about it.
My heart goes out to this young woman’s family as they begin the process of restructuring their life without her in it. It is a process I continue to work on every single day and wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.