There are many articles highlighting the signs of suicide. There may be many clues that someone is depressed enough to take their own life. Unfortunately, a lot of these signs are not seen until you lose someone. My best friend was thirteen when she took her own life. For many years, and sometimes still today, I wonder if I could have seen a sign sometime to save her. Many times, even if the signs are there you can not see them until after the loss. Now that it has been fourteen years since her death I can see many things I missed.
Always thinking or talking about death
At the age of thirteen my friend and I would spent endless hours up talking. Sometimes we would even play games. Some of our games would involve the paranormal. We liked to play games such as ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ or get out the Ouija Board. At the time, I figured this was just a phrase that we were going through. I remember telling ghost stories all night. Looking back this trend did not start until about six months or so before her death. As a child I may have thought it was normal, but as an adult I will monitor my children closely as to any new trend that may involve death or dark themes. Although, some kids go through this ‘stage’ and nothing is wrong there is always the chance.
Losing interest in things that were most loved
This one sticks in my head a lot. Prior to her death, Erin and I were very close and would jump at the chance to come to each other’s house. About a month before she died I had moved with my parents to a new place and I had been begging her to come over. She would say that she would ‘someday’. Looking back I realize that this was not typical for her. Erin would have been jumping at the chance to come over. Seeing this change after the fact is a great reason why I will sometimes feel guilt that I did not ‘see’ it coming.
Making comments about being worthless, helpless, or hopeless
This one can be lost in translation until the harsh reality comes crashing in. Many people, especially those with self esteem issues, may make comments about not feeling worth anything. I think the biggest thing about this sign is a change. Erin was a very confident person. She loved to do things and was very friendly when I first met her. However, she slowly became unsure of herself. I remember a conversation we had at her house about feeling disliked by all of her peers in her school. She felt as if there was nothing she could do to make them like her. I thought, at the time, that this was her way of asking me if I would ask my parents if she could move in. We had talked about that before she moved away, but were too scared to ask.
Sudden unexpected switch to happiness or being calm
After a person has decided to commit suicide they are often happy and calm. They feel as if they have just come up with the best solution for all of their problems. Erin’s parents knew that she had had some social problems in the school, but thought she was getting better. I knew that she was having problems too, but when she had a party just two days prior to dying I did not think much of it. It was the only and last Halloween party she had hosted.
Not committing to any future plans
Once more this brings up the issue of her seeing my new place ‘sometime’. This sign was also very much there when I planned a party and she said ‘we will see’. That party would happy after her Halloween party and two days after her death. This is a very real reflection on what was spinning on her mind at the end of that October. Looking back, this sign was the most obvious and the one that keeps me awake at night from time to time still.
Losing a loved one to suicide can be awful. It will create lifetime of grief. There will be lots of questions and very few answers. It is not uncommon to think that you could have somehow stopped it. However, it is never the ones left behind that are at fault. This realization is harder to understand when in post loss you can see the warning signs so clearly. You must just learn from your experience and share your knowledge with those that can benefit the most from it.