How do you continue living when the one you love takes his own life?

The deaths of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade have once again put the spotlight on the issue of suicide, and many people wonder how people as famous, talented, rich as them could have taken their own lives. 

We could all talk about it in the medical,  philosophical or spiritual or emotional realms, but we are fortunate to still be detached about it if this has not happened to us — losing a person we love to suicide.

How do they — the people bereaved by someone who took his or her own life — continue to live when a big part of them has died as well? It is painful enough when people lose their parents, spouse, siblings, children, best friends to natural death or through a fatal accident or violent crime. We could only imagine how even more difficult it is if the loss was because the person we love chose to end it all and there was nothing we could do or have done about it.

A grandmother who took care of her granddaughter lost her to suicide and at first, all she could feel was hurt and anger, saying her 14-year-old grandchild had been so selfish and did not even think about how hurt those who love her would feel. This was perhaps a coping mechanism because the anger would override the profound grief.

My ABS-CBN News colleague Charie Villa is a sister who lost her own brother to suicide because of depression, and this was what Charie wrote on Facebook to help those who grieve:

“Whoever are deeply affected by the sudden and tragic deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I know you are in grief and in a state of shock. Especially those who are very young, fragile souls out there. I understand where you are because I have been there, too. My brother took his own life – he was 55 and I was living with him. It was heart wrenching and it still hurts when I remember, still very often since it was only two years ago. But instead of the struggle and pain you are feeling that I am sharing, allow me to focus on words that may give you hope and faith. Soon, a life full of joy and love will begin to unravel as friends and family will come to you. Yes you will recall the moment it happened and it will still be painful. But remember, their deaths have nothing to do with you. Their illness were theirs, and we just happened to be pushed into the situation. You will miss them but remember- without their mental illness- they loved and lived the best way they can. I know it is hard because you are angry they left you. But it is over now and the anger will go away. You have a beautiful sacred life to live, so live it! Don’t be embarrassed to say their name or how they passed, honor and respect that. And if you feel like you’re alone, you have family and friends you can reach out to. If you feel like crying, don’t be afraid to show your emotions. May you be surrounded with love and your paths be lit from hereon. Peace.”

Another friend who lost her beloved husband shares her perspective, so we may understand what the people left behind when their beloved take their own life, and a bittersweet sharing to those who are suffering from depression. She requests that she remains anonymous. Here is an excerpt of her sharing: 

“That’s what people always say — remember only the good memories you had with the person you lost, forget the ones that are bad and painful.

Is it really that easy? It’s easy to tell a depressed person to “reach” out, but it’s never easy for a depressed person to actually do it.

You’re probably wondering why I’m so profoundly affected by mental illness to advocate for its awareness this much.

What I’m about to tell you is perhaps, the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do — to actually share my own personal and firsthand experience of losing someone because of mental illness.

I lived with and committed myself completely to a person with mental illness. I did the best I could to be there for him, whenever he had these depressive episodes.

But even then, he still took his own life. Even then, he still fell through the cracks and I was powerless to stop it.

It’s been three years since it happened, but I have not fully recovered from my loss. The depression and suffering never stop, even when a depressed person takes his own life.

It is only transferred (in an even more immense magnitude) to his loved ones. And they have to live with it for the rest of their lives, along with guilt, regret and the pursuit of an answer that they will never find.

I impart this message, not just to raise a collective consciousness about the issue, but especially to reach out to those who are going through the darkness of suffering from mental illness. I’m reaching out because I’ve been there — I mean it when I say that I know what you’re going through.

I feel your pain just as poignantly and I have to live with it for the rest of my life. I have to survive through it because I don’t want to inflict and transfer that same pain to those who care about me. I don’t have it in me to pass on that kind of burden to anyone, no matter how difficult it is to live with it.

Your dark passenger will not die with you. You will only empower it even more by causing your loved ones grief, guilt, and pain.

Every time you think of taking your life, think of them and remind yourself that you are not only living for yourself. Reach out to them and tell them everything, no matter how difficult.

Acknowledging your weaknesses does not make you weak. Self-awareness actually makes you face your demons head on and enables you to fight and exorcise them. And you have the support of your family and friends to help you through the process.

The last thing I want to see on my newsfeed is another incident of someone taking his or her own life. To normal people, it’s just news but to people like me, it’s a painful reminder of what we had to go through and are still going through.

It doesn’t matter who I am — what matters is what I’m advocating for. Most people who lose a loved one to suicide would rather process their grief in private and shy away from public view, mostly because of their guilt. Admittedly, I’m still going through the same phase, but someone needs to speak up.

I may have chosen to be faceless and nameless, but my cause is far bigger than my identity. Hopefully, my attempt will help avert the needless loss of another life.

I speak on behalf of every parent, spouse, son, daughter, and friend who has lost a loved one due to mental illness. Pass on this message to someone whom you think is going through a dark phase — you just might be able to save that person’s life.

We can only hope, but to at least try is better than doing nothing at all.

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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Gel Santos Relos
Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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