Robin Williams’s passing brought back memories and flashbacks of my first loss of a patient by suicide more than three decades ago. At a time I thought I knew more – and never saw it coming – how little did I know. And after so many years, I wonder how much more I know. With the passage of time I appreciate one truth: the more we know the more we know how little we know and how much more there is to know.
To all who have been touched by a loss by suicide, I wrote the following brief passage:
DEATH BY SUICIDE
What demons invaded her mind? What sense of despair and closing of all doors and options permeated her thoughts and reached the inevitable conclusion that there was no way out? That taking her own life was, in fact, the only way out. To feel no more, to hurt no more, to cry no more. A relief from all pain. No anchors of hope to reach out to in her mind.
How can I possibly see what’s in her soul? How can I understand what’s in her heart? Feel what she feels? Understand the pain? How can I pretend to reach out and touch her, and ease the pain? How can I steal away the thoughts of despair? How can I open a conduit that allows the sun to shine in and provide a momentary respite?
How can I see what I don’t see? Hear what I don’t hear? Feel what I can’t sense? Understand what I don’t know?
How can I pretend to help? To intervene? To “treat” her? What skills by virtue of credentials and degrees has pierced the many personal layers and barriers that will allow me to see what she sees, hear what she hears, feel what she feels, and comprehend the path she has taken and final choice she has made?
She died today. I did not know because I did not see. I did not know because I did not hear. I did not know because I did not feel. I wasn’t there even though I was. I thought I knew but did not know. And now I know how little I knew, how little I know. Too late. She is gone.
In memory of Robin Williams, August 11, 2014
There is no undoing a suicide. But any training, workshops, programs, and involvement with organizations that specialize in suicidology helps open our eyes more, hear better, and feel more.
2010 suicide data and breakdown by state:
For much more, see the American Association of Suicidology: