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My mum’s partner took his life. He died by suicide. It felt like it happened in a span of 3 days. He went missing on a Friday, and was found the Monday after. Just like that, he destroyed my mum’s life. He hurt my children who viewed him a a step-grandparent. And he betrayed me, who after months of “vetting” him, gave him my (unsolicited) blessing.
Mr. S’s suicide took me by surprise. I
was am angry. I was am hurt. I felt feel betrayed. Although it felt like it happened in a blink of an eye, hindsight says otherwise.
There were many signs months prior to the day that we didn’t pick up. The day he went missing, I was with my mum taking her around to run some errands. After I dropped her off at her place that afternoon and carried on with my day.
The following morning, I got a message that Mr. S was missing. He hadn’t come home that night and he wasn’t at his parents place either.
As it turned out, he told mum that he was going to stay at his parents place to help them out with some work around the house; and he told his parents that he was staying at mum’s. It wasn’t until the next morning that both households realized that he was missing. From the way that he went missing, it was clear that he didn’t want to be found.
A Danger to Himself
Over the next couple of days, mum pleaded with the police to keep searching for him. I told her to tell the police that Mr. S’s past shows that he is a danger to himself. (Yes, this was his second attempt at suicide. The first one was prior to him and mum getting into a relationship.)
There is a saying, “past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior“. It was at this point that the police decided to up the ante. As I recall it, the weather on Saturday night before Mr. S was found, was atrocious. The winds were strong and the southerlies were blowing it’s icy breath over Wellington. At about 9.00pm Mum had a strong thought as to where Mr. S could be found.
She called the police and told them. They suggested that she stay home and that the search would resume in the morning. “But it’s very close by,” she pleaded. They told her to stay put in case he came home. So she did.
The following morning, my partner and I were out enjoying a nice breakfast out. The children spent the weekend at the dad’s place. It was then that we got a call from the police. “Could you come to your mum’s place quickly?” Sgt. Thomas asked.
I could hear my mum screaming in the background. She was wailing. I felt the blood drain from my face. My knees felt weak. I ran around in circles – to the cashier, back to our table, out the door, back in to the restaurant again. I didn’t know what to do. My partner, Wayne, told me to go to the car and he would settle the bill.
We were 15 minutes away from my mum’s place. The drive felt like an hour long.
He Destroyed My Mom’s Life
As we drove up to mum’s house. The police car was parked outside. Sgt. Thomas was waiting for me. I could hear my mum’s screams from outside. “We found Mr. S,” he said. “I’m sorry to say that he’s passed.”
I went into mum’s house and found her curled up in the arms of another police officer. It was a woman. Until then, it had been Sgt. Thomas and his partner, Jeffrey, who I’d been speaking with. Today, they brought a female officer for her.
Mum was curled up like a child, wailing and crying, calling out Mr. S’s name. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to cry, but no tears fell.
Sgt. Thomas told me that Mr. S had hung himself.
“Where was he found?,” I asked.
“Not far from here.”
That afternoon, Wayne and I took mum to the mortuary to view Mr. S’s body. We went to Wellington Hospital, where we were told a gentleman would be waiting for us. We were taken to the viewing room, where behind a glass window, Mr. S’s body was lying.
I Looked At Him With Contempt
There he was on the table, never to wake again. He gave up. He no longer wanted to be part of this world, and decided to end his life. I left the room and I went to look for a bathroom. I could not find one. I stayed in the hall and leaned again the cold, white wall. I cried. I cried so hard.
The next day, the police took us to the site where Mr. S took his life. It was the same place that my mum thought he might when she called the police and was told to stay put. It was a little area tucked away off the track where people go for a walk up the mountain. It was what they called their secret garden. My mum screamed his name. She beat the chest of the nearest person, Sgt. Thomas. She fell to the damp ground. There were flowers on the ground.
The interesting thing is that I knew my tears were not for Mr. S. I was wept, in those halls at the mortuary, because I was angry. When my own father died in 2008, I did not get to go home to the Philippines to see him. I did not have the means to travel. I cried because there I was, taking my mum to see Mr. S’s lifeless body, when I didn’t even get to see my own father.
I cried even more when I thought about having to tell my children that Mr. S was dead. Over the last two years, he had been like a step-grandparent to them. He was the “stable” male presence in their life, after their father and I separated.
I cried because I knew that my mum was breaking inside.
I cried because I would have to look after my mum and guide her through this.
I cried because I was angry.
I called Mr. S several names in my head. I called him a useless coward, and many other harsh names.
Day after day, I watched my mum crumple like a small, fragile leaf. I hugged my children as they cried themselves to sleep. “I wish I told him that I loved him,” my daughters would say. I held Wayne as he wept for the loss of a friend.
My anger grew more and more as I took my surroundings in and I comforted those affected by Mr. S’s deed.
I’ve read many articles and have been told by many people not to take Mr. S’s suicide personally. “It was a selfish act,” I would say.
Their replies and the messages of the articles were fairly consistent: “Until you yourself have experienced the darkness and the pain that pushed him to take his own life, then you cannot judge him”.
Today, almost two months to the day, I am still picking up the pieces of what Mr. S did. Am I angry? For the most part, yes. I am not angry because he took his life. I am angry for what he did, and for what his actions continue to do to those he left behind.
But they are right – those articles and those people who have tried to share their wisdom with me… I cannot judge him. I will never know what went through his mind in those days, weeks, months leading up to the day.
“Until you yourself have experienced the darkness and the pain that pushed him to take his own life, then you cannot judge him.”
For many of us, when we feel pain and hopelessness, we still get up and show up the next day. He was afraid to go to sleep, and even more afraid to wake up. I will never know the pain, darkness, and despair that he felt.
How To Help Someone Trying to Survive Suicide
- Whether they feel pain, guilt, despair, or anger – listen to them and acknowledge their pain.
- Do not try and candy coat their feelings by piping up with funny stories to remember their loved one by. That time will come. In the meantime, go back to point 1.
- When the time comes and they feel anger; do not fan the flames. Allow them to feel it, and go back to point 1.
- Allow yourself to grieve. You do not have to be the strong one. You will all need to support each other.
- Do not turn people away. Give those who love you a chance to be there for you.
Where to get help in NZ
- Lifeline: 0800-543-354 (available 24/7)
- Depression Healthline: 0800 111 757
- Samaritans: 0800 726 666
- Youthline: 0800 376 633