Depression and Suicide

robinwilliamsToday we all heard the news of Robin Williams death through suicide. How sad.

I do not read the news but I start my day by browsing Facebook, especially now that I’m in the last stretch of publishing my forthcoming book “Grieving Parents: Surviving Loss as a Couple”. The news feed today was full of Robin Williams pictures, quotes, movie references… a display of people’s love and admiration for his craft and talent of having impact on people’s lives.

Reading about his death I noticed that unbeknownst to me he had depression and committed suicide.

I had multiple conversations with people who said things like: “He was such an inspiring character, it’s unbelievable that he was depressed” or “He was so successful, I can’t believe he committed suicide.”

It’s the question of theodicy, a topic I cover in my book:

The question of theodicy

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is the most common version of the theological question around why evil is possible in this world. Religious parents are faced with the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, like the death of their child.
Any variation of the post-loss “why” questions can become a way of amplifying loss. According to Dr. L. Michael Hall, by focusing on getting to acceptance as quickly as possible takes the semantic power out of the “why” question. If overused, the “why” question can become a way to amplify loss.

It is completely natural to want to make sense. Unfortunately, there is little to no chance of finding an answer that will quench the thirst for finding the answer that would explain the tragedy.

In regards to suicide from depression I have personal experience through my mother’s death which happened in the same way as Robin William’s death.

  • People suffer depression, no matter their IQ, EQ, the success or the amount of fame, friends, status, toys, things they possess.
  • People commit suicide no matter how much they are loved, cherished, admired, known, in the public eye (or not).
  • People, suffering from depression who commit suicide have people who love them and who have told them every day.
  • Depression is like a bottom-less cup where any love poured in evaporates, not through their ill-will but because of their depression.
  • In the moment of self-chosen death, many suicide victims have tunnel vision and do not think of the people they leave behind.

I had some in depth conversations with my mum following her first few suicide attempts. I was 19 weeks pregnant at the time and was furious that she would have me go through grief while being pregnant with the twin girls.

“I just wanted to end this pain, it had nothing to do with you or anyone else” – my mother’s words when we were talking about her previous attempts.

“I know grief would be hard at the beginning but it will get easier with time,” she added… I shook my head in disbelief. She must be out of her mind.

In retrospect she was ‘out-of-her-mind’ and she was able to see the bigger picture. She was right: It will get easier with time. 



Friends with Death

there is not shortcut through grief

there is not shortcut through grief

As strange as it might sound: I’ve become friends with death.

I remember my relationship with death started when I was about 7 years old and my very own Guinean pig died. I was devastated. I don’t remember what my parents said or how they explained it but I remember that I found it lying motionless in his cage one morning, stiff and cold. I didn’t understand and I now realised that I was fearful of the uncontrollable force that could suck out all live of my precious companion.

The next significant meeting was at my grandfather’s funeral, when I was 13. I didn’t have much contact with him so I couldn’t really relate to the sadness of some if my relatives and felt awkward for bit being miserable. Next was my one grandmother, which I also wasn’t really close. I was aware of my dad’s sadness and dispair and observed grief in someone who wasn’t really openly showing emotions. My grandfather, which I was very close to while growing up, died while I was away traveling in the days prior to mobile phones. By the time I  found out I was so distraught that the holiday trip I was on with a friend came to a sudden halt, realising that there wasn’t time enough to return home for the funeral. This was an intense personal experience of grief for me, especially given the situation that I was alone and the other family members were gathering some 960km away.  (more…)

Unrecognizable to Myself

The Essential Bruce Springsteen

The Essential Bruce Springsteen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I listened to Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and the lyrics were all to familiar to me:

I was bruised and battered and
I couldn’t tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself 

I saw my reflection in a window
I didn’t know my own face

This is how I sometimes meet the person I didn’t know before: Me. The other Me. The part of Me that must have been there all along but maybe dormant.

Yes, I have been angry in my life. Yes, I have been unsocial, tired, quiet… at times but more often I’ve experienced myself as a friendly person that enjoyed social interactions, had friends to meet up with and laughed and enjoyed life. Now I find myself alone in a cafe, having lived in my home country again after 15 years abroad and really haven’t had all that much social contact with my friends that I still have (or maybe no longer have) from when I still lived here. (more…)

You’ve Got to be Strong Now…

~ A lonely walk  ~

~ A lonely walk ~

A year ago I woke up finding text messages from my sister asking me to call her upon waking. She never sent text messages so I knew something wasn’t good. As I was still breast-feeding my baby, I was up at odd hours of the early morning but for unknown reason was not able to reach any one of my family (they all lived overseas). What was going on? I wondered, fearing the worst… Until I finally connected with them.

I was laying in my bed, my daughter beside me. I had spoken to my Mum and Dad the night before on video call. There they were now, my Dad, my sister and my niece, all in my dad’s study in front of the computer on video. Not my Mum. I could immediately tell this wasn’t good. His words were: ‘You’ve got to be strong now…’ and I immediately knew. (more…)

Good-Bye and Left Behind

~ a year ago... ~

~ a year ago… ~

As we’re saying good-bye to 2012 I remember saying good-bye to my parents a year ago, as they were leaving Australia to come back home. It was the last time I saw her.

For some years now I practiced saying good-bye to them with the knowing that it might be the last time, given their age. This last time I practiced the same, being especially grateful for having spent more than 3 weeks with them since my Mum’s suicide attempt earlier in the year. I knew that this time was a gift and I cherished it.

With the state she was in, I did however not expect her to be dead within less than 3 weeks after this moment. A death on her own terms. She said good-bye in her own way. I assume her last visit and first meeting with her latest grand-daughter was unconsciously her good-bye to me, to us. (more…)