I want to write about something that may be very uncomfortable for some (as if I don’t already, but is not my intention….I just need my thoughts to be out).
I am currently reading the book “No Time to Say Goodbye” by Carla Fine that my daughter Stephanie bought me the other day. I have read countless books about suicide since Kaitlyn’s death, but had not read this one. I also did not want to read any books on suicide while I was writing my book for fear of unintentionally using someone else’s style of writing. This was important to me, because for me I wanted it to be from my heart.
This book was written in the 90s. I am not quite through with the book “No Time to Say Goodbye” yet, but almost. It is a very good book. But the book has made me think and know about several things that I feel grateful about. Even no longer ago than the 90s were, the stigma of suicide was extremely high (and it STILL is) but It made me realize how far we are coming but yet still have so far to go.
The lady that wrote this book, her husband took his own life and he was a prominent physician. He did it by lethal IV infusion in his own office. This lady lied to everyone she knew at the beginning about the cause of his death. Heart attack was the reason she gave everyone. The reason she did is that people with loved one’s that took their own lives were often ashamed of it, confused by it and were treated like they themselves were the reason for their loved one’s suicide. Friends left and they were alone in their grief. I am amazed at all the stories she told of other people in the book that went through the whole thing just like that.
Another thing is, that the suicide of a loved one, especially prominent people, were splattered on the headlines and speculated upon by the masses, wondering who was really to blame. Someone must have done something to them. I can understand how a celebrity would be announced in the paper as having taken their own lives, but then even the average person’s suicide was front page news.
Another lady she talked about in the book also had to ID her husband’s body. They take pictures now, unlike then and when it came time to ID the body, they wheeled it out, took the whole sheet off and displayed his entire naked mangled up body…..and she fainted. Another lady whose husband was a prominent surgeon, killed himself by jumping out of their high rise apartment. She had to pay thousands of dollars and go through legal battles for many weeks just to get back into her apartment. Oftentimes, even the suicide notes were taken by police and not given to the loved ones.
In the case of my daughter, I don’t know if things were handled differently due to the rules of our state or the rules of the United States as a whole (because I know other countries handle it differently), or the circumstances, but I did not have to ID Kaitlyn’s body. They knew it was her, we all knew it was her. All I had to do is talk to the medical examiner on the phone. She did not have to have an autopsy done because it was very obvious the method of her death and the way she died. She left several handwritten notes. However the medical examiner suggested an autopsy because, “If I don’t do one and later you have certain questions, I won’t be able to answer them.” I declined her having an autopsy because there were no other questions I needed answering that an autopsy would supply. It would not read my daughter’s mind.
Also, in my hometown, they do not make a suicide news in the papers or on TV. The obituary is simply written that they are deceased and no articles are written. This is out of respect for the family’s privacy. But in my case, I DID want an article written because I had a message. This choice is not given to people in other areas. Suicide is treated very discretely here, but that is not the case in other areas.
I did not have to go through any kind of inquest or sign papers, or deal with the police in any way other than he telling me of it and him standing in front of me at her apartment looking like he was about to cry himself.
So in reading this book, I see that talking about suicide was horribly taboo then and even more than it is today. People had to lie about the death. People lost friends. People were ashamed. The poor deceased were treated like selfish, horrible people and not the sufferers of mental illness that is often the case. These things still happen today, but at least we are trying to be more open about it so we can somehow fight this horrible thing.
I in no way mean this writing to say “oh boy, we have come so far in combating this stigma, it’s all ok now.” That is FAR from the case and suicide is increasing in alarming rates. But at least we can talk about it now. Where there is dialog there is hope and talking about it is what I must do. I must do it for Kaitlyn and all the others we have lost out there.
I thank goodness that my daughter is not treated like a selfish villain that just checked out of this life because she was weak. (because she was not). I’m glad I am not made to feel like I was a horrible mother and it must have been my fault. I’m glad that it is seen that it is a horrible tragedy of the death of a wonderful person that suffered a lethal disease. I am just so horribly sad they she and so many others have and still are suffering in this manner.
But the reason things have gotten slightly better in the understanding of mental illness and suicide is because we are now talking about it and writing about it. If we continue this, it will continue to get better. But we still have so far to go.
Much is still needed to be done.