Yesterday I wrote about Robin Williams and mentioned that at that point I'd not seen any talk of selfishness or cowardice. Of course since then there have been numerous examples, from Alan Brazil on TalkSport who said he has no sympathy, to Fox News anchorman Shepard Smith who suggested those who kill themselves are cowards (he has since apologised), through to the comments on social media and in the newspapers from the misinformed, ignorant or heartless.
When a loved one takes their life the aftermath is beyond anything I can really describe. Any sudden death is a terrible and tragic shock but with suicide comes so many questions, so much blame. After Simon died I tried to remember conversations we'd had, had I missed something? I trawled the internet looking for clues. There were none. Simon didn't have Robin Williams' fame and riches but he grew up in a stable and loving family. Even after he served time in prison we were there for him, visiting him when he was inside, providing a bed for him afterwards, listening to him when he talked without (I hope) judging him. Like Robin Williams though it's pointless discussing what he had. The sad fact is that he had a black hole in him, one he tried to fix with drugs but they just ripped the hole wider until it overwhelmed him. I can wonder whether Mum's death was a catalyst but perhaps it made no difference and he would have suffered the same anyway. The point is none of us can know the exact reasons why a person reaches the moment when suicide seems the only option. I don't know why it was that day, two years ago that Simon couldn't take any more and for all the media supposition we can't know why Robin Williams reached the moment where he couldn't bear it any longer. His moment will not be the same as another person's moment and there is never a straightforward reason why, depression is more complicated than that. What I never needed to hear afterwards though was that Simon had been selfish or that he had so much to live for.
When you lose someone to suicide you just need to hear "I'm sorry" or I'm here if you need me". No matter how well meaning the sentiment, hearing that your loved one chose to leave you and was selfish to make that choice is something that for me at least would have added to the anguish. I'm aware I can't talk for all those affected by suicide loss, some people do feel their loved one's decision was selfish. That is their right, it is not the right of others to make that decision. Robin Williams' family will be in complete turmoil right now, their lives have been torn apart, a myriad of competing thoughts will be filling their heads so much that they feel they could explode. They need time and space to slowly begin to learn to live without him there with them. They don't need people who only knew him through a screen saying he was selfish. People who kill themselves have reached a point where they can take no more, they may believe they are a burden to others. They do not choose to leave their loved ones behind, they don't feel they have any other choice other than ending the hopeless, overwhelming pain. When a person dies by suicide those left behind need compassion. Even if you still believe it's a selfish act I ask you what you hope to achieve by expressing those thoughts publicly? You are entitled to your beliefs of course but if you are concerned for the family left grieving then please keep those thoughts to yourself. The person who has died couldn't be kind to themselves, family will be blaming themselves, this is the time for you to do nothing more than to be kind.