The Aftermath of a Suicide: A Reflection on Moving Forward and the Lessons We Carry With Us

When I learned someone I once knew had committed suicide, my initial reaction was a feeling of sadness. I felt it in my stomach, and I wondered why and how. I knew the details didn’t matter, but I couldn’t quite make sense of what had happened. I wondered what led her to become so hopeless. I wondered which of my friends had already heard the news, and which were still in the dark. I spent the rest of the day listening to Dear Evan Hansen, a Broadway musical about the aftermath of one person’s suicide, and not talking to anyone about her, scared of addressing the shock and confusion she had created. 

After a day, it finally started to become clear to me that the other people affected by the tragedy were in the know as well. The conversations I had that day were all more or less the same, starting with the obvious: “This is terrible,” which then shifted towards the why: “I thought she might have been depressed,” to the blame and regret: “I should’ve seen it coming … I should’ve asked her if she was okay,” and finally to a fundamental discussion of mental health: “People should really go to counseling if they are feeling lost.” I found myself in a position where I was consoling other people in order to heal myself, sounding like a broken record saying things like, “No one expects these things to happen,” and “It’s not your fault … It’s no one’s fault.” I didn’t even know if any of the things I was saying were actually true, but I did know that they seemed to make the people I was concerned about feel better. They made me feel better.

Talking to others helped, but the pain that I was feeling only changed instead of going away. It became more of a subtle, back-of-my-mind kind of pain. I still felt regret, sadness and anger, even, thinking about how one selfish act to end one person’s pain did nothing but spread the pain to everyone around her: her family, close friends, old friends, acquaintances and myself, someone who hadn’t talked to her in years and only knew about what her life was like through Instagram. I realized that the pain her suicide caused was going to be permanent, and would remain as an emotional scar, because now whenever I look back and remember my childhood friend I will be filled with a sensation of emptiness and a desire to know what could have been. The aftermath of a suicide is like a preventable disease with no cure. She’s gone and there’s nothing that can be done now, but oh, if she had just known that she could’ve been happy.

Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t in touch with her in her final days, so I have no way of knowing if there was any helping her, or if the people who were still in her life had any idea that she was in such pain. However, her death is a lesson in a way; it teaches that suicide is preventable if people take some time to have awareness about the issue and are conscious about the people around them. So, take care of each other. Buy a suicide prevention sticker for your laptop. Practice the “Colgate Hello.” Send a Snapchat to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Do what you can to protect the people you love from their internal demons. You could save a life.

Contact Erika Fox at [email protected].