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One of my best friends took her own life a year ago, leaving behind 3 elementary children. She was an amazingly authentic, curious, joyful until bipolar and schizophrenia started taking over her life about 5 years ago, as if had her mother. She left her husband with kids in tow, lived in a shelter til she was settled, her husband followed her but divorced her, was in and out of treatment, medicated to the point of numbness (not even herself), experienced strange and beautiful visions and relationships but also held down a part time job, and finally, due in part to medication and in whole to her diseases, she decided that she did not want that life for herself or her children, so she emptied her bank account, wrote letters, drove to Wal Mart, bought a gun, and shot herself in her car. IT was a horrible shocking tragedy that we are still coming to terms with a year later.
What has helped me understand and process was explaining this tragedy to my children. First I was shocked. "Mommy is very sad. A friend of mine has died." (They ask "Who? How?" to which I decline to answer) Then a few days later, "You know her, it was ___" (silence) "We are all sad, she was so confused and her brain wasn't working right, and she felt hopeless, thought things would be easier if she wasn't in the world, so she killed herself." ("How did she do it?" (I don't want to talk about that, and still haven't) "She will be missed so much. I'm sure she had no idea how much she meant to us, all of us, her family, her friends, the whole world. Feel how bad it feels in your stomach? How empty? Remember that. Because if YOU start getting to feel really bad, hopeless, you need to know how important, special and loved you are to SO many people. And if you can't remember that, PLEASE PLEASE talk to someone about it and get help" That has been the lesson" for me. We all feel hopeless sometimes. Remembering that the feelings change, and how painful and tragic ilife will be for those we leave behind, has been the positive lesson for me. Also this tragedy has spurred me to fight for tighter gun control and broader mental health support. Preventable tragedies like this happen every day. On the other hand, I do believe in one's right to die.