I am going to blow my brains out.
It makes me want to shoot myself in the face.
Go kill yourself.
I want to kill myself.
These are phrases that, like you, I used to use all of the time. Constantly. I would say it at work, to my friends, to my family, to myself…to anyone who would listen to me. Who doesn’t say things like this? It is our way of over-exaggerating how stressful our lives are or how much we hate someone/something.
I don’t say these things anymore.
Last April my husband and I were driving home from the store when I got a phone call from my mom at 5:02 pm telling me that my 16 year old cousin had killed himself. Just a few hours before, I had been talking to my mom about how I thought everyone over reacted to his behavior (whether it be partying or teenage angst) and that he would be fine and our family needed to realize that. Being a teenager sucks, but I survived and so would he. He did not and that is a conversation I will live to regret for the rest of my life.
My life has changed so much in the last year. My small family has suffered, in my biased opinion, the worst type of heartbreak. The grieving process associated with suicide is much different than what survivors of other deaths deal with. It is a grief that cannot be understood until you have felt it. It is a death we will never be able to truly accept. There are so many wounds that will never, ever heal for us. The regrets and guilt are crosses we will bear for the remainder of our lives. The endless questions will never be resolved.
I have learned many things since his death. I have learned that you will be surprised by the people who come out to support you and disappointed and hurt by the ones who don’t (I think some friends and family members don’t know how to support you in this situation, so they ignore it). I have learned how to buck up and put one foot in front of the other. I have also learned that it is okay to cry in the electronics aisle of Target and also at the registers of Panera (so what if people stare? You need to grieve, so go right ahead).
I have learned that you will be surprised about how many people come forward to support you because they too are survivors of suicide. And, painfully, I have learned how often people use the phrase “I want to kill myself” (in many, many variations). Every time I hear someone say this, or write it, it makes my stomach hurt.
Please, people, stop saying it. You’re not going to kill yourself because your car wouldn’t start, or you spilled your coffee. It’s not funny, because as you say that someone in the world actually is killing him or herself. Some family is shattered while you are saying how you are going to blow your brains out, or jump off a building. And maybe someone next to you is thinking about committing suicide or dealing with a suicide; you saying these things is just hurting them more. Suicide is not funny. Let me repeat that one more time: Suicide is not funny.
While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and try to stop calling people retards and faggots. Let’s stop using racial slurs. Let’s stop being so damned insensitive.
There is a quote that I have come to love this year (allegedly by Plato, but you can’t always believe what you read on the internet [right, Morgan Freeman?]). It says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I believe truer words have never been said. I honestly believe one act of kindness has the ability to change the outcome of someone’s life. I often think if I had sent a text or called my cousin at 10 am when I was thinking about him, that maybe his story would have ended differently. Maybe his story would still be writing itself.
Here’s one more quote to leave you with. Kurt Vonnegut wrote,“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
You can read more from Amanda Alguire-Vredenburghon her blog.
Feature image via.