The news about Gary Speed’s suicide today is unbearably sad and shocking. It took me straight back to coping with the suicide of my aunt early last year. Her death crashed into my life in much the same way this may have crashed into yours. One moment I was at home, messing about as normal and the next I was stopped in my tracks and bewildered.
As a family those next few hours, few days seemed impossible. There’s no map, no plan. You stare at the clock and time just stands still. You lie down but you don’t rest. You think but you don’t understand. The kettle is on more than it is off. At first I was just stuck in shock, I was numb. I wasn’t truly sad, I wasn’t truly happy; I was just worried about how those around me were coping.
Those classic stages of bereavement (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance) are there, but they’re not some simple progression or even a cycle, they just fire up as and when they see fit, and not one-by-one. And you all as a family go through them at different rates at different times. I think it’s important to understand just how lonely the bereaved feel in such a situation, together or alone. Indeed even feeling alone when they are together. You know that what’s happened is unusual and that as much as it shocks you it shocks those you tell more. You want to talk but you don’t know what to say, as much as if not more than those who want to help. Maybe you saw some of the struggle, but even you never quite feared it would come to this. The normal pain and empathy of bereavement is suddenly shrouded in so many questions. How? Why? What led to this? But there are no answers. There will be no trial, no retribution.
The days passed, we made it to the end of the first week. Suddenly we realised we’d been away from the world and that real life was carrying on without us. Work got me back a few days later. But still the funeral had no date and there were countless things to arrange. Time was measured not in days of the month but in days since. I persisted in this state for a further couple of weeks before the funeral hit, which was a day of endless and raw emotion.
But then, as everyone else got back into their lives and I mine, then, then was when the full scale of what happened hit me.
Getting up was intolerable, thinking a trial, joy was sucked from everything and I just wanted to hide in the dark. I was truly depressed. I think that was hard to avoid – perhaps impossible – I hadn’t wanted to wall off my emotions because I wanted to mourn but those emotions were too much. After a manly struggle I shouldn’t even have attempted I bounced around a few counselling services and my GP over the course of a couple of months before googling, finding MIND then ending up with a call early the next morning and counselling once a week for a year from the following week. From then on, I knew I could keep going; I had a rhythm and structure to work through.
So where am I now? I am not today the man I was before all this happened. I never will be. I’m not sure I even want to be. And the last few months, having had that year of counselling have been some of the best of my life. Yes, some days it all comes rushing back. Today was one of those days. Even just trying to write this stirs up many powerful emotions.
I could say so much more – I’ve deleted as much again from this blog as I’ve posted – but it would probably explain less.
So my thoughts are with Gary Speed’s family and those like us. Suicide sadly isn’t as rare as you might think. I know many people touched by it just like me and I knew many of them before it touched me. Of course we don’t like to talk about it, and it doesn’t define us, but to hide it away and to never talk of it would be even worse. Those who talked of it, who I met, or read of in books made it easier for me to cope. I hope in writing this I can do a little of the same.
And if you ever think you need help, feel no shame. No-one will think ill of you for trying to be well. Ask for help, talk to someone, take the time.
Rest in peace, Rosey.
Love, your nephew.