Dear Ann Landers: I hope I’m not too late to respond to “Somewhere in California,” who intended to commit suicide after she “settled a few things.” She wanted to know how to make it easier on her family and whether she should leave a note. You told her the pain for survivors is excruciating and it never goes away. Your answer was right on the money, Ann, but I’d like to expand on it.
I lost a brother and a stepbrother to suicide. One left a note, and the other didn’t. It made no difference. I want to tell “Somewhere” that no matter what you say in your note, the grief will be immense and the unanswered questions many. Survivors blame themselves, no matter what anyone says.
“What if I had done something differently?” or “If I had called that day, would it have changed things?” or “If I had been nicer or hadn’t said that one little thing, would it have made a difference?” Those are the questions your survivors will ask themselves forever, whether or not you leave a letter.
I pray “California” will see this letter in your column and reconsider. How sad that my children will never know their uncles who chose suicide. They could have added so much to their young lives. Everybody lost. - Still Questioning After 20 Years in Indiana
Dear Indiana: I hope “California” has gotten the help she needs. Some people are unaware that chemical help is now available for depression. It can make a world of difference. I’ve received many letters from suicidal readers who have said that, after taking medication, it was as if a fog had lifted and the sun broke through. Life can be good again for “California.”
Here’s more on the subject:
From Boston: I was a teen-ager when my mother killed herself. Dad moved the family to another state soon after. My brothers and I agreed not to tell anyone how Mom died. We were ashamed. We also were afraid we might be looked on as “unstable.” Suicide stigmatizes the whole family. I know this is terribly unfair, but that’s the way it is in the real world.
Seaford, N.Y.: My mother took her own life 27 years ago when I was only 11. I never got over it. There were no suicide hotlines or mood elevators like there are today. I hope the woman who wrote is around to read this.
Mesa, Ariz.: I, too, planned to kill myself. The fact that I had a husband, kids and friends who loved me made no difference. I didn’t believe I deserved their love. A master’s degree and success at work meant nothing. I decided the world would be better off without me. I had made too many mistakes. The only thing that made me hesitate was the belief that my suicide would mean more problems for my husband and I had already caused him enough grief.
Then I read an article explaining how a chemical imbalance in the brain could cause depression. In my case, it made me feel worthless. I suddenly realized I wasn’t worthless or crazy and that I had been given many gifts that were meant to be shared.
I sought the help I needed and am now a contented, contributing member of the human race.
Dear Mesa: A testimony such as yours beats anything I might say. Thank you for helping millions of people today.
Gem of the Day (Credit Casey Stengel): The secret of managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.