Have you ever looked back on something and thought to yourself “If only I did this”?
When we lose someone to suicide this can be one of the most painful things about it. Wondering what we could have done to help them. If only I made that call, if only I was there for them, if only, if only. But the sad truth is when we lose someone we can only learn from their death not dwell on our loss.
I am writing this post with the intention of helping those of you who have lost someone and had these thoughts, because I have had them… and it sucks.
So if you don’t mind I’d like to share with you about my experience of feeling like I could have changed it.
I was extremely close with my dad and I had witnessed almost every moment of his depression. For years he battled it along with alcoholism and he was in the process of making a lot of changes in his life. He had moved to the same town as my brother and I, he had finally found secure work and something that he actually enjoyed doing, he was becoming his social self again and I actually felt like my dad was going to be ok. But there were still moments where I saw that he wasn’t fine, moments where I knew he was just telling me he was ok because he felt like he had to be strong for me and in these moments I often look back and think “if only”.
My dad died by suicide nearly 4 years ago and it took me a long time to get over the feeling that I could have done something to prevent it. You see a few months before my dad passed away he had asked me to look after his gun, because he didn’t have a safe for it at the time and he thought it would be safer to have it at my house. I declined because I lived in a house with three other mates, we hosted parties regularly and sometimes the police would do drive by’s or stop in to make sure we were keep things under control so I told my dad I couldn’t risk having a gun in the house in case the cops ever decided to look.
My dad took his life with that gun and it wasn’t until I lost him that I realised this was one of his “calls for help”. I spent a lot of time beating myself about it. I thought that if only I had taken his gun that day he would still be here. This made me think about a lot of other times that my dad could have been calling for help and for every one of them I thought “If only”. At times I felt like I let my family down, I felt like because of me my brother lost his dad to and the self blaming really started to take it’s toll on me.
I can’t tell you how long it was before I realised that there was nothing I could have done. It sounds so helpless to say there was nothing I could have done, but I say it that way because I found peace with it all. I realised that instead on dwelling on the what if, I can learn from it and hopefully help someone in the future to get through it.
People still think about suicide everyday, some attempt it, some complete it and when we lose someone we have to grieve the loss of them and there will be some of us that feel like we could have done something to stop it, but honeslty when we have lost them I believe all we can do is learn. Learn how to spot the calls for help, learn how to let people know we are there for them, learn how to better seek help for ourselves and others, learn to notice the signs in ourselves and others.
You may have lost a family member, a friend or even colleague and unfortunately you may come across other people in your life who suffer as well, instead of looking back and wondering what if take that experience and use it to help those you care about in the future.
I am not a mental health professional so I only say this from experience, but the reality is that when they are gone, they are gone. To best serve their loss we should celebrate their life and through losing them we shall learn to take better care of ourselves and those around us.
Hindsight is 20/20 so use that clearer vision to better serve your future
I share everything with you with love and I hope that you find your way through everything.
If you or someone you know is suffering then please seek help.
For professional assistance please call
Australia: Lifeline – 13 11 14
New Zealand: Lifeline – 0800 543 354
USA/Canada: Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1800 273 8255
UK: HopeLineUK – 0800 068 41 41
In emergency situations please call your local emergency services.