What's Important to Remember About Chester Bennington Dying on Chris Cornell's Birthday
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
On Thursday, July 20, news broke that Chester Bennington, frontman of Linkin Park, died by suicide. This date is significant because it was also the birthday of the late Chris Cornell, a close friend of the singer who died by suicide two months earlier.
Cornell and Bennington have a long history of friendship. The two have performed together, Bennington was the godfather to Cornell’s 11-year-old son and in addition to performing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s funeral, Bennington wrote a heartfelt note to his late friend in May after his passing. On Thursday, a Cornell family spokesperson released a statement saying, “The Cornell family is overwhelmed by the heartbreaking news about Chester Bennington which tragically comes so soon after their family’s own loss. They open up their loving arms to Chester’s family and share in the sorrow with all those who loved him.”
Suicide loss survivors are at a higher risk for having related mental health struggles and engaging in suicidal behavior. And while we will never know for sure what Bennington was thinking at the time of his death, it is likely the day that would have been Cornell’s birthday was difficult for the singer.
Dese’Rae L. Stage, a suicide loss survivor and founder of Live Through This, lost a close friend to suicide 10 years ago. She explained that memorable time-markers, like birthdays and anniversaries, can be triggering for those left behind. “Important days remind you of everything that is gone in that person you lost,” she told The Mighty. “You think of the people you lost frequently, but especially on those days because it’s a day anchored in time. It can be really difficult for people and really triggering.”
It’s important to note coming to terms with suicide loss is complex and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. But because of this, it can be hard to know how to support a loved one grieving a suicide loss — especially on these tough days.
We asked Stage to share advice she would offer to someone trying to help a suicide loss survivor dealing with a difficult anniversary of significant date.
1. Be present.
“Being there for them is the best thing, assuming they want company,” Stage said. “Be willing to turn off the phone and TV and just listen to them.” But being there for someone doesn’t always mean being physically present. As Stage points out, some may not want company. It can be helpful to ask what a loved one needs in hard times, especially if you are able to ask in advance.
2. Let them talk about it.
Because special dates like anniversaries and birthdays are annual events, it’s likely a conversation you will have with your loved one more than once. “They are days of remembrance. If they want to talk about the person and reminisce, let them,” Stage explains. “The memories don’t die. You keep them with you. It’s important to keep them with you, and to keep that person’s memory alive through talking to other people and remembering.”
3. Ask your loved one if they are thinking about suicide.
Chester Bennington’s death is a harrowing reminder of the importance of checking in with loved ones who have experienced suicide loss. Stage pointed out, “Middle aged men are at a high risk for suicide,” explaining this was something she was reminded of after Chris Cornell’s death. She also acknowledged that Bennington was “very vocal about having a history of childhood abuse and subsequently about his history with depression and substance abuse.” According to SAMHSA, people who had adverse childhood experiences are two to five times more likely to attempt suicide. Acknowledging this statistic, Stage advises, “If you know someone who’s had these experiences, keep an eye out for them and if you think they’re suicidal, ask them.” When a survivor of suicide loss has lost someone who had similar struggles as them, it may feel like suicide is the only option left. As a loved one supporting a suicide loss survivor, remind them they are not alone and they matter.
In an interview with Radio.com in May, Linkin Park member Mike Shinoda described the impact hearing the news of Cornell’s death had on Bennington. He also offered words of encouragement that still hold true today in the wake of Bennington’s death.
One of the things I think you can do is reach out to people and offer them community. Let them know we’re a family, we’re community, we care about each other. Whether [it’s] a friend who lost somebody, a family member or whatever, to reach out and let them know even that you’re thinking about them, sometimes that’s enough.
Keep reaching out and supporting one another. Never forget you matter. For more resources for suicide loss survivors click here.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
Lead photo via Ipilas YouTube channel.
Image via Wikimedia Commons/Matthew Straubmuller