The Lessons I Learned After Losing 3 Friends to Suicide
This past summer, I lost three friends to suicide. Each spent years in, out of and being denied eating disorder treatment across Ontario. Eating disorder treatment in our province is scarce, hard to access and bogged down with wait lists, and it’s a problem echoed across Canada. The choice between exorbitant private care costs and a wait list you may not live to see the end of is not a fair one.
These friends, those who have passed away, understood all too well the struggles of trying to access treatment. They join the over 8,500 people that this illness takes away each year. This is not OK, and something needs to change.
I can’t say for sure if accessing treatment again would have helped them recover and lead happy lives, but it couldn’t have been worse than where we are now. It can’t hurt more than the pain of families losing a child in their 20’s.
And after the dust settles, and their friends and family are left coping with this tragedy, comes the lessons learned. Lessons I wish I didn’t need to learn, but that I’ve learned regardless. I hope my perspective might help other suicide loss survivors not feel quite so alone.
1. If you already struggle with mental illness, this can be a huge trigger. You might be thinking about relapse or suicide more frequently or more seriously. No matter how guilty you may feel for thinking of these things after such a loss, it’s normal. Reach out to your supports.
2. It’s also normal to swing between feelings of sadness, numbness and anger. Not always at the person you’ve lost, but at the mental health system, at yourself for not being in the right place at the right time to save them, the list goes on. All those feelings are valid. Processing them is the best thing you can do for yourself.
3. Every accidentally unanswered late night text from a friend will feel like the end of the world, and you’ll anxiously await any sort of confirmation that they’re still alive. That this wasn’t their last attempt to reach out. I’m still not sure when this worry will go away, this need to constantly be in contact with others just to make sure they’re still alive.
4. At the end of the day, do what you need to cope. Whatever coping looks like for you — diving head first into work, taking time off, distracting, booking extra time with your therapist — it’s all valid. Only you know what you need. And if you don’t know what could help, just be open to the support others are offering.