Written by Lilly Beardsley with Bruce Beardsley and Tess Beardsley
There are words you might hear walking down a hallway, on the street, in an office, or at home. The speaker doesn’t mean to be literal – their intent is hyperbole or, possibly, a joke. “Ugh, if I had to sit in that traffic for 5 more minutes, I was going to kill myself.” These words and sentiments trivialize the extraordinarily serious and emotionally painful issue of suicide.
As someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I want to speak to those that do not understand, but I hesitate because I was once one of those people. In the past I have used similar language. I hold no anger toward them. Like them, I alluded to suicide as a way of hyperbolizing an everyday issue, not comprehending the way our daily language holds the potential to create a skewed narrative of mental health, further stigmatizing suicide and hurting those affected. Now, I take it as most certainly not a joke and similar statements grace my lips nevermore.
Those who have died by suicide have often struggled with mental illness and feelings of loneliness that are unfathomable to those who have not experienced such. They leave behind friends and family who are devastated and left coping with the unimaginable.
Walking away from a TV screen when a suicide is referenced, crying with empathy when another’s story of suicide is shared, forgetting where I am and what I am doing while overcome with sadness and regret – it’s hard to explain to others the weight of losing someone to suicide. As a part of the Samaritans community and the 5K committee, I don’t have to. I am part of the community – a community which one would never seek to become a part of, but a community in which those around you understand. I don’t need to explain anything to anyone. The specific manifestations of survivor grief vary, but people of the community “get it” – and such brings great comfort.
I participated in my first Samaritans 5K last year after losing my brother, Thomas, and shared the 5K experience with so many others who have experienced their own devastating losses. I have also benefited from a Samaritans’ Grief After Suicide Workshop. The support is like breathing out after you’ve been holding your breath – bringing a sense of relief and comfort. Our family has not only found comfort in having a community with which we can empathize in a reciprocal relationship, but also in knowing there is a group of people advocating for suicide prevention. I look forward to supporting Samaritans with its mission for years to come and to honoring the life of Thomas “Tomcat” Beardsley.