When someone dies, we mourn for the life lost, sure, but more for ourselves.
For our loss.
We inherently understand that we’ll never see that person again. We’ll never talk to them, joke with them, hear them laugh or see them smile. We’ll never have the chance to be there for them again when they need us.
We’ll never be able to say anything we haven’t said.
That last one, for whatever reason, really sticks with me. It’s the reason why I don’t like being on bad terms with anyone for very long because you never know. Life can turn on a dime. Any one of us could be gone tomorrow before we get around to saying what we wanted to say last week or should have said yesterday. Before we get a chance to swallow our pride, regardless of how bitter it is.
What happens when someone commits a living suicide, then?
What happens when someone just chooses to kill him- or herself off from someone else’s life? Not really dying. Not like a break-up. But just… a living suicide.
Gone. No trace.
You can talk to them, but they’re not there to listen. You can miss them all you want, but they aren’t there to care about it. You can’t see them. You can’t hear them. Whatever you maybe should have said… sorry, but time’s up.
For all intents and purposes, they’re dead.
And it’s because they want to be dead. But only to you.
The longer you know a person and the closer you are to them, if they just up and leave you there, it’s pretty much just like coping with a death. Mourn. Grieve. Be angry. All of those things that really suck to do and that you shouldn’t have to do for someone who is actually still alive.
There is, of course, never a note. But if there was, it would be one of those most awful of all suicide notes.
I did this because of you. This is your fault.
So factor guilt into the process. For the rest of eternity, if that friend chooses to stay dead to you and turn “some space” into an abyss, you’re going to think of them and think about how it was all your fault. Even if it wasn’t. Not totally. Blame is a shared thing. But defend yourself to yourself because you’re the only one who’s listening to you.
Remember the scene in Tom Sawyer when Tom and Huck fake their own deaths and live on an island for a while? They come back and see their funeral. They’re watching people mourn for them. And then they’re caught.
They’re not dead at all, and they’re back! What a relief!
Who the hell does that? Now you’ve gone and pissed off Aunt Polly.
And why do people do that? Why do people decide to take the easy out? Ego? Pride? Cowardice? Frustration with another person? Hatred? An inability to… what? Deal with things? I’m sure I don’t know. It’s a concept I don’t understand at all.
The thing is, I’m not really sure how you’re supposed to feel about all of this. Or if you’re even supposed to know at all. It’s easy to point at specific emotions. I feel angry. I feel hurt. I feel sad. It’s a little bit more complicated when you experience happiness and anger and confusion at the same time. See: Aunt Polly. I’m so happy to see you, but what the effing hell.
Space is one thing. When you put space between yourself and another person, you can still find them. You can still talk to them sometimes. A living suicide is something else. It’s indefinite. It’s silent. It’s lonely. It might piss people off when you do it. Hell, you might do it because you’re pissed off at someone else.
As I mentioned above, I’ve never been a big fan of with-holding. I think keeping people in the dark that way is kind of mean. It’s risky. People actually die all the time. If you play with fire, you usually get burned. That’s not really a chance I’m willing to take. I don’t want to be crying at a wake someday thinking about how I wish I’d told this person how awesome they were and how much they meant to me. I really don’t want to be crying at a wake someday thinking about how I should have tried to fix a situation with this person when I had the chance.
And more than anything, I never want to be sitting at home, wishing I could go to someone’s wake to say goodbye to them, but instead I feel like I messed up so much that I wouldn’t even be welcome at that person’s funeral.
Is this just me and the ridiculous way my brain works? Maybe. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve thought too much about this stuff.
But I suspect that on some level, you can relate.
And just like with a real suicide, a living suicide isn’t the answer. There’s always a better way, and better days to come.
But maybe that’s just how I see it.
In the words of Joyce Johnson in Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir, “It is always better to be the one leaving than the one left behind.”
Now substitute “easier” for “better.”
Maybe that’s why people do it?