A Friend’s Suicide Remembered

126_SuicidePainPoemOn Memorial Day weekend in 1998, an ex-boyfriend committed suicide. We had lived together for three years and had broken up less than a year earlier. Three weeks after his death, churned by emotions, I struggled to find ways to express the turmoil I felt.  I came across a poem I wrote back then; an attempt to describe the indescribable.

Reading it, I have memories of those days, of multiple characters in my head navigating their conflicting feelings triggered by his suicide: sadness, anger, guilt, despair. They were all part of the chaos.  At the time, I fully submerged myself in those feelings; their presence defined me. I didn’t see my emotions as the response of characters, but as me. I was the pain. I was the anger. I was the guilt.  There felt like no me beyond the emotions.

And yet, there was.  There always is, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

When I’m in the throes of a powerful emotion, it often seems as if that’s how life is going to feel forever. And dark emotions—those of anger, despair, guilt—feel particularly powerful in their hold over me; as if they will never let go.

And yet, I also know that with the passage of time, the power of those emotions’ fades. While in them, it doesn’t feel like they will. Out of them, I am no longer in them, although rarely do I acknowledge the lack of dark emotions. If I did, I’d have to acknowledge previous dark emotions had faded.

I also know that time—combined with meditating, mindfulness practice, and simply getting older and wiser—has allowed me to gain new perspective. I no longer see my responses as me. I see them as different characters feeling pain. Feeling anger. Feeling guilt. While those feelings represent aspects of me as I wear them, they are not me.

There is an enduringly infinite something that exists beyond my reactions; that exists within. What to call it is a forever-struggle: spirit; divine-essence; energy; life. Names fall short. But remembering that essence reminds me that a place of peaceful tranquility exists within me. At all times. It’s a sliver of hope.

Especially when I’m cloaked by powerful emotions.

Balloon pulsates in spastic bursts

of painful energy

pressing, squeezing

Stomach in knots

It hurts all the time

Some times worse than others

But it never stops


A scream squeezed up from tight darkness

Yawns of blackness threaten to erupt in volcanic volumes

of painful sound

Like nails on blackboard

or a yowling cat

Never ending

Never releasing

The balloon pulsates on

A void of pressure

An emptiness of pain

A piece of heart torn away

Forever gone

But not the pain

~WTG, 6/24/1998

Photo source: tsukiko-kiyomidzu on Pixabay


7 thoughts on “A Friend’s Suicide Remembered

  1. I recall a time of suffocating sadness and pain. I was sitting in my bentwood rocker, rocking, silently keening. I had this grace-saving thought: “I know it will get better. I know I will get over this. I know I will be happy again.” And I thought of a young lawyer who worked in the same office, who had taken her life a short time before. We were told she had an uncontrollable chemical imbalance in her brain. While she had been even-keeled most of the time I’d known her, in retrospect, I could recall episodes of manic, out-of-character highs, and also the times she was pasty white, wearing dark suits with severe make-up – silent, ominous and brooding. I began to wonder about her pain, about if she knew or believed it would NOT get better, and how would it feel to have this suffocating sadness and pain and to know or believe that it would NOT ever get better. What would I do? I still don’t know. I do know that I lost my judgment of folks who take their own lives that day. I realized that you cannot know another’s pain, and that I wouldn’t want someone I loved to stick around so that it wouldn’t inconvenience me or cause me pain. That’s not saying I wouldn’t move heaven and earth to help them – I most certainly would, if I had any inkling. I think there are levels of suffering that I can’t begin to imagine, and for that, I am so very grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder how many people have experienced suffocating sadness and pain at some point in their life. I have. I suspect many have. Being able to get through it, mmm, that’s literally the difference between life and death.

      That your experience allowed you to let go of judgment toward folks who ultimately surrender to that sadness and pain, who die by suicide, was an element of grace you were open to receiving.

      One day I heard the phrase, they “died by suicide,” and it caught me. It felt different than the phrase they “comitted suicide.” The second one feels fraught with blame and judgment; the first one not so for me. I liked the difference; it feels to me that forgiveness is embedded in the first phrase.

      Given the intense and unrelenting pain my friend was in, he reached a point where he felt it was never going to get better; that he was always going to feel pain. He also had suicide in his family history–his mom had taken her life–so it’s hard to know how that influenced him.

      They were difficult days. We can empathize and yet never truly be in someone else’s experience.

      Thank you for sharing your story; being open. I appreciate it. And…I’m glad you’re here.


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