My cousin committed suicide early this morning. I suppose it’s weird for me to share this with 1,000 people and still expect your discretion, but in my weird way, I do. My family prefers its privacy right now.
I think losing someone is always painful, and it’s supposed to take something from the core of who we are. But losing someone to suicide steals a part of our souls. We wonder why we couldn’t prevent it. We hate ourselves for not doing more. But we also feel betrayed – why did he make that choice? Why didn’t he think about me? And if he did, why didn’t the thought of me stop him?
Then, at some point, you stop yourself. “I can’t believe I’m making this all about me,” you realize. And you hate yourself all the more for being selfish at a time of tragedy. It’s endless. There are a million and one ways to feel at fault when a loved one commits suicide.
I’m still in shock at how young my cousin was. 29. I’ll be 29 in three years, it’s barely a step in the adult world. And he was a student all these years – he went straight from getting a college degree to a masters and finally to his doctorate (which he completed just weeks ago). He hasn’t even taken that full head of knowledge, that impressive breadth of talent, and really applied it to anything in the world. Think of what the world has lost, and never even knew it could’ve had.
And I can’t believe he didn’t give himself the chance to grow wiser with time. I can’t believe that he’s always going to be just 29, past the playground where boys play but not at the table where men sit. In time, the rest of us will pass him by. In three years, I’ll be 29. In 9 years, my sister. Soon, we’ll be 40, and we’ll be looking to 50, to 65 and onwards. And the whole of our lives will be more than anything he ever got to see, got to feel, got to live. What’s that going to be like, I wonder – to think about him a few years from now not as that older cousin I begrudgingly admired, but as that kid who didn’t give himself the chance he deserved. It changes my world, you see. It changes all of our worlds.
He has a younger brother. Just 19, heading off to college this fall. I think his entire life is going to be different now, in ways he can’t even fathom. He’s his parents’ last and only hope, yet these parents are going to be so torn up that they’ll hand him all their hopes chained and anchored to all their emotional baggage. That’s a tall order. He’s going to wonder, every time his parents hug him: “Are they hugging me, or are they hugging me and the brother I lost? Do they love me, or do they even know how to love me without loving my brother through me?” For him, I hope he knows he’s more than the boy who lost a brother.
All of which is to say, I suppose, that suicide is about so much more than the one person who died. What happens to the people who didn’t?