“All I wanted was to find some peace”
What moves people to decide to take their own life? This was a question that spirit magazine put to three people who have been directly affected by the subject of suicide. A few days after World Suicide Prevention Day, here are their responses.
On World Suicide Prevention Day, we reported on forms of assistance that can be offered to people who are suicidal. The most important thing of all is to create the opportunity for listening and dialogue. This article will give a voice to individuals who have been personally affected by suicide.
Sabine* was twelve years old when she made her first attempt at suicide. She still remembers the situation very clearly: “Because I had scored some bad grades at school, my mother beat me with a hand brush to the extent that I simply said, ‘Might as well kill me.’ So I took her sleeping pills—but not enough of them, as it turned out. My mother awakened me later on without even knowing that I had actually intended to take my own life. In situations like that, you are simply empty, you are completely beside yourself. You can no longer make sensible decisions. All your thoughts move in one direction: ‘I do not want to be here any longer.’” For Sabine, the cause is clear: “I was never safe or secure at home. My parents gave me no support. It felt as though they did not love me.”
Things were similar for Julia*, who likewise had her first suicidal thoughts as a child: “I did not receive a lot of support from my parents. I had the feeling that I could not talk to them about anything. They were not people in whom I could confide. Even today, I still find it difficult to trust others or accept affection. I have this feeling that I am not worthy of love. I was always the outsider, even at school.”
Peter*, whose brother Hans committed suicide at the age of 52, is certain that Hans was no less loved in the family than his three brothers. “Nevertheless, he likely often felt that he was being held back,” recalls Peter: “He never took life lightly. Four years ago, however, his whole life fell apart: he lost his job, his marriage ended in divorce, and he was suspended from his Priest’s ministry. He was so ashamed that he no longer even wanted to go to his home congregation anymore, and so it was that he even lost his private contacts. This was probably all too much for him, and so he took his life.”
Suicide as a last resort
“As a child I thought to myself that if I do not do well in life, I can always take my life,” relates Julia. Sabine likewise keeps this “last resort” open, even though she considers it selfish: “It is simply my last resort at finding peace. At that moment, you do not think about your family. You don’t care at all about what comes afterward.”
Hans, on the other hand, planned his suicide very carefully, and went to great lengths not to burden others with his actions. He even shaved and put his identification papers into his pocket before jumping out of the window of his sixth-storey apartment. And because there was a children’s playground beneath the front window, he jumped from the window of a room in the back of his apartment. In his suicide note, he asked his family to forgive him for the pain he was about to cause them, and related that he had asked God to grant them strength.
Sabine likewise attempted to escape this life as an adult, this time with sufficient pills. Her plan was foiled, however. Her husband kicked the door in and brought her to the hospital, where her stomach was pumped. “When I awakened, my first thought was, ‘Once again you weren’t good enough. You have failed yet again.’”
Ways back into life
In the weeks thereafter, the feelings are ambivalent: the regret of being alive is contrasted with the thought: “Who knows where you would have ended up?” Julia never thought about things like that during her suicidal phases. For her the focus was on finally attaining calm and peace once and for all. She was hardly afraid of death: “What could be worse than my present life?” she thought to herself. And even Sabine is not sure how she is to assess her continuing life: “I cannot say whether I am happy. My life has been fruitful, but even today I consider death to be something that can bring me true release.” Therapy has helped her to get her life under control again. And she is convinced that this could also be the right option for others: “You should never be afraid to visit a psychologist. There are some things that I can handle better today. When I think back today, the dear God was always there after all—even it a little late—and ultimately brought me back from the edge. Now the question is: why did I have to endure all of that? Perhaps it was to be able to help someone else who is going through the same thing.”
After all, there is one thing Julia, Sabine, and Peter can all agree on: those who have already been through something similar are the best equipped to help. Only they can really empathise with how the other person is doing. Neither friends nor relatives were able to help Sabine or Julia—as neither of them ever told anyone around them what they were thinking. Even Peter—who already suspected that Hans might be suicidal—never received any specific signals from him: “Every now and then, Hans would make comments such as: ‘What’s the point of it all?’ or ‘It would be best not to be here anymore’. That was when I really started to become concerned. At that point I pursued intensive contact with him. We did a lot of things together and spent a lot of time with one another. Nevertheless, I was unable to help him in the end.”
*Names have been changed by the editors
An extended version of this article originally appeared in the New Apostolic Church magazine spirit, issue 05/2008.