Behind a cut for a discussion of suicidal ideation, obsession, and suicide. The post has been edited a bit from its original form thanks to constructive feedback from commenters on ways that word use heightened stigma around mental illness around suicide. I deeply apologize and hope that this draft serves the LW without making the pain of others worse.
Thread closed, 9/22. LW got what they needed and I have other duties and cannot focus on moderation today.
Early this summer my friend Rourke committed suicide. It feels selfish and egotistical to frame this tragedy in the context of me and my baggage, but I’m writing largely because I’ve hit an impasse in what to do and what’s occurred in the wake of his death.
Rourke and I were friends online first, but we made the time and effort to visit once or twice a year. Our relationship was pretty emotionally intimate. He wasn’t one of my closest friends, but I told him some personal history that I don’t tell everyone. About a year ago, after I’d told him I’m polyamorous, he made overtures, I reciprocated, and we slept together. It was a little dissonant – I sometimes have a hard time trusting people when they say nice things about me and bristled a little at some of his compliments – but overall really nice and felt good.
Over the last year he and I talked less. I have an anxiety disorder and major clinical depression, and sometimes that interferes with my reliability or how worthwhile I am as someone to lean on. I drifted from Rourke. Around May, while I was at an intensive work training, I got a phone call from him asking if I could spend a couple hours helping him process his own depression. I tried to schedule time with him for later but he hung up on me. He killed himself that night.
I wrote his sister to ask if I could pay my respects. She responded with a scan of his suicide note, which talked a lot about how he was secretly in love with me but felt he could never tell me, that his despair and heartbreak over me was the main reason he felt living was hopeless. She made it clear that I was not welcome where he’s laid to rest, and since then has also mailed me unsent love letters Rourke wrote to me that she found while she was going through his belongings. She also included a note saying that she wants to meet me in person so she can tell me exactly what she thinks of me to my face, that it’s the least I could do for their family, and that if I don’t go that will tell her all she needs to know about my character (e.g. that I am a coward and, indirectly, a murderer).
I have been doing a lot of work towards my own depression, because it’s severe and also tends towards the suicidal to the point where it affects even my closest relationships, and I mourn the time we could maybe have been even closer than we are and been building something even more beautiful, with stronger and deeper roots. I don’t want people in my life to be scared of me and for me that way, and for that fear to keep them at a distance. A key part of my therapeutic work is building up my (dismally low) self-worth and sense of a right to be here. I’m afraid that meeting with Rourke’s sister will acutely undermine that work at a time when I really need to cling to forward momentum.
But, I also feel viscerally obligated to agree to meet with her. There isn’t an hour that passes where I don’t break down sobbing thinking about how this is my fault. In one of his letters he said, “You will spend the rest of your life regretting me,” and I do, I regret all the things I didn’t do for him. I regret not realizing how he felt for me and bringing it to light, somehow, even though he never told me. I regret being a person who isn’t more good, more kind, more giving, who might have been able to help him.
I don’t know how to proceed. I have a therapist, and am talking to them about it, but otherwise I feel like there aren’t many people I can openly confide in about the nature of my guilt, let alone ask for advice. I have other friends who’ve had people close to them kill themselves, but none of them were named outright in any note left behind as a major motivation for the act. No one I know has almost or outright killed someone. I feel like a murderer.
What should I do? Can I talk to friends about this, or will they find me reprehensible and abandon me? (Maybe I deserve that?) Should I meet with Rourke’s sister?
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend.
Rourke was secretly in love with you.
That means: He kept it a secret from you.
That means: You are not a mind reader and you are not responsible for knowing a secret that your friend didn’t tell you. You did not know about his feelings and you did not know about his state of mind. You tried to be there for him on his last day. You had no way of knowing what he contemplated doing later on. Telling a close friend that you can’t talk right this second and trying to arrange a conversation for slightly later certainly does not make you a bad person and does not make their subsequent decisions your fault.
You are not responsible for knowing what was in unsent love letters.
You are not responsible for feelings that you didn’t know about. If you’d known about his feelings but hadn’t returned them, you wouldn’t be responsible then, either.
You are not responsible for the fact that Rourke grew obsessed with you.
You are not responsible for knowing his state of mind, and you’re not responsible the illness that ate his life.
[Edited] You are not responsible in any way for your friend’s death. You too have experienced a tragic loss here, the loss of your friend, and the loss of what might have been between you if only he had told you. I hope that when you talk to your therapist one thing you can eventually talk about is anger. I realize that he must have been very sick to behave this way, but sentiments like “You will spend the rest of your life regretting me” and blaming his love for you in his goodbye note to his family are grave distortion of what love is. Depression can lead to severely distorted thinking and I hope you can see these distortions for what they are. You are not responsible for his feelings about you or his inability to express them in a constructive way. You are not responsible for being in his thoughts or being his stated reason for ending his life. It is totally unfair that you should be in this position, and wrong of him to put you there.
Rourke’s sister is grieving, and she is angry, and she’s looking for someone to blame for a horrible act, and Rourke conveniently gave her someone to blame. [Ed.] It was not right for her to send you those letters that he never sent. Those were his private writings and it was not her place to break his privacy.[/Ed] You can honor and empathize with her grief and anger but you don’t have to meet with her and you do not have to take the blame for her brother’s death. If you want to respond to her in some way, you could write a letter that says, “I grieve the loss of your brother greatly. I cared for him very much, and I wish I had known about his feelings for me or understood how far his depression had progressed, but I did not. I wish he had sent those love letters, but he did not. I wish he had told me what he intended so that I could have called emergency services or sent him into care, but he did not. I wish you and your family what I wish for myself in the wake of this tragic loss: peace and healing. I do not think either of us will find those things in a meeting so I respectfully decline your request.”
In the aftermath, do not answer any communications from her. Block her on every conceivable form of communication, and also block any of Rourke’s social media pages. You can’t help her, you can’t help his family, and you can’t help him. More specifically, your suffering cannot help them, and you don’t have to serve it up as a sacrifice. They will find closure, eventually, or not. It’s not yours to give or to withhold from them, but you absolutely can refuse to continue being a vector for their blame and cruelty.
Please, keep treating your depression.
Please, tell somebody close to you about your experiences. How Rourke’s sister sees things is not how everyone will see things and is definitely not How Things Are. Your friends who have survived the suicide of a close friend may not have been targeted the way you were, but they will know about grief and guilt and the words “If only….if only….” It is completely normal after an event like this to see a friendship as a series of missed opportunities and feel like you could have done more. Let somebody in. You told somebody (us) today, and we didn’t blame you or hate you. The people who love you don’t want you to suffer alone in silence. They may not know exactly what to say or do, but they would hate knowing that you feel so alone and afraid.
Please, tell your therapist about the true and scary nature of your own suicidal thoughts, and please think seriously about checking yourself in somewhere if they continue.
This is one of my favorite poems about grief and life after a friend’s suicide, and I hope Ms. Howe, its author will forgive me for pasting rather than just linking. Here it is as a song, sung by my beautiful and talented friend (YES I AM BRAGGING).
What the Living Do
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
Rourke is dead and you cannot bring him back with your guilt, with your suffering, with your silence, and you definitely cannot follow him or bring him back with your death. Someday you might forgive him. Someday (much sooner I hope) you might forgive yourself. As long as you are alive, you have choices and chances. Please stay with us. You deserve to be here. Please make it through today, and tomorrow, and the next day. Please make it through one breath after another. Please walk around that corner and see your living face and fall in love again.
You deserve to be here. You have always deserved life, you will always deserve it, and there is no way you could ever stop deserving it.
[Edited] Public Service Announcement: Rourke never sent the “you’ll spend the rest of your life regretting me” note, his sister did after he was gone. The sentiment therein is chilling enough that it bears addressing. Someone who threatens to harm or kill themselves (or drops hints that they might kill themselves) if you don’t do what they want ( like stay with them, or love them back ) is literally threatening to harm someone if they don’t get their way and is trying to make you responsible for their actions. The person may be in great pain, however, it is still emotional terrorism of the highest order, and whatever the person does, it is not your fault.
Steps like asking a person’s friends or family to intervene, breaking their confidence, or even involving police and other authorities are complicated and imperfect (especially in communities of color with a history of racist violence), but if this situation crops up in your life, please strongly consider calling *someone* and not trying to handle it yourself. As some commenters pointed out, you can call a local suicide hotline and get advice from them on what to tell authorities to get the best possible response from this situation. They may recommend calling 911 (or the emergency services equivalent where you are), ask them to do a “welfare check” on the person and explain what they’ve said about suicide.
Bottom line: Take threats of suicide very seriously. If the person is sick and genuinely in danger, the authorities can provide help that you can’t. If the person is bluffing to manipulate you, you close down that vector of manipulation when you take it absolutely seriously. If the person harms themselves anyway, you did everything you could. You cannot cure someone’s suicidal ideation or threats with any amount of love or loyalty or compliance.[/Edited]
232 thoughts on “#748: I feel responsible for my friend’s suicide and his family agrees.”
I don’t have anything to add but a flood of agreement and support, but I think it’s important that Reader you know about every single person here who is sitting reading their screen, nodding along, and feeling their heart break for your situation. You are not at fault here. You do not deserve this.
YES. LW, this is a heartbreaking, horrible situation, and it’s not your fault at all. What Rourke’s sister is doing is so, so fucking cruel I just can’t even.
All I can keep thinking is that if the LW meets with Rourke’s sister, the sister is going to do everything in her power to damage the LW as thoroughly as possible. I know that his sister is grieving too, but LW, you do not deserve to take that kind of damage – it will not help either of you in any possible way. Please only send the letter the Captain wrote.
Agreed. Her statement sounds vindictive to me–she lost her brother and wants to hurt the person who caused that loss in her mind. Going would be inviting hurt upon yourself. You don’t owe her that, and you need to take care of yourself
Also agreed. She not only admits that this is her motivation, she is actually trying to manipulate and guilt the letter writer into accepting that it is *her duty* to make herself available to be destroyed by this family for its healing purposes.
I recognize that the sister is grieving but there is a staggering sickness and abuse behind her communication with the letter writer.
LW, this is so, so, so not your fault. Please do not accept the narrative of this person and his family that you enabled any of his actions. They are his alone. I am so sorry that a person you valued and trusted chose to single you out for harm.
Edit – Apologies, I assumed the LW’s gender to be female without any such facts in evidence.
This. She is in terrible pain, and it must be hugely overwhelming for her, but subjecting yourself to her abuse will not help either of you, and it will not bring him back.
You deserve good things, LW, including your own forgiveness.
That, and — it will never ever be enough for the sister, because the LW can’t give the sister what the sister wants (closure, for the hurt to stop, for her brother to have made a different choice). LW take the good Captain’s advice and stay away.
And if it helps you to protect yourself against this damage, LW, please remember that it also will do Rourke’s sister no good at all, but quite possibly harm, to vent at you and hurt you. You have all the right in the world not to be subjected to that kind of pain, and you don’t in any way deserve it, and even if you feel somehow obligated to undergo it, please not it won’t help the person doing it either.
Nthing this. This is absolutely not your fault in the slightest. You are not responsible for feelings that Rourke had – even more so feelings that he never even told you about. I get that the sister is hurt and angry, but she is way out of line and being downright cruel here. Just know that another internet stranger sympathizes and sends Jedi Hugs.
Yes exactly. Reader, I sat here and nodded along. The Captain is so spot on. YOU are not responsible for HIS actions. He chose this end.
Suicide is hard for the living too. The last thing you should do is allow his sister to “tell you what she thinks of you.” She has even less information than you do. You know about your relationship with Rourke and what it was, and wasn’t – especially now that she’s shared the letters with you. She only knows what was in the letters. She only has part of one side of the story. And I don’t particularly believe that she’s interested in the rest of the story. Her grief is making her angry and mean. You don’t deserve that.
You do not deserve this. You deserve life, and happiness, and peace and healing.
Yes, absolutely this. My heart goes out to you.
Sending all the love in the world to you, Reader. It is NOT your fault. All of us here support you and are wanting the best for you during this really hard time.
Yes. Sitting here sending love to you. You deserve joy and peace and healing. You deserve to be alive, to be grateful to be alive, to continue loving, to continue enjoying life. Nothing you could ever do would take that away—you will always deserve to be alive, to be loved, to love.
Dear heart, carry on. Be as kind to yourself as you can be. Save your time for those who will treat you with dignity and respect, which Rourke’s sister is not able to do. Protect yourself from those who wish you pain, even if they’re good people, even if you wish you could take away their pain.
Wishing you warmth and serenity and healing.
Just adding to the chorus. It’s not your fault. You’re not responsible. Many Jedi Hugs.
Exactly this. This was not your fault. This was not, not, not your fault.
“More specifically, your suffering cannot help them, and you don’t have to serve it up as a sacrifice.”
This. All of this. Their healing should never come at the cost of tearing you down.
I saw the title and said “nope”. I read the letter and went “double nope”. LW, the Captain is right. This is in no way your fault. I grieve for your grief and hope you find the right support network in your time of need.
I want to add to the (what will be a flood) of people saying it is not your fault. You did not make him kill himself, and you didn’t suggest it. Hell, even if he /had/ told you he was in love with you, and sent you love letters, and pined, and said he’d kill himself if you didn’t enter into a relationship with him – it would still not be your fault, because you are not responsible for his actions. Actually, the Captain and everyone here would say to dump him immediately.
Meeting with his sister sounds, at best, horrifically unsafe. At best, she’s grieving his loss, and thinking about anything, anything at all, that might (in her mind) have kept her brother alive. Stay far away. Process your grief in your own way, but don’t think that you need to be punished.
So very much this. Roark had any number of choices for how to deal with his feelings about you. He chose this one. That was his choice. You did not choose to make him feel the way he did, and even if he’d given you the option to choose whether to be with him or not, he would still have needed to accept that you had the option to choose “no” and taken responsibility for how he decided to handle that. This was not your fault. You do not have to choose to take responsibility or be his family’s scapegoat, and I hope you don’t.
100% excellent reply.
LW, you are not responsible in any way for your friend’s death.
The Captain’s suggestion for a letter to Rourke’s sister is also excellent. **You can honor and empathize with her grief and anger but you don’t have to meet with her and you do not have to take the blame for her brother’s death — your suffering cannot help them, and you don’t have to serve it up as a sacrifice. They will find closure, eventually, or not. It’s not yours to give or to withhold from them, but you absolutely can refuse to continue being a vector for their blame and cruelty.**
Please take this to heart, and find your own peace.
Best wishes to you.
My first thought was that his sister is probably feeling terrible, terrible guilt herself and going after the LW is a way to feel like she’s doing something in defense of her brother and ease her own guilt.
LW, you can’t cause someone to commit suicide. Even if you had known that he loved you, and rejected him, it would still be his responsibility. All of us here have been rejected and we still kept on going. It’s the depression that makes it seem as if suicide is the only way to cope with rejection.
Yes. His sister is probably asking herself why she didn’t know what he was going to do, or (if he told her about depression / suicidal ideation) why she didn’t take him seriously enough, or why she didn’t miraculously do or say the right things to change his mind, why, why, why… And if she blames it all on the LW then she doesn’t have to blame herself. Hate is so much easier than grief and self-blame for a lot of people.
LW, this isn’t your fault. You didn’t cause this. There are specific circumstances under which I think blame can be laid for someone else’s suicide, and you are so far from them that you can’t see them from where you are. Please look after yourself, don’t offer yourself up as a sacrifice to someone else’s pain, and try to heal.
Jedi hugs if you want them.
Quick point – people who are well do not commit suicide. Dealing with romantic disappointment does not make someone unwell. It can and does hurt, yes, and if someone is unwell they may not deal with it in a healthy way, but romantic disappointment in and of itself does not make someone unwell.
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, and I am sorry that, for whatever reason, he was not able to get the help that he needed. And I am sorry that in her grief, her sister is lashing out at you – you don’t deserve that.
Many people have broken hearts and lose love. And they do not commit suicide. His problem was not you. His problem was not unrequited love. His problem was the mental illness that took his life. That is who and what everyone who cared for this man should be blaming. Not you.
I just want to stop here to disagree with you on this. My grandfather ended his life this year aged 88. He was not unwell, he just felt that he was getting older and less able to do things himself, which he hated, and he was 16 years a widower. He didn’t want to become any more dependent on others than he had become, and he killed himself. He wasn’t unwell. His mind was very wel balanced. It was a conscious and considered decision. I understand that you’re trying to be supportive towards the letter writer, but please try to avoid statements like that. Not all people who choose to end their lives are mentally ill.
LW, it is not your fault. Listen to the Captain, and your therapist. You are in a lot of pain right now, and one of the things that pain can tell you is that you are a good person. It is not your fault. You were one of the people who was there for him, and even if you weren’t there in some perfect 20-20 hindsight way, you were there. It is not your fault. I’ve never felt like adding to the conversation on this site before, and I think I will be adding to a chorus of people saying the same thing, but I’m happy to be part of that chorus. It is not your fault. Feeling your pain and anger can help you heal, but your pain cannot help his family, and it is cruel of them to try to put it on you. I hope you get the love and support and understanding you need to heal from this, and I am so sorry you are going through this. It is not your fault.
My opinion: stay away from the sister, she’s bad news. Once she (unfairly, falsely) accused you of indirect murder, your obligation to communicate with her ended.
Yeah, this. To be honest, if Rourke blamed the LW for his suicide, then it’s a fair bet that his sister also doesn’t have good coping skills. It would be a good idea to document the crap out of the interactions the LW’s had with his sister for future reference in case she escalates. I got a bad feeling about this one.
LW, if you’re reading, none of this was your fault. You didn’t kill Rourke. He and his illness did. You are not responsible for another person’s happiness.
MAJOR TW for rape and stalking:
I’m going on anon for this one because, frankly, I’m still pretty damn traumatized by the whole thing. But after my ex-boyfriend raped me and then had a mental breakdown, his family stalked and hounded me for MONTHS. The whole family was severely fucked up, and they took all their grief and nastiness out on me.
I cut off contact as best I could, but I wish I had been able to document everything so I could have gotten a whole passel of restraining orders. Unfortunately, I was so fucked up that I became almost catatonic for a year and I’m still digging through the rubble of my life a decade later.
You were already in a rough place and then you experienced a devastating loss, which is being compounded by the actions of your friend’s family. Your priority needs to be healing yourself right now, and not being their scapegoat. And document everything (even phone calls: “Eva Braun called me today, September 21st at 6pm and said the following: a, b, c.”) because depending on how this family functions your future self may thank you.
Jeebus tapdancing Chrahst. Those people suck.
Sending you kind thoughts anon, that is a horrific experience and I’m so sorry. It was nearly a decade ago that i left my bf who raped me. It takes such a long time to heal from trauma, i hate that I’m so fragile so long after i escaped from that situation.
I am so angry on your behalf, LW, even though I know that Rourke’s sister is grieving and hurt. How dare she, though. How dare she?! What an awful and inappropriate demand. You showing up for their abuse cannot bring him back and it cannot bring her and his family peace. Nothing can bring them that except the slow passage of time and their own emotional labor.
I wish you healing and peace. I wish them, that, too, although right now I wish they would tell someone “Oh hey, I want the person whom my brother loved but never told to show up so that I can yell at them and tell them it’s all their fault that he’s dead” and have said said someone explain why that’s an awful idea and they should go apologize to you.
My response to the sister’s idea:
“I think bad things about you; let’s meet up so I can say those things at you and you can sit there and listen” OOH TEMPTING THAT SOUNDS LIKE A FUN SATURDAY
My deepest condolences, and best wishes in keeping and making yourself well.
What a shitty, terrible thing for Rourke’s sister to say. “Meet with me so I can publicly berate you, or else I’ll call you a coward and a murderer.” That part of the story makes my hands curl into fists, so I hope that it’s the grief talking. LW, please continue to work with your therapist to get out the other side of this. I know you will.
And, like, what’s the conversation going to be if you DO meet with her? She’s going to call you names to your face, instead? GEE what a tempting offer.
I cannot even begin to fathom what’s going through the sister’s mind, except perhaps that she wants someone else to hurt they way that she’s hurting. But, LW, you already are hurting; you’re not obligated to take on more of it. And even if it’s hard to think of this in terms of what you deserve – because, yeah, if you’re already feeling depressed and worthless, it’s easy to rationalize taking on more – know that letting her unload on you won’t take a single speck of her grief and anger away. It’s like a liver, or a starfish: if she cuts off a piece of that feeling and gives it to you, it will grow back to full size, in both of you. Even if you’re willing to hurt yourself to bring her closure, it won’t work.
Plus, of course, you don’t deserve that pain in the first place. He was cruel to lash out at you in his final moments; his sister is cruel to prolong that lashing-out; and neither of them are rational in their expectation that you should have psychically intuited his obsession (let’s not call this love when it seems so very un-loving) and his frustration and then fixed both. You are not to blame.
You are not to blame.
“letting her unload on you won’t take a single speck of her grief and anger away. It’s like a liver, or a starfish: if she cuts off a piece of that feeling and gives it to you, it will grow back to full size, in both of you.”
I want this printed on a giant sign above my door so I never forget it. LW, I used to think blaming myself and taking the fall from others for things that by no amount of reasoning could ever have rationally been my fault would somehow make everything magically better, because I was in pain and if I took on their pain too then I was the only one in pain and that was a win? right? less people in pain? but it wasn’t, because everyone was still in pain. All it accomplished was more pain for me, and self-loathing on top of that because it hadn’t worked.
Please. Take care of yourself at this stressful and emotionally-battering time.
“and neither of them are rational in their expectation that you should have psychically intuited his obsession (let’s not call this love when it seems so very un-loving)”
Expressing a desire for someone to live in eternal torment and guilt if they don’t do what you want is just about the ultimate in NOT LOVE.
It’s like a liver, or a starfish: if she cuts off a piece of that feeling and gives it to you, it will grow back to full size, in both of you.
I just wanted to admire that sentence again. It’s beautiful.
My heart goes out to the LW – nothing good can possibly come out of such a meeting indeed.
I agree with everything you said. I also want to say that you appreciate your public service announcement at the end. My partner and I recently dealt with such a situation and we did exactly what you suggested here. It definitely was the right choice, and it’s good to see that affirmation here.
It’s a great PSA! It made me feel a lot better about 2 of my brushes with stuff like this.
When I was studying abroad, one of the students at the school who was supposed to help us out tried to manipulate me via suicide. Everyone said that this guy had been able to “score” with at least one exchange student (female, blond, blue-eyed, aka, me) every year. One day, he invited himself over to my shared kitchen and we were talking and it all was fine until he asked if I wanted to kiss him. I said no, to which he responded, “if you don’t kiss me, I’ll kill myself.”
I was so stunned, I could only say, “what?” He repeated himself, “if you don’t kiss me, I’ll kill myself.”
I was instantly incoherent with rage and yelled something along the lines of, “hell no, HOW DARE YOU?? GTFO!” and threw him out of my suite. I then avoided him as much as possible the rest of the program. Big shocker – he didn’t actually kill himself. But I did find out how he pressured all the women before me into sleeping with him.
I had already dealt with a suicide threat once before from a boyfriend I had just dumped. I was very worried about him because I knew he was depressed about multiple things (such as just failing out of our college), but he was in a totally different state and I was no longer his girlfriend. I was grieving the end of our relationship too. Thankfully, I confided in my parents, who recommended I call his parents about the threat of suicide then cut off all contact, so I did. I don’t know if he was serious or not, but I know that nothing I could have said or done would have been able to help him. Fortunately, he seems to be doing better now and just got married.
So it is very, very hard, especially when you care about the person, but as usual, the Captain’s advice is spot on.
I lost my brother to suicide this summer, and I am periodically terribly angry with everybody who is still alive, and LW, THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Merskalina, but thank you for taking the time/emotional energy to come and comfort the LW.
I’ll also add my voice to everyone else’s and say that this was NOT LW’s fault. This was something that was done TO you, not at all by you.
So sorry for your loss. Best wishes for continued healing.
Oh, I am so sorry, M. I am so sorry for your loss.
LW, I am so sorry for your loss and grief, too. I cannot tell you how much those are the only things I feel. I don’t feel you should be blamed, I don’t think it’s your fault, and I most certainly do *not* feel or think you are in any way responsible for this terrible situation and your friend’s death.
Send CA’s letter, and take care of yourself.
His sister basically wants to meet with you to yell at you for something that isn’t your fault and she thinks that if you don’t let her do that you’re crappy. Sounds like she wants to send her badfeels your way no matter what you do, so protect yourself and stay away from her. She is hurting right now and you cannot help with that. You have done nothing wrong and have nothing to apologize for. You have no responsibility in this situation and no responsibility to take on his family’s feelings.
I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having to go through a loved one’s belongings this year after a sudden death (cancer) and I’m just imagining what I would have done if I found unsent love letters to someone not their partner.
Pretty much coming to the conclusion I would have burned them because who needs to compound grief like that? Someone who is hurting and wants to lash out would probably want to compound grief like that.
“Sounds like she wants to send her badfeels your way no matter what you do, so protect yourself and stay away from her.” Sounds a lot like what she did when she sent those letters. I am sorry for her loss, and I’m sorry for your loss and that others are trying to compound your grief.. Please talk to someone on Team You about this, and talk to your therapist about any grief groups in the area that might be helpful (my therapist is trying to find one that matches with me right now).
He left those letters unsent for a reason. To send them after his death, to someone who wasn’t in a romantic relationship with him, is an act of pure cruelty to the recipient, while completely disregarding the wishes of the writer.
LW, I’m so sorry Rourke’s sister is being so unkind to you while you’re grieving. The world is full of stories where you can love someone enough to keep them from death, or even to bring them back from death. But all those stories are wrong. No matter what you did or didn’t do, you could not have kept Rourke from taking his own life. He was the one who made that choice, not you. And his sister is the one who’s making the choice to blame you and treat you horribly while in the grip of her own grief and anger. So you get to make the choice to take care of yourself, to keep working with your therapist, to keep leaning on Team You, to set those letters aside or destroy them, to honor Rourke’s memory in the way that feels best to you, and to love yourself and be kind to yourself while you get through a very, very hard time.
He left those letters unsent for a reason. To send them after his death, to someone who wasn’t in a romantic relationship with him, is an act of pure cruelty to the recipient, while completely disregarding the wishes of the writer.
There are two possibilities here, LW. The first is that she found the letters, with no context or instructions, and chose to forward them to you knowing that they would hurt you, and knowing that her brother had chosen not to send them to you. Violating the privacy of the dead is sometimes the right choice if it’s made in kindness, but making it out of pure spite tells you everything you need to know about her character; namely that she’s emotionally abusive and has very little respect for Rourke’s wishes, even while claiming you owe her a debt in his name.
The second possibility is that he did leave her instructions to forward those letters. Someone elsethread has already described how an abusive ex’s family stalked her. Abusers enlisting family members to help further their abuse and access to victims is an unfortunately common tactic. If that’s what happened here, then she has actively chosen to be an accessory to her deceased brother’s violence against you.
In either case, LW, you should not only not meet her, you should also treat anything she tells you about Rourke (or anything else, for that matter) with suspicion. She has something you want (information about Rourke) and she’s using that to manipulate you. You know that she’s cruel, abusive, and manipulative. In the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, don’t assume that she’s honest.
(To chime in with the chorus: LW, you did nothing wrong. Take care of yourself, condolences, and we wish you all the best.)
“To send them after his death, to someone who wasn’t in a romantic relationship with him, is an act of pure cruelty to the recipient, while completely disregarding the wishes of the writer.”
I kind of hesitate to say this, because it’s such a nasty idea, but… well, others have pointed out that it wasn’t obsessing over unrequited love which made Rourke suicidal, that was a symptom of a problem which came from somewhere else. It’s even possible that this sister is some or all of that “somewhere else”. We don’t know (and I doubt LW does either), but the ONLY acts we’re aware of from her are startlingly toxic. Sure, those are PROBABLY just the voice of the shock of grief, but they could POSSIBLY also be the cry of a sadist who has been robbed of her victim, looking for a new one. Telling LW that (s)he should put up with any amount of torture out of guilt carries just a hint of bees with it. LW should stay as far away from this woman as possible; there is nothing positive which can come out of any association with her, for either of them.
My mother periodically dumped badfeels in her diaries. After confirming what they were, I got rid of the lot, unread, because they were her personal private things, they were not for me to read, and I want to remember my Mum as the person she was – not just her most private, most frustrated, most unhappy facet.
Some things need not be known; much less shared.
LW, one thing that it might help to keep in mind is that Rourke did not send those letters to you; they were sent to you by someone who does not have your best interests at heart, someone who is looking for someone to blame for the death of her brother, someone who is angry at you and wants you to hurt like she hurts. Someone who is lashing out.
More importantly, any anger that Rourke expresses in those letters–or love, or pain, or joy, or regret–was something that he could have showed you, but chose not to. Those letters are, to use the parlance of Captain Awkward, FEELINGS MAIL: the kind of thing that you blurt out onto the page to get it out of your head and, maybe, your heart, and then keep to yourself because no one benefits from FEELINGS MAIL. Don’t take them as the gospel of how Rourke felt about you or his relationship with you just because they are written down and the many many times he had other thoughts or feelings are not. Those letters are just one small piece of a big and complicated mosaic that was your friendship, not the whole picture.
I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend, and hope that you continue to take care of you.
This is a really good point – Rourke did not actually send you those letters, he made a conscious choice not to. His sister has actually violated his wishes by doing so, unless his suicide note stated that he wanted them sent on.
Those letters are, to use the parlance of Captain Awkward, FEELINGS MAIL: the kind of thing that you blurt out onto the page to get it out of your head and, maybe, your heart, and then keep to yourself because no one benefits from FEELINGS MAIL. Don’t take them as the gospel of how Rourke felt about you or his relationship with you just because they are written down and the many many times he had other thoughts or feelings are not.
YES. This is such an important point.
The Captain said:
Furthermore, Rourke used his last act to harm and victimize you. Rourke’s “You will regret me for the rest of your life” is such a hostile, angry, violent* thing to say. By leaving the note that he did, and by blaming you for what he was doing, he turned his violent death into violence against you.
But “You will regret me for the rest of your life” is actually a thing Rourke chose not to say to the LW. And his suicide note blamed his unrequited love (and I will second the people above who said that people who are not terribly mentally unwell do not kill themselves over unrequited love), but not the LW themselves.
(Blaming the unrequited love is still crappy because it dumps the emotional burden on the LW, but it’s reasonable to say that Rourke was probably not at his mental best when writing it.)
I’ve got a lot of complicated never-sent sent e-mail drafts knocking around, in which I’ve tried to sort out my FEELINGS for people, and they are never sent because I generally ended up realizing that I needed to work out my FEELINGS for myself, and they weren’t actually the other person’s problem. And I vented in the drafts in a way which I knew was totally unfair to the other person, just to get stuff articulated and look at it, because I knew I would never send them. That’s my shit, not theirs.
If I died and a relative of mine decided it’d be an awesome idea to send all those e-mail drafts I chose not to send to the people they are addressed to — that’d be a terrible thing to do to those people, and to my friendship with those people, and to their memories of me.
Speaking as someone who has been suicidally depressed: I think the LW is entitled to be as angry at Rourke as they need to be. They are allowed to feel whatever they fuck they need to feel to get through this. They are allowed to feel whatever they feel.
But if it helps at any points to remember the positive things about their friendship: Rourke chose not to send those letters. His sister is taking that choice away from him.
This is such a great point, thank you for expanding upon it.
This, so much: I actually had a viscerally bad reaction to the PSA at the bottom, despite it being true†, because ROURKE DID NOT ACTUALLY DO THAT.
His sister did that. And that’s not only hideously unfair to the LW (which it is, LW, you are not responsible for his misery or his choice about what to do about it), but it’s a betrayal of her brother.
In his suicide note he did what a lot of suicide notes try to do, which is explain and justify their choice to end their lives, which generally involves both dumping all your feelings and also trying desperately to reach for something the other person will understand: even when the suicide knows that the problem is actually “I am just living in unrelenting tormented hell and I can’t take it anymore”, they will often try to find meaning that their loved ones will be able to grasp. In the note he left *for his family* (notice how he wasn’t even really in contact with the LW?) he tried to offer them explanations for why he was leaving them.
And he might have been wrong, but being wrong about the cause of your misery is not emotional terrorism.
*HIS SISTER* has committed emotional terrorism, likely in response to her own grief and anger. She *violated* his privacy and secrecy by exposing things he kept secret to the LW, and that is *all. on. her.* Not on Rourke.
†and it is very, very true: I’ve also lived through having it done to me, over and over again, and it is a deeply hideous thing to do to anyone.
and I will second the people above who said that people who are not terribly mentally unwell do not kill themselves over unrequited love
I would just like to reply to myself to clarify that I don’t think that people who are terribly mentally unwell kill themselves over unrequited love, either: it’s not the cause.
Depression is a fucking awful illness, and it latches onto things, and “everything is awful and my life will be terrible forever because I can never tell LW of my love” may have been what Rourke’s brain was telling him, but it doesn’t mean it was true, or that it was why everything hurt and felt awful to him.
If he’d never met the LW, it would have found another lie to tell him.
I know people in wonderful, caring, mutually-loving relationships who have still been suicidally depressed, because amazingly enough love is not a cure for severe mental illness.
The LW says: I mourn the time we could maybe have been even closer than we are and been building something even more beautiful, with stronger and deeper roots.
That suggests maybe part of the LW might maybe have reciprocated Rourke’s feelings, had he ever managed to communicate them. If that’s so, then the loss of that possible closer, deeper relationship is another thing the LW has to mourn.
But even if it had existed, that deeper relationship would not have saved him from his depression.
“I know people in wonderful, caring, mutually-loving relationships who have still been suicidally depressed, because amazingly enough love is not a cure for severe mental illness.”
This. Rourke would still have been depressed even if he had told the LW of his feelings and the LW reciprocated. He might still have committed suicide even if they were in a closer, deeper, romantic relationship. It still would not have been the LW’s fault.
I stopped watching Dr Who a few seasons ago but one of the episodes I still very strongly love is the season five episode where they meet Vincent Van Gogh. There’s a scene at the end where after they’ve fixed the problem of the week and shown Vincent that people will remember his art they come back to the art gallery that was showing his work with Amy talking about how now there’s going to be whole extra rooms filled with paintings he had time to do later, and the Doctor being very very quiet… and they walk in and it’s exactly the same (except for one detail). Ultimately it didn’t matter to the length of his life what they did for him because the depression was still there. He didn’t kill himself because no one liked his art, he killed himself because he was very unwell. It’s… really devastating but such a perfect example of how depression works.
“I’ve got a lot of complicated never-sent sent e-mail drafts knocking around, in which I’ve tried to sort out my FEELINGS for people, and they are never sent because I generally ended up realizing that I needed to work out my FEELINGS for myself, and they weren’t actually the other person’s problem. And I vented in the drafts in a way which I knew was totally unfair to the other person, just to get stuff articulated and look at it, because I knew I would never send them. That’s my shit, not theirs.”
Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what I was thinking. I have journals and I think a number of people would be surprised at the things I wrote about them, all of which were true at the time, but are by no means the complete picture of our relationship. Like, if I’m mad at my friend Becky because she was being annoying during our last visit, there might be a rant in my journal about it, but that doesn’t mean that I think that Becky is always a “fucking whiner” and the rest of my relationship with her is a lie. It means I was momentarily pissed at her and decided to let my anger out on paper so I could deal with her with the love and respect I actually have for her.
It’s hard, when something is written down and the writer is gone, to let go of the feeling that the writing is the truth. But the writing is always only a fragment of the truth.
Thank you. I really needed to read this today. My husband suffered from bipolar disorder and was also a suicide. When packing up his personal effects, I came across his journals. I read them to help fill in the blanks of my marriage, as my husband led a very secret life that, as it turned out, I was financing.
To read his unfiltered private thoughts was distressing. In retrospect, it may have been a mistake on my part, as I can’t help but feel that his writing was his truth.
He also blamed me for his suicide on the night he took his life. He had a little cassette recorder, and repeatedly said that his suicide would not have been necessary if I had just been willing to share him with other women. He was way under the influence when he said that, yet it’s hard to let go of, especially since those were his last words before he fell asleep.
His family also blamed me for his suicide. However, they did not interfere. Instead, they just pushed me out of their lives using the excuse that they needed to grieve alone. Which wasn’t true, as they reached out to all my husband’s friends, even his girlfriend.
I too struggle with the guilt of having killed my husband because of the unnecessary stress I brought to our marriage due to an undiagnosed (at the time) condition. While my logical brain knows that I’m not responsible for his death, my emotional brain remains stuck in the loop of guilt and has trouble syncing up with what I rationally know to be true.
I feel for the LW. And I agree that the sister is hurting and striking out at the only person she can blame for her brother’s death. No good can come from a meeting, IMO.
CJ, I am so, so sorry that this has happened to you. I can’t even find the words right now.
His suicide was not your fault. NOT YOUR FAULT. NOT YOUR FAULT.
Please call in Team You and work with your therapist/counsellor if you have one.
Look after yourself.
CJ, it is not your fault. It was never your fault. It was all the fault of his mental illness. Extreme impulsiveness and impaired judgement are all part of bipolar.
I for the most part managed to do what I detail below–I put everything away. I skimmed photos and such, but I didn’t read anything written, I just put it away, and hauled it around, and then one day I threw most of it away, never having read it. Different situations, obviously, as my husband died of the lingering effects of a slow but fatal illness, but thank you for this because it makes me feel better about The Great Purge. His family blamed me. Most of his friends blamed me. His ex-wife flat out said that I’d killed him at the memorial. She was trying to be mean but I was not very compos mentis and didn’t even hear her, which is the best revenge for comments like that.
Death is messy. I think there’s some magical thinking there where people think that some kinds must be more or less messy, but they’re not. It’s always a big jumble of hurt and sorrow and rage and cleaning stuff up and putting stuff away and reading and not reading and regretting either way.
But we’re still here. I spent a lot of time, for years, saying to my friends like a broken record “am I a bad person?” because I needed so badly to hear that I wasn’t, over and over again, until I really believed it. I’m lucky I have patient friends.
CJ, so many hugs to you if you’re accepting them on the Jedi mind-frequency.
It is not your fault. I cried reading this because you can hear how much pain you’re in, and you have so many things to grieve over — causing his suicide is not one of them. You having any kind of condition (diagnosed or otherwise), any stress, had nothing to do with his actions. I really don’t want to say choices, because for most people it’s not a choice so much as a consequence of jerkbrain/mental illness driving and you having to go along for the ride. If someone is in that much pain in their heart and head it is not because of anyone’s actions or lack thereof — it’s because they really are not well.
There’s so much I want to say, but I don’t know how to express it. You don’t deserve that fault, that blame, that little voice saying you’re guilty. It’s a liar, you deserve no guilt, no shame at all, just all the support and love the world can offer someone who has lost someone in such a painful way.
I’m reminded of the commenter who agreed to polyamory when her husband suggested it. He lied to the commenter about the nature of his relationship with the other woman, lied to the other partner about the commenter, and ended up killing himself.
Letting your spouse sleep with other people wouldn’t have magically made him better.
For me, it wasn’t only his suicide that tore me to pieces, it was the practical realities of suddenly being stuck with a huge mortgage and all of his debt at a time when I was grieving for the loss of my beloved. All combined, we’re talking close to a million dollars of debt here. Had my husband taken out a life insurance policy in anticipation of what he was about to do (he attempted 5 times over an 18 month period), at least he would have minimized the pain he left for survivors.
His decision ruined the stellar credit history that took me so many years to build. I lost my home of 20 years and had to declare bankruptcy. I can’t even rent an apartment now without a cosigner. Whatever dreams I had for the future and a dignified retirement have been dashed by the financial mess I inherited.
With everything that has happened these last few years, I really do feel like a shell of my former self. I overwhelm at the slightest thing, and can no longer hold a job or do anything that requires a schedule. My small support network has drifted away, and I have no family. I do have a therapist, and she’s got her work cut out for her if I’m ever to put myself back together from the shreds.
If I was 25, I would have time on my side to bounce back. But I’m not.
Please listen to the folks commenting here. My friend also suffered from long-undiagnosed bipolar and what he ended up saying in the therapist’s office was exactly this: if his wife would just let him spend all their money on his video games and let him screw whomever he wanted whenever he wanted, their marriage would be just fine. Years later, having found successful diagnoses and medical intervention, he tells me he can’t even remember being the person who said those things, wouldn’t even believe he *had* said them if his therapist hadn’t recorded the session to play back. (His wife has no copy of these recordings. She never wants to hear the disease talk to her again.)
Be well and take care of yourself.
CJ, I remember you commenting on an earlier letter, and I have thought of you often since then. I am so, so sorry this happened to you, it was in no way your fault, and you did not deserve to be treated this way.
I remember you sharing your story a couple of questions back. You are not at fault for your husband’s choices, and even if you had been the most accommodating person and let him have his outside relationships, his illness would have found something else to latch onto. I’m sorry you had to go through something so horrific.
What a hard sad time you’ve had.
Condolences on the loss of your husband.
If he thought your actions were why he killed himself, he thought wrong.
Jedi hugs if you want them
May those of us who have not written down and then discarded really unfair, uncharitable, and untrue things about other people because we felt awful cast the first stone.
Just because Roarke wrote that doesn’t even mean he really thought it, even. Sometimes you just need to get all your blamey feelings out on paper even though you know they’re not reasonable or true.
And if he was dealing with depression some of the feels might have been incredibly fleeting. I’ve had serious times with my depression where I’ve had inappropriate emotional reactions to something and wrote them down to get rid of them. I can’t imagine someone sending the ones that were directed at people to them after I was dead, it’s such a completely shitty thing to do.
LW, do NOT meet with Rourke’s sister. Such a meeting with benefit NEITHER of you.
My personal recommendation is to cut contact with Rourke’s family completely, for a very long time if not forever. NO GOOD will come of continued contact with them – no good for them, no good for you. If you need to couch protecting yourself in terms of “what’s best for Rourke’s family?”, then please keep telling yourself that offering yourself up as the sacrificial object related to the death of their loved one will NOT bring said loved one back, and will only foment anger and poison in their hearts and minds.
Rourke’s family aside, YOU DO NOT DESERVE THEIR NEGATIVE FEELINGS.
Please, LW, practice all the self-care and protection you possibly can. That is what you deserve.
Anyone who says that they love you so much they would kill themselves to prove it, or kill themselves if they couldn’t “have” you, does NOT truly love you. Those people need help, and you need to get out of that situation.
As someone who lost her own brother to suicide, it is my strong personal opinion that the Captain’s answer is excellent and you should follow her advice so far as it feels right to you.
Months after my brother’s death, I was approached by a girl he had asked on a date a few weeks before he died. She had turned him down. She was a sensitive and caring person and felt, not exactly responsible, but definitely guilty, and wanted to apologize to me. I gave her a hug and told her that my brother’s choices were his own, and that disappointments are a normal part of life with others humans, and that it was only his illness that made his problems cause him to feel so alone and hopeless, and think that ending his life was the best choice. I told her that it was not her fault, that it was nobody’s fault, including my brother’s. I told her that I found comfort in remembering all the wonderful things about him, and trying to translate my pain into compassion for other people who are suffering, while still realizing that no one can ever really fix anyone else, and that is part of being mortal and human.
Maybe one day Rourke’s sister will realize those same things, and maybe she won’t, but they’re still true. If you back away and disengage from her, and remove yourself as an available fixation for her feelings, it will give her more space to process her grief in a healthier way.
Good luck and remember that the world is full of people who have empathy for what you’re going through, even if they have never met you.
Just wanted to add: if you ever find yourself in the position of the girl who approached me, don’t do what she did. Get that reassurance instead from a mental health professional or a friend or whatever. Don’t seek it from someone mourning the death of a loved one. Thankfully it worked out fine in that case – I was in a place and of a temperament to be able to handle it in a way that actually helped my own healing. But, if she had approached my younger sister instead, she might have gotten a punch to the face and a tirade of profanities for her trouble. People are different and they handle grief differently.
Comfort in, dump out.
Wow. Such a simple, straightforward concept.
Many years ago I lost my half-brother to suicide. It never would have occurred to me, or anyone in my family to blame anyone but him for his death. Likewise, before her death last year (when her kidneys failed due to long-term doctor prescribed lithium) my mother made suicide attempts several times. My own responsibility was limited to making sure she had appropriate care when she needed it. Had she succeeded, we would have blamed nothing besides the horrific mental illness that she fought for decades.
First time commenter here
I’ve read every single one of CA’s posts, and this is the first one that made me cry (and also made me brave enough to stick my head above the parapet to comment while waving my “YAY GO LW” flag)
Much love to you, LW. Sympathy to Rourke’s family, but whatever their narrative about his death is, this isn’t your problem. You’ve lost a friend, who you tried to help. That is the whole story 😦
In case you are sometimes thinking “maybe I should have know he had these feelings” : Even if you had been aware of his feelings for you, you would still not be responsible for his death.
I am so sorry for your loss, LW. I wish you all the best in *your* recovery.
On a more general note regarding the wellness check, I think they are worth it despite the recently publicised risks, although if out live in an address with a suicide hotline, it may be worth it to call there first. They should be able to help you call the best number and phrase your wellness check request in the safest way for your suicidal [friend, family member, classmate, child]. When my 12 year old made a suicide attempt, the hospital staff (we took him in ourselves as there was luckily no severe injury) were very helpful in letting us know the best way to speak to 911 dispatch to get paramedics with mental health training, not police.
And please call a suicide hotline yourself, LW if you need someone to talk to about your friend’s actions or your dangerous thoughts. The people there are so caring and have resources for any income level.
This is good advice, and information I doubt many people know. I am so sorry about your child’s attempt and I sincerely hope things are better for all of you.
Do you mind sharing the wording they recommended?
“On a more general note regarding the wellness check, I think they are worth it despite the recently publicised risks,”
Could you please elaborate on this… thanks.
Elaborate on the risks, or the “worth it?”
Police + guns + insufficient training & compassion toward mentally ill people + racism can = extreme badness. Look at all the times police go to the wrong house, treat bystanders like suspects, throw physically ill people on the ground. I understand why people see it is a very risky move.
Worth it: Sometimes it’s the best of a sea of bad choices.
I loved the Captain’s answer, and I completely agree with it. This is not your fault. You didn’t know, and you couldn’t have known, and for whatever reason, he deliberately kept you from knowing and then punished you for not knowing. This makes me think he used you as an excuse only, for something he would have done no matter what. The sister has set up a situation where she says that if you don’t do what she wants, you are a particular kind of person; that’s a very hard thing to resist, because it feels like by not doing what she wants, you have to be agreeing that you are the kind of person she says it means you are. But that’s a false thing she’s saying, and a false “this means that” she has set up, and it’s manipulative and awful, and the idea of you meeting with her sets off a million Bad Idea red lights for me. I really like the Captain’s template for the letter you can send her to tell her so, because it satisfies that urge to say “But this doesn’t mean that!,” without having to say it overtly.
I want to be another voice saying it is not your fault. I don’t know how many voices it will take to start to drown out the ones that say it was your fault, but we are right and those voices are wrong (however sure they sound) and I want to contribute to the chorus that says it is not your fault. You are not to blame.
People who are hurting say, with all certainty, things that are incorrect and hurtful and wrong. They sound right, because they sound sure, but they are not.
You did not hurt your friend. You did not cause his death. I don’t believe anybody caused it- he was sick, and he died of Depression. (It’s what my friend’s grandmother said when his father died, as his uncle had died. She says that her sons died of Depression, and she’s right.) I hope for his family that someday they will know that and that it can in any way help.
And I hope for you that you can know it, and that it can help you. And I hope our voices can ever be louder than theirs.
LW, I hope you’re giving yourself credit for writing to Rourke’s sister before showing up to pay your respects. In deferring to her, you put your grief in the context of Rourke’s family’s process of mourning his loss. That was a kind choice. Please don’t forget that.
In the movie version of the story that Rourke’s sister may be running in her head, you, the Evil Heart-Breaking Villain, would have shown up at the funeral or graveside on a rainy day and she would have made a huge scene of tearing into you for your evil treatment of her beloved brother. All those assembled would be witness to your moral turpitude, because that’s what’s supposed to happen to the Evil Heart-Breaking Villain. But that’s not you, LW. I imagine the LW’s sister thinks that scene would be satisfying for her, or give her solace or comfort or ‘closure,’ but I doubt it, and you don’t have to help her stage it. We don’t live in movie-land, where mascara never runs and the tears roll prettily down our unsplotched cheeks and encourage the audience to sympathize. We live in the much messier world of big gulping sobs and boxes of tissues.
Hang in there.
So she can “tell you what she thinks of you”?
“I think you should have been psychic, and you should have known what my brother thought and felt even though I, his sister who has known him all his life, did not.”
“I think you owed it to my brother to feel about him like he felt about you.”
“I think you were obligated to offer my brother a romantic relationship that lasted forever, because that is what he wanted.”
Ew, hella nope.
“I think you should have sacrificed your financial and emotional stability in order to take care of my brother, whom you were friendly with and thought positively of but had little regular contact and reciprocity with.”
Yeah, still nope.
“I think you should develop the power of time travel, go back, and make all your choices differently so that my brother would still be alive.”
Ha ha, what?
“I think that you are a bad person because you gave my brother bad feelings by not behaving like a character in his own personal romance novel, and failing to conform to the appropriate pop music tropes playing out in his head, but instead acted like you were your own person with your own issues and needs and life to live.”
So. Many. Nopes.
Do NOT go see this woman, do NOT have further contact with her, do NOT pass go and collect any more unsent love letters from her (what the HELL, that is a gross violation of the brother’s privacy, why not just publish his diary to really drive home that he can no longer control what other people know about him, yuck). Work with your therapist to revoke her claim to the real estate inside your head, and to see the really manipulative, and I’ll say it, ABUSIVE elements of how both she and her brother have treated you.
And take care of yourself, please. You’re worth it.
I’m afraid I agree. A person can be genuinely messed up and in pain, and still be a manipulative and abusive b*stard.
Yup, so much this. The sister is attempting to emotionally blackmail LW into.. into what? Into being something ze’s not– a therapist who was in love with Rourke– into fixing their pain and sorrow at LW’s own expense, and failing to do so, accepting all the blame? None of that is a possible demand to meet, neither is it a reasonable demand to make.
Yeah, hopefully Rourke’s sister will find herself a grief counselor or therapist to (gently, if necessary) spell out that this is basically literally what she asked of the LW. And when you read it like it is, it’s pretty thoroughly fucked up, not to mention impossible.
LW, his sister is grieving. And sad. And it is much, much easier to be angry than it is to be sad. And it is so much easier for her to be angry at you than at her brother, who not only took away somebody she loved quite deeply, but was that person that was taken away. So she’s not really angry at you – it has everything to do with all these massive, hard emotions that are overwhelming her just like they’re overwhelming you.
When you think of her anger and her words, try to think of them as her grief over her brother, not as attacks towards you; think, “I am sad for her suffering; look at this evidence of her grief” and nothing more. Because it is nothing more than her grief coming out masked in anger.
And the same for you – it’s easier to be angry than sad, but don’t let that turn into anger at yourself. Be kind to yourself and know that you did all you could. It is so clear from this letter that you are an amazingly good person: for caring for your friend, for caring for his sister even as she lashes out, and for caring so deeply about how you are able to support your loved ones, even when that is hard for you. You were not at fault.
I’m so sorry for your loss.
A note on the 911 “welfare check” suggestion:
Sometimes the police are good at dealing with mentally ill people. When they are, it’s by luck, and certainly not by training. All too often–and ESPECIALLY for people of color–police involvement will end not in help for the person in crisis but in abuse or even death.
Calling the police on anyone is not safe. Calling the police on a person of color is downright dangerous.
Suggesting the police as a good option might as well be stapling a sign to your head that says “white privilege.”
I appreciate your thoughts and I don’t disagree that involving police can make situations worse or that I have a shitload of white privilege. I really like the suggestion upthread to call a suicide hotline and get the best language/key words for talking to authorities if you have to do that.
In a situation when someone is threatening their life (and possibly yours) if you don’t (stay married to them, keep loving them, stay with them), what can you do? There are no good solutions, and you cannot fix the situation yourself by either treating mental illness or staying with an abuser?
I’m not talking about white people moving into black neighborhoods and doing the shitty gentrification dance of “noise complaints” and “loitering” to bring police presence down constantly on people, I am talking about when someone has said to you “If you leave me/you don’t love me back I will kill myself.” When someone is threatening to literally murder someone (themselves) if you don’t comply and calling an ambulance is one terrible option among very terrible options. When you don’t have the power to get them to an emergency room yourself. When your choices are “maybe they will be abused by police” or “maybe they will kill themselves (and me)” what do you do? In that moment, are you supposed to risk your own life as well as the other person’s life? “I will kill myself if you leave me” is an abuser’s tactic OR the cry for help of someone who is in imminent danger of death. What then?
I’m not suggesting that by raising the very real spectre of police violence or institutional racism you’re somehow responsible for solving it or answering these questions for your point to have validity (it’s very valid!). Just…if someone is threatening to kill themselves if you don’t do what they want, I don’t think you have to wait out a hostage crisis and hope for the best.
Captain, while I completely understand (and 100% agree with) rejecting attempts at control and manipulation that take the form of suicide threats, up to and including calling authorities where helpful, I’m very uncomfortable with your rephrasing it as “threatening to murder someone (themselves) if you don’t comply.” Yes, threatening suicide to control another person is manipulative and awful thing to do, but suicide is absolutely not murder.
Please keep in mind that murder is a crime and suicide is not. At least, not anymore. The historical legacy of suicide as an actual crime (people were often criminalized after death if they killed themselves, by church and state) created a huge amount of suffering both for those with mental illness and for the families and friends who survived them. This legacy still lingers with us today, as the vilification of people whose mental illness drove them to end their own lives (embedded in the phrase “committing suicide” the way one commits arson or assault), calling them selfish or weak or cowardly or whatever else, is a huge part of the stigma around mental illness and suicidal thoughts.
Apologies for jumping on this, but as someone who lost a brother to suicide and has done a lot of activism to raise awareness and remove stigma (which is one of the ways to increase the change that people with suicidal thoughts can/will get help!) it is a very important issue for me.
Again, I completely understand the underlying goal behind the analogy that you’re trying to make, and I support (1) attempts to convince/reassure people that they cannot let suicide threats control them and (2) attempts to get help for people who make suicidal statements. I just think this one aspect of your language is very unhelpful. You don’t need to compare it to murder to explain that it’s not an okay thing for someone to do.
I have some thoughts about this idea that suicide is never like murder, because I too lost a family member to suicide (who literally did it to punish me for “ruining his life” by not wanting to be molested or hurt anymore), and have had more than one abusive partner threaten me with it whenever I tried to leave him or her.
There are probably circumstances were suicide is merely* tragic, the way all deaths are. But I think it loses that once it is used as a weapon. And I think that its worth considering that somebody can be in deep psychological pain, and use that pain to hurt others, in a way that acknowledges that it’s wrong without stigmatizing the illnesses surround it.
* As opposed to “tragic and also a form of emotional terrorism.”
I completely agree what you’re saying and I’ve heard it from many people who have had close friends or family kill themselves. Definitely, sometimes revenge or hurting someone or teaching someone a lesson or some other hurtful aim is part of a suicidal person’s motivation. And I agree that it’s wrong to try to hurt others, pretty much always except in self defence.
I just think it’s more helpful if we focus on the core truth that trying to use your death (or financial manipulation, or a child custody battle, or any other weapon) to hurt another person is a cruel and morally reprehensible thing to do, no matter how much pain you may be in, without bringing in the concept of murder. Murder has its own very specific meaning and set of moral implications, and is not the same. We don’t need to conflate suicide with murder in order to acknowledge that suicide (or threats thereof) is sometimes consciously used as a weapon.
this is abuse apologism. just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean that magically nothing they do is abusive. manipulative threats of suicide (if you do/don’t do X, I will kill myself) are the biggest goddamn red flag I can think of if not actual abuse.
(big TW for domestic violence below)
most suicidal people are not abusive, BUT threats of suicide by an abuser are one of the top signs that the person they are abusing is also in extreme danger. look up any domestic violence lethality assessment. threats of violence are threats of violence no matter who they’re directed at (abusers who threaten themselves have *exactly* the same motive and objective as abusers who threaten family pets), the more specific they are the more dangerous they are, and this WELL DOCUMENTED risk to others’ lives is completely apart from any discussion of the morality of suicide and suicidal thoughts.
It is not abuse apologism. I am not saying that threatening suicide to manipulate people is okay. It is atrocious and abusive.
What I am saying is that you can criticize and oppose that abusive behaviour without erroneously comparing suicide to murder.
(@Mir) people (mostly women, b/c that’s how misogyny works in our society) suffer and die because they feel like they can’t leave a relationship where their partner is threatening to kill themself. our society views leaving in that situation as murderous violence against the suicidal person, as the LW’s experience proves.
the thing you didn’t really address in your post is how we should help people (especially the abused person) to understand that the violence inherent in a manipulative suicide threat is as real and severe and as important to take seriously as a threat of murder. and at the same time, to express that it’s not something you can deal with on your own, anymore than you can deal with a murderer on your own.
we can stop explicitly comparing suicide and murder, fine, but that doesn’t mean that a suicide threat is never a threat of murder, because sometimes it is! especially in the context of romantic relationships.
and i’m not even sure i agree with your premise that the suicide/murder comparison is inherently bad, since it can reduce the stigma against actively responding to someone else’s suicidal ideation (instead of dismissing it as “that’s personal, it’s none of my business”). if you’d try to prevent a murder, you should try to prevent a suicide.
(@Akiva – replying here due to limit on further comment nesting)
You’re portraying this as an either-or choice, when it’s not. We don’t have to choose between opposing intimate partner violence and using appropriate non-judgmental, non-stigmatizing language for those suicidal people who threaten no one but themselves. I have done extensive outreach and educational work in the intimate partner violence space and in the suicide awareness space. They are not in opposition, or at least they really don’t need to be.
I assume that when you say a threat of suicide is sometimes a threat of murder, you don’t mean that you consider the killing of oneself murder, but rather that you’re referring to murder-suicides, which are extremely common in the context of intimate relationships. And it’s true that society in general needs to be better about responding to intimate partner violence, knowing the signs, and taking it seriously, and that includes an awareness among health care and mental health professionals, as well as first responders and the general population, that sometimes “If you leave I’ll kill myself” is code for “and you too!” I’m 100% on board with the need for that phenomenon to be addressed with all the resources we have.
You say that in my post I don’t address how to do that: how to support the (usually) women in these risky situations who are manipulated by threats of suicide to make them stay, and you’re right — that wasn’t the topic of my post and I didn’t go into it. I think the answer, like the answer for so many things, is multi-pronged: we need universal free access to quality mental health care. We need to provide social services that give abused partners the financial, emotional, and logistical options to leave abusive relationships. We need public awareness about abuse, and about mental illness, that educates people about the dangers of abuse and how to respond, while making clear that although they overlap, having a mental illness is not abuse in itself. To make a long story short: we need to do a shitload of compassionate, productive societal reform to protect vulnerable people and dismantle existing structures of oppression. Yes, those things are hard to do. Does that mean it’s okay to just take a shortcut, instead, and paint all suicidal people as scary and dangerous and to be avoided, so that people get away from them in case they also turn out to be planning a murder-suicide? No.
As for your comment that society views leaving a person threatening to commit suicide as murderous violence against the suicidal person, I am afraid we just straight up disagree on that. From my work in suicide prevention and supporting family survivors after a death, my experience has overwhelmingly been that the suicidal person, and their parents if it is a child, receive the lion’s share of the blame. You say the LW’s experience “proves” this, but who is saying that besides the sister? Just look at the vehement response on this thread – has even one person seen sense in the sister’s viewpoint? There are definitely people who will judge you as heartless or whatever if they hear you have left someone who is ill, depressed, suicidal, etc. when they were at a low point, but frankly that is just part of society’s lack of understanding of mental illness. Dismantling bias and misunderstanding helps this issue, too. At any rate, I have never heard anyone other than distraught grieving family members blame an intimate partner for someone’s suicide.
As for your final comment: “and i’m not even sure i agree with your premise that the suicide/murder comparison is inherently bad, since it can reduce the stigma against actively responding to someone else’s suicidal ideation (instead of dismissing it as “that’s personal, it’s none of my business”). if you’d try to prevent a murder, you should try to prevent a suicide.”
I don’t even know what to do with that. The rest of your post was thoughtful and seemed compassionate, so I think maybe this was just a throw-away closing thought. You really think that it’s okay to compare/equate murder with suicide just so people remember that suicide is something that should be prevented? Really? I just don’t think you’ve thought this through. We should to prevent tragedies, because they are tragedies – we don’t need them equated with crimes to remind us.
Yeah. I suspect part of what may be tangling things up here is that people who are suicidal per se (not using threats to control anyone else or demand anything) are often told how selfish, awful, terrible, abusive, etc. etc. we are for wanting to do something which would hurt the people around us so much.
Personally, when I was suicidally depressed, I did not find this societal message helpful.
Not only was I in unbearable pain, with a series of treatments either failing or producing freak reactions that made me even worse (so I was starting to believe that I was never ever going to get better), I was being told that if I ever finally gave in to the desire to make it stop, I was an awful person and after my death my family and everyone who loved me would be entitled to hate me.
N.B. This was not a message I was getting from my family or anyone else close to me: I just knew about it because it’s everywhere.
People who have suicidal feelings — a group that includes the LW — deserve not to be made to feel like shit for it. Suicide is not murder, just like self-harm is not assault.
It is also absolutely true that some people use threats of suicide as a tool to control other people (there are plenty of examples in the comments already). And that is abusive, controlling behaviour, even when it’s driven by real pain.
The trouble is that when talking about the latter group, it’s easy to inadvertently slide into stuff (like the “suicide = murder” equation) that sounds very similar to the shit that gets directed at the first group.
Possibly a contradiction, but I feel that people who’ve lost someone to suicide are allowed to get angry at the person who died, rage, feel whatever they feel, do whatever they need to survive. That person’s dead now, they’re not going to be hurt by it.
But there are also people who are alive but dealing with suicidal feelings, and I feel rather strongly about not inadvertently making those people feel even worse and more isolated than they already feel.
I honestly get where you are coming from. From the age of 12-23, I was very suicidal. I had to get my stomach pumped. I have scars that are never going to go away because of what I did to myself.
What’s odd, is that the mileage of how these cultural messages you mentioned varies from suicidal individual to suicidal individual. I hear that these messages did not help you, and likely didn’t help lots of others. I wasn’t able to not want to die on my own. It honestly HELPED knowing that my death would deeply affect my loved ones. Because my depression came from more of a place of, “I don’t matter, nobody is going to care if I don’t exist anymore.”
After my last serious suicide attempt, when I woke up in the hospital I ended up spending my 20th birthday inside of, my best friend was there. He looked at me, while crying hard, and yelled at me to NEVER fucking do that to him again. And honestly, it shook right through me. My pain was not my own. I mattered to people. My death would hurt others, potentially as much as I was hurting. And for me, that was enough to try seriously, for the first time in my entire life, to get better.
Yes, it sucked knowing that this illness that I thought was mine and mine alone to deal with actually was hurting others. It did take me a while to separate out “I am not an isolated being, people are affected by the things I do and say” and not mixing that truth with lies like “I am a bad person who has inflicted this horrible mental disorder upon others and not even my death will stop everything from being terrible forever.” Major depressive disorder is an *asshole*. But ultimately- that was the light at the end of the tunnel. A loved one telling me, in so many words, that my attempt to destroy myself *deeply hurt him*.
This past January, I lost a family friend to suicide. He was a marine who was suffering from PTSD and a recently burgeoning paranoid schizophrenia. He told nobody of any suffering he was going through, and quietly snuck out of his house with the gun and killed himself in the park he and my brother used to play in when they were kids. It was heartbreaking, he was 27 years old, surrounded by people who loved him. The night he died, my brother, his best friend, tried calling him to do their weekly checking up, and he is haunted by that. None of what anyone did for the past few years was enough.
Maybe, yeah, it wouldn’t have helped my friend to know that his death would hurt the people he loved. That it was a source of my bipolar brother’s slip into a god-awful depression that lasted seemingly forever. Or maybe that was a price of admission he was willing to pay to escape a mind that was betraying him and making him literally incapable of experience the world as it is. I don’t know, I can’t speak to that for him. And now, I can’t ever ask him about it. And that hurts. It hurts a lot. He didn’t even leave a note. It took his family calling a doctor to cancel his prescriptions to find out what had happened.
There has been a trend that I have noticed, regarding the way my country’s culture treats suicide. It’s becoming less blame-y, the way you pointed it out it absolutely can be, and is more, “Talk about it.” Which I think is a positive. Talking about it more and openly will eventually erase the stigma, and hopefully save more lives. I don’t know. I can hope, though. I don’t ever want anyone to experience either my suicidal decade, nor what it’s like to lose somebody and have them blame you for it, nor to just lose somebody and not know what you could have done (if anything) to help.
This is rambly and likely incoherent because my god, this post today, it’s reminding me of some of the hurts that I and my loved ones have lived through. I would do a lot of things to make those hurts not happen to anyone else.
@heinsby — I hear you too.
This is rambly and likely incoherent because my god, this post today, it’s reminding me of some of the hurts that I and my loved ones have lived through.
Yes. *sighs* I think all of this is messy and complicated because so many of us have been affected by this in our lives, often from multiple angles (as people who are/have been suicidal, people who’ve been affected by other people’s suicides or attempted suicides, people who’ve been affected by other people’s threats of suicide as an abusive tactic, etc. etc.). And people are so different and what works for one person as a coping/survival tool won’t work for another.
It honestly HELPED knowing that my death would deeply affect my loved ones. Because my depression came from more of a place of, “I don’t matter, nobody is going to care if I don’t exist anymore.”
Yes, I can absolutely see how that would help you.
(My depression happens not to go with the “nobody cares” angle, so that wasn’t a factor for me.)
But I feel like there must be ways of communicating “Your death would deeply hurt many people because they care and love you” to the people who need to hear it (and many many people do) that don’t turn into “and you are a terrible abusive person for wanting to die”. Because that’s the part that I think is counter-productive and potentially dangerous.
Also @heinsby — virtual hugs and/or fistbump of solidarity as appropriate.
I’ve altered the post. Thank you for the feedback.
I honestly don’t understand the reason to alter the post, in fact, I think it’s disrespectful to the LW. Lets agree to disagree if you want, and specially Captain, since this is YOUR place and you’ve the right to post whatever you want. BUT, that being said, changing the wording, the true, honest wording of how the LW wrote what she felt… to accomodate people? People who, what, relate too much? Cause it’s harmful for them to read another person’s feelings which happen to be the same? Ah? We are not talking abour racism or discrimination, we are talking about how the LW felt… I don’t know, I just feel what you did by changing the post is plain wrong and a serious lack of judgement. Sorry but makes me loose faith in your blog. Oh well.
I changed MY words, not the LWs.
NOTE: This in only my experience with mental health and American emergency services.
As someone whose family has suffered from multi-generational issues with depression and anxiety plus worked in public safety in the United States, calling 9-1-1 (or if on campus, campus police, etc.) for emergency intervention is the right thing to do. I have personally intervened in scenarios where a welfare check on a person resulted in me sitting with that person for an hour plus talking and empathizing with them with the end goal of getting them to agree to leave with the ambulance for an emergency mental health hold. I have also done welfare checks where someone thought threatening to kill themselves and their ex-girl friends was just a “joke”. (Emergency dispatches will take you at your word and respond to threats as being serious!)
The system is not perfect, but the police and other emergency response professionals are human beings too. When I responded to these calls I was scared shitless and wanted nothing more then to do my best to reach out to another human in pain.
I have also been on the other side and had to call emergency services when my own brother was threatening to harm himself and other family members. A local sheriff came to my house, talked my brother into putting down the knife and proceeded to stay and talk with my brother until the sheriff received notification that there was space at a local hospital to take my brother.
Not everyone experience with local emergency services will be the same, but you should not disregard this tool because of the fear of the police!
MB, I think this is potentially a very good point but in my country a person at risk of suicide is sent an ambulance, not police. Not that I’m saying systemic racism doesn’t affect all kinds of public services, but is that not the case in the US?
I think an ambulance would come with police, depending. EMTs aren’t allowed to enter property; police could with probable cause.
In this case, it’s not to get the person to jail; it’s to get them to a hospital, but the preference is for police authority to be there.
I had to call 911 because of attempted suicide (well, no: I knew I needed to, but I just froze, and someone else who happened to be there did the actual calling; but I was present for it). Two policemen (and an ambulance possibly, I don’t know for sure) came in response, and the police were the ones that came inside. The person we were calling about, bleeding but not seriously injured, got handled more like a suspect than a victim.
It may vary by location though.
“Consider” calling 911.
I think your point – that police involvement could escalate the situation – is well taken. It should still be on the table. I think for very many people, it is not on the table.
Part of the very slow, very frustrating move toward appropriate mental health services is about putting more tools on the table. That includes suicide hotlines, suicide text-lines, triage care, covering mental health services with insurance, and, yes, calling 911. These tools are imperfect, but they are options. Too often, the people surrounding someone threatening or attempting suicide feel helpless. These people need more tools, and more options.
It *is* dangerous. Sometimes it is also the only option.
“A note on the 911 “welfare check” suggestion”
In the months after my husband died, I felt totally overwhelmed. In a conversation with an internet acquaintance from back east, I mentioned how much I was struggling. This acquaintance has her own history of depression, and apparently something that I said caused her to believe that my life was at risk.
So to put her mind at ease, she decided that I required a wellness check. How she found my phone number and gave it to my local police department I do not know. One Saturday morning the police came out to my home to check on my welfare. My house is heavily soundproofed and I was asleep when the officers knocked on my door. At some point they broke down my front door and entered. I awoke in a dark room to the silhouettes of 3 men standing at the foot of my bed. I was terrified.
In all the confusion, my senior kitty escaped and hasn’t been seen since. She was an indoor only cat and my only source of physical comfort, and was adopted as a declawed kitten. She is not street-smart and is unable to defend herself.
The front door cost nearly $2,000 to replace, at a time when I could barely put food on the table.
If I wasn’t already sufficiently overwhelmed by life, this incident knocked it out of the park. I never really forgave that woman for interfering in my life and adding even more loss to my grief. All so that she could put *her* mind at ease.
I’m a believer that wellness checks should be made by people who actually know the person in real life and can gauge where they are at emotionally. NOT internet acquaintances who project my problems onto their own mental health history, and fail to think through the potential consequences of their actions. The days of Sheriff Taylor stopping by a Mayberry resident’s home are long gone. Today’s police force doesn’t have time to assess the validity of the call. They must act to protect the city from liability, using a one-size-fits-all approach when faced with calls like this.
Oh, CJ, what a dreadful experience. Thank you for sharing it and making people aware. Speaking as someone from London (UK) where Ive always found police response of this type to be helpful, now I know if Im ever in that position, never to invoke it on anyone in the USA but to track down a real-life contact for them instead.
Your earlier comment made me so sad and to feel for you. This one makes me even sadder. Thank you, truly, for sharing your experiences. Im hugely sorry that youve been through this and I wish you – as the Captain did for LW – peace and healing.
I hope this is an ok comment…to add to the welfare check thing-in a lot of areas in the US dialing 211 can connect you not just to information but to a crisis line. Some places even have mobile non-police welfare checks that the crisis line can connect to, and if not, it may be able to call 911 for ambulance not police, or talk you through the same.. I know there’s a lot of other better numbers, but I bring this one up because it is easy to remember and potentially a safer welfare check.
I think this needs to be said often. Repeatedly. By many people.
You did not kill him. You did not cause his life to end. You are not responsible. You are not to blame.
In fact, you are being terrorized by a dead man and his family.
Oh, LW, if I could I’d reach through my computer screen and give you a hug. Nothing about this situation is your fault, and I hope you’ll come to see that someday.
I’ve had quite a few depressed friends who obsessed over getting into a relationship when they were at their lowest point. Several acted EXACTLY like Rourke: they became fixated on someone they knew they couldn’t have, they started blaming their problems on the fact that they couldn’t have that person, and they told everyone around them that their mental health would only improve if that unavailable person loved them. Our culture spews out a ton of toxic messages about how being in a relationship is a measure of your worth, or that romantic love fixes all sadness, or that romantic rejection is proof that you’re ugly and boring. When you’re struggling with mental illness, it’s especially difficult to fight back against that crappy culture.
I lost my husband to suicide in 2002. I was twenty-seven. We’d been together since we were 17.
Believe me, letter-writer, being in a romantic, supporting, loving relationship with someone is no guarantee that you can save them from depression, save them from mental illness, save them from suicide.
Had he told you of his feelings, things may have changed, but they wouldn’t have made him better.
And, as an aside, I think Rourke’s sister sending you his unsent love letters is a hideously hurtful thing to do, and demanding that you present yourself to her for further abuse is equally hideous. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. You need and deserve support, not abuse.
Lots of great comments already. I’ll just add this, in a slightly different vein:
You can get through this. You are strong enough and you deserve to be here. There are still valuable and beautiful things to find in life, even though a lot of the time it’s hard and we all have moments where we want to give up.
You may find the book _Hello, Cruel World! 101 Alternatives to Suicide_ to be a help. It’s helped me and friends of mine as well. Here’s a cheat sheet: http://katebornstein.typepad.com/kate_bornsteins_blog/hellocruelworld-litefree-download.html
Oh man I love Hello Cruel World. Helped me through my homeless year!
First and foremost, I want to add to the chorus of “THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!” It is so very very very not your fault.
Also, I’m sure that Rourke believed he loved you, but in my eyes laying responsibility for your actual life at someone’s feet isn’t love. I think what Rourke really wanted was a scapegoat. I think he wanted to believe that all of the pain and suffering he was feeling was someone else’s fault, and that it would all end if they would only just…say the magic words, I suppose. And it is so unfair that he would lay that burden on you, and that his sister can’t see through her pain to realize that her brother was unwell, and that none of this really had anything to do with you. I’m so sorry she’s choosing to spit her pain at you because she thinks that will take it away from her. You don’t deserve that, and it won’t help her anyway.
LW, I think if wasn’t you, it would have been someone else. I think that if you had never met Rourke, he would have found someone else to fixate on and blame for his pain. I think he didn’t send you those letters because deep down he knew that even if you went running into his arms, he’d still have to reckon with his pain, because you couldn’t have healed it anyway. I think he didn’t want to face that, so he chose not to send you those letters so he could cling to the idea that his pain was something you could take away if you chose to. But really, it never was.
You aren’t a bad person. You are probably a wonderful person. I don’t know you, but from your letter I can see that you have an incredible capacity for empathy and love. I think the world is probably better for your presence. You deserve to be loved, and you deserve to be happy. I don’t think you should meet with his sister, because I think you should take care of yourself right now, over an above anyone else. If you can’t do that for your own sake, do it so that the world and the other people in your life (people who care about you) can still feel your warmth and love every day. Because I promise you, those people who know you and care about you? They cherish that warmth more than you know.
“but in my eyes laying responsibility for your actual life at someone’s feet isn’t love”
You’re absolutely right. Love involves respect and support.
Something about not being welcome where he’s laid to rest is bugging me – from the sister being hostile perspective, not yours. If you need/want to go in person and that’s in a fairly public place (although many cemeteries are not strictly public, they tend to function that way in terms of access), can you find a day that would be meaningful to you, but unlikely to seem important to Rourke’s family? Like the day the movie you both loved premiered (even if you have to go look it up!). And take a trusted friend and make travel contingency plans so you have emotional backup and know how to leave the area quickly/easily if necessary.
This. Absolutely this. I am the type of person who needs a place to visit, to connect with the person who has died, and where they were laid to rest (or ashes scattered) would be meaningful and important to me (even though I am atheist and so dont believe they are “there”). I need a physical focus for my grieving.
If you do too LW, to be denied it by Rourke’s family is selfish and mean.
If you can get there, and you want to, go. I hope you are able.
If I could make a giant flashing sign, it would read “Do not meet with sister.” There will be no good outcome for either of you.
I’m joining the chorus of you’re not at fault and please don’t meet his sister.
Let me add, you shared with him love and kindness and sex and time and your wonderful self.
You let him see the real private you.
He, for whatever reason, couldn’t do the same. He hid himself from you and closed his life by accusing you, to whom he never dared open himself of causing harm.
LW you did right!
It is sad that you and Rourke’s sister can’t share happy and loving memories of him. Right now her story contains the fiction he created, which leaves no room for you, his friend. There’s no need for you to immolate yourself on this pure.
I hope that you will recover your equilibrium sooner rather than later.
I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this
Oh sweetheart, oh honey, your story struck such a chord with me, and on that note, thank you Captain, for that response, because goddamn, I am angry, and I hope the Letter Writer will be, too.
I could tell you my story, but it would be a repeat of yours. Really. Online friend, far away, emotionally close, both dealing with depression, slept together, he was really into me and didn’t really share that with me.
Here is where it differed: when he tried to take his own life, he wrote his suicide note to _me_ and posted it in a locked entry only I could see on LiveJournal. We lived in different countries, in different timezones, and it was just dumb luck that I woke up early that morning and decided to check my LJ before going to class. I panicked. I contacted a friend of mine who worked with the Red Cross in the US, and he was able to dig up family information for my friend, which, again, sheer dumb luck, because I had his full name, the large city where he lived and I knew he had a brother living with his parents. That was it.
I made an international call to his family. They were surprised. They had no idea.
And then, guess what? They were angry. At me. They found him in time, he’s alive and well, and we’ve both mostly dealt with our issues, and his family is still angry at me for “driving” him to try.
Fuck that. Just, fuck them. I did everything I could with the knowledge that I had. So did you. If they don’t want to accept that depression drives people to do unimaginable things, if it’s easier for them to blame someone else who is also grieving – fuck them! Do not meet with his sister – it will do more harm than good, to both of you. She needs to understand that depression is an ILLNESS and that death is the most serious manifestation of that illness. You are not to blame, anymore than you’d be to blame if her brother had died from cancer, or aids or pneumonia. Listen to me, listen to the good Captain: Not only are you not to blame here: THERE IS NO BLAME.
Care for yourself, allow yourself to grieve for your friend and for what he took away from you, continue on your own path towards healing and let the blame and guilt go. They do not belong to you, you don’t need to carry them any longer. Put them where they belong; with the illness that killed him.
Jesus, you actually saved his life and they still blame you. LW, this is a perfect illustration of the principle that this is not about anything you did or didn’t do, it is about his sister’s need to process her rage/guilt/resentful towards her brother by projecting it onto other people.
Back in the mid-late ’80s when my dad was divorcing my mom, my mom’s family blamed him for the onset of her paranoid schizophrenia. Families of those with severe mental illness [can] live in deep denial and lash out in irrational ways.
It reminds me of people who get mad at “the other woman” instead of being angry with their own cheating partner. When a loved one does something that hurts you, it’s far easier to lay the blame at someone else’s feet than to face the truth – that your loved one made their own decisions. It’s common and understandable and completely unfair and hurtful. LW, this is not. your. fault.
LW, I want to loudly second what the captain said: this is not your fault.
I say this as someone eho has spent 1/3 of my life suicidal ([monty python]i got better). This is not your fault. Your friend decided to *punish* you with his letter because you didnt fit his fantasies. This is entirely on him. I’m sorry for your loss, but this loss was the loss of a friend who decided to end his life, not a loss *you caused*.
Just one more voice repeating that it is not your fault, and that going to see his sister will only hurt you, and possibly her as well, and will help no one. I have nothing new to add to the excellent advice above, but I know from my own experiences with sadness and guilt that those internal voices of regret and blame are LOUD, and so if one more voice can help to drown them out, I want to offer mine. I am so sorry for what’s happened to you, LW.
I’m just here to join the chorus of “Not Your Fault.” Your letter brought me to tears, and they were all for you and your grief and your depression. Please listen to CA and take care of yourself.
The Captain’s suggested letter is much kinder than what I would want to send. Mine would be closer to [Captain’s words in italics]
“I grieve the loss of your brother greatly. I cared for him very much, and I wish I had known about his feelings for me or understood how far his depression had progressed, but I did not. I wish he had talked to you, or anyone else in his family, about his depression and gotten the help he needed. I wish he had sent those love letters, but he did not. I wish he had told me or anyone else what he intended so that someone could have called emergency services or sent him into care, but he did not. I wish he had not hung up on me when I tried to arrange to talk to him about his depression.
“It is not my fault that your brother hung up on me. It is not my fault that he did not talk to you, your parents, or anyone else who could have helped him.
“I am not going to make myself a target for your sadistic bullying because you think it would ease your guilt.”
And then, as the Captain suggests, block everywhere. But I think LW can call out “you are demanding that I come to you, at your convenience, so you can hurt me” for what it is.
Agreed, but the last sentence might be better as “I will not allow myself to become a target for your, Rourke’s, or anyone else’s actions. I am grieving too.”
Using “your sadistic bullying” may be, or at least feel, true – but will only add fuel to the fire. Whatever kind of human being she is, Rourke’s sister is in pain from this all, looking for someone to blame (other than her brother), and getting it wrong. But she is still desparately hurting too.
Other than that, I like your additions. Though the Captain’s version is more concise and dignified.
I don’t usually comment because people before me usually say what I want to better than I could. This is one of those cases though where I think large numbers of people saying the same thing over and over really helps.
Everyone’s right, this isn’t your fault. You did nothing wrong, you owed him nothing, and you tried to be the best friend to him you could be while dealing with your own illness!
I hope you can find time to grieve and find peace, and for Pete’s sake, stay away from his sister. No good will come of that, for anyone.
When I was 14, my father killed himself. He left a note for me, detailing that my telling my mom of his sexual and physical abuse of me, that had started when I was 8-9 and ended when I was almost 13. My mom, being amazing, got me and my siblings out the second she found out, even though it led to us being homeless for nearly a full year.
I had spent the year and change between us leaving him and his suicide both terrified and angry. Us kids had to see him because lol divorce court, and the one I willingly went he told me that my recent short hair cut made me look like an “ugly dyke.” I refused to go to any after that, and received some voicemails and letters from my father apologizing profusely that I *did not* respond to.
A month after the last of these, he killed himself.
And being 14 years old and having already experienced Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety for as long as I can remember, I held onto these facts for a long time:
1. My father apologized for hurting me
2. My father had a very debilitating mental disorder that led to a serious lack of impulse control, that was untreated
3. I did/could not forgive 1 despite 2
4. He is now dead and I can’t forgive him in a way that would help him.
Now, I’m 28, which means I lived with that guilt for half of my life. And it wasn’t until I was 24 that it finally dawned on me that *I did not kill my father.* He made that decision, and he made the decision to abuse me, he made the decision not to receive help for his problems, and he didn’t want to try to. That has fuck-all to do with me,
I was a scape-goat. His letter was another way to hurt me, and it took me 9 years to see that.
Please, LW, realize that like the Captain said, you were working with the information you had, and it wasn’t much because your friend was trying to hide it from you.
Suicide brings on so many feelings that can’t be expressed to the person who died. My younger brother blamed me for our father’s death until I sat him down and explained, when he was old enough, what our father was really like.
I don’t think you should see this sister of your friend. She is feeling the need to lash out and you are merely a convenient target for her rage that is almost certainly actually aimed at her brother.
This is not your fault. I am sorry this happened to you, and can empathize to some degree. Please, please be kind to yourself.
His sister’s cruelty makes me wonder what kind of dysfunctional family he was part of.
It’s hard to be angry with someone you’re desperately in pain about losing, but who’s also the one who hurt you. It’s a million times easier to take that rage and dump it on someone who you believe is at fault. I’ve seen this kind of thing from people with great families. You’d kinda have to know more about the family in question to know if that background is relevant.
^ Yeah, seconding this.
Plus, I’m guessing Rourke’s sister doesn’t know or never met LW (forgive me if I am wrong here). Is it easier to lash out on somebody who has died, that you loved? Or a stranger that your loved one blamed for his death?
LW: There’s a lot of good advice here. I have a little bit of specific advice about the near future:
Lots and lots of people are going to tell you “It’s not your fault,” but that won’t be make the “If only I’d …” guilt stop. My advice, if you want it, is to focus less on squelching those feelings and more on acknowledging them without dwelling on them or believing them. (Sometimes that means telling people who cut you off with “It’s not your fault” with “I know, and that feeling happens sometimes anyway, and I’m trying to talk about it.”) Brains are problem-solving systems with crappy brakes, which means they’ll keep trying to solve the “someone died and it hurts a LOT” problem long after it’s useful.
You feel responsible because you see yourself at the end of the line of actions that led up to his death. That’s like the house at the end of a dotted line in a “Family Circle” cartoon feeling responsible for the kicked cans, climbed trees and barking dogs on the way to its doorstep. For all you know, meeting you kept him around *longer* than if the two of you had never met.
Keep reading the comments here! It’s good stuff from people who care. And keep taking care of yourself. You’re doing fucking great.
“Brains are problem-solving systems with crappy brakes.” I need to embroider this on a pillow.
This whole situation is awful and I hope you find relief.
Hey LW, I’m so sorry for your loss. I wanted to tell you that last year a close friend of mine attempted suicide and the night that she did, she phoned me and because, like you, I was dealing with my own stuff and couldn’t handle a talk right then, I didn’t take the call. I still sometimes feel incredibly guilty about that, but deep down I know it wasn’t my fault. I wanted to share this because you seem like a really kind and compassionate person, and I am 100% sure that you would tell me that what my friend chose to do wasn’t my fault. I hope that you can use that as a mirror to your own situation and that your compassion to others in a similar position might help you to accept that the devastatingly sad choice your friend made wasn’t your fault either. Lots of love and healing to you LW.
Everything CA said. You are not to blame for something someone else did. And you do not need to let his sister beat you up anymore. We all have enough shit to wade through in our lives — no need to take on extra.
None of this is your fault. Please take care of yourself.
LW, as a fellow sufferer of the Black Dog, I know how our thoughts can become distorted. Listen carefully, first to your own words:
Look closely. You have a therapist, and you’re talking with them about this situation. That is a way to proceed, you are taking steps and making progress. What’s happened is a pretty huge event, and you deserve credit for responding to it in the smartest, healthiest way possible: asking for help, and getting it. Give yourself credit for doing the right thing. Don’t second-guess this.
“OK,” you say, “but what’s next?”
A friend died. That’s something to grieve, to feel sadness and sorrow and loss over. It’s a thing to cry over. It is a process of letting go, of saying goodbye, and it’s hard. Grieve for your friend. Feel sad that they are gone, mourn the loss of their present and their future without claiming any ownership of either.
Unfortunately for you, while you were starting to grieve, you discovered that the friendship you experienced was not the same relationship your friend experienced, and that they kept the truth of their feelings from you. Which means you also need to grieve for your friendship. Had he not died, you would still be faced with a history of duplicity, lies, and manipulations. It hurts to discover our friendships are not what we thought they were, and that’s a loss that is real and deserves to be recognized and honored. Feel sad that they deceived you. Mourn the loss of the past as you remembered it and as you hoped they had experienced it, without taking responsibility for anyone else’s thoughts or feelings.
The Captain’s suggestion of a letter is solid. Not only does it address the sister in clear language, but it also lets you show grief over this relationship, apart from your grief over your friend. It’s a good letter to write, and a good letter to send, and a good place to start looking back over this lost friendship to re-examine it in a new light.
One last thought, and it’s one I’ve repeated many times before: feeling screwed-up when you’re in a screwed-up situation does not make you a screwed-up person; it makes you human. Let yourself be un-apologetically human in these sorrowful times, knowing that grief is a journey that will come to an end.
Look closely. You have a therapist, and you’re talking with them about this situation. That is a way to proceed, you are taking steps and making progress. What’s happened is a pretty huge event, and you deserve credit for responding to it in the smartest, healthiest way possible: asking for help, and getting it. Give yourself credit for doing the right thing.
This is a really good point!
And the LW was smart enough to respond to the sister’s behaviour by writing to Captain Awkward, so we can all say NO NO NO DO NOT MEET WITH THE SISTER SHE IS BEHAVING AWFULLY AND TRYING TO HURT YOU and THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
These are really brave, smart, sane moves, and the LW should give themselves credit for that.
LW, I am sorry for your loss, and like everyone else here, I know this is in no way your fault. Do not give Rourke’s sister the chance to attack you anymore, please. What she is doing is wrong, and her grief does not excuse that. Take care of you.
Suicide is not murder. This shouldn’t need to be said (& it should have been said before now, maybe by all those people above me who didn’t describe *murdered* loved ones or how cancer murdered a family member). Associating mental illness with violence is ableist bigotry. I’ve been suicidal since I was 5 (at least), I’ve attempted suicide more than once & I’ve been told I am violent against myself more times than I can count. I am not an attempted murderer & my body shouldn’t get re-assigned as not!mine for any reason nor my suicidal impulses recategorized as violence & threats. This is never necessary. That guy’s body was still his, he doesn’t lose his rights to it because his behavior has been determined abusive. Especially when so many of us are told that just being mentally ill is abusive (it isn’t but that doesn’t matter). If someone tells you cancer will kill them without [treatment that might not work that you are unwilling or unable to provide], is that a threat of murder? Is it basically like giving another person cancer? Why does it become murder (or a threat at all for that matter) when it’s mental illness? Why does that sort of separation of a person’s essence (the threatener, the mind, mental illness, whatever) from their body/citizenship become okay? Why is it, moreover, an acceptable punishment for any action violent, threatening or otherwise?
Regarding the PSA: Someone who threatens to kill themselves if you don’t do what they say is making a threat of violence and you don’t have to do what they say to try to save them. I am talking about a form of intimate partner violence here, not deep depression or suicidal thoughts or even suicide attempts. If you are in a relationship a where someone wants to hold you hostage in that relationship to the threat of them ending their lives, you get to call authorities to come deal with it. You get to break the person’s confidence and tell other friends and their families and mental health professionals. Even health professionals get to break professional confidence in cases of threat of “danger to self and others.” You don’t have to love someone back or stay with them because they said they’d harm themselves without you. Too many times, men who threaten this kind of harm kill the object of their affections first.
Edited to Add: I have experienced this directly, when a friend who was stalking his ex threatened to kill himself if I did not put him in touch with her. I have experienced this with an ex, who told me he had nothing to live for and without me he would probably kill himself. I called for a welfare check in the first case and left anyway in the second. Everybody’s alive. Nobody talks to me anymore. I am fine with that.
As other commenters pointed out, Rourke himself did not do that to the letter writer, his sister did by sharing notes that were addressed to the family and unsent letters. From what you say about your situation, I am not talking about you or anything about you at all. I can’t answer your questions here. If you were my friend, I’d want you to live. I’d be sorry you were in so much pain all the time. I’d want you to find some kind of treatment that worked for you. If you gave up, I wouldn’t think it was my fault. If you blamed me in your suicide note, I’d say “fuck you, too” and grieve and move on. If you said “You have to do x or I will harm myself” I would ask you to check yourself in somewhere and if you persisted in those threats I would call an ambulance so fast your head would spin, because then we wouldn’t be talking just about your autonomy; we’d be talking about mine, and once you make threats I would need to make you someone else’s problem and not try to carry it all myself. I would risk your anger and dislike to try to save your life. If that’s wrong, let me be wrong. I hope you live. I don’t think this thread, today, is helpful to your state of mine and that this discussion is helpful to the LW, so forgive me if I ask you to take it somewhere else for now.
You used the word murder, I described why I found that violent & you defended your use of the word that STIGMATIZES 5 YEAR OLDS because the man you applied it to was abusive (& some abusive men *do* commit murder, the real kind though, not the bigoted metaphor I objected to like that isn’t another association of violence and mental illness). Then you fantasized about telling me to fuck off if this bigotry, like the years of identical bigotry before that, happened to (like all bigotry-influenced suicides) contribute to my death. That’s certainly not violent. JFC
As somebody who has been suicidal (and incidentally is somebody who suffers from mental illness), who has lost an abusive parent to suicide, and has had abusive partners use suicide as a method of controlling me and my behavior:
1. Suicide is an action. It is not an idea, it is not in itself a mental disorder (although it is often associated with it). As an action, there are different kinds of intent that can go into it.
2. The intent is not somehow “purer” or less “cruel” (and yes, I’ll say it: Sometimes suicide, and threats of suicide are used *cruelly*) when it is associated with mental illness.
3. I do not think there is a *kind* version of telling a person you are in some kind of intimate relationship with, “If I day, it will be your fault because you did not love/left me.” I am pretty sure that this is what is meant by “violence.”
4. And yeah, suicide is violence! It is a violence against the self. Some people do it because the pain they feel (physical or emotional) has become too unbearable. Some people do it because it is one way to hurt another person, that they will not witness the ramifications of.
5. All this to say: Suicide is complicated. People are allowed to have their feelings about it. I have purely experienced suicide as a way to control me, and to hurt me. Including when I attempted it on myself. And in that way, yeah, suicide was abusive and violent for me in those instances. Ymmv.
This spring I sat in an emergency room while my bipolar partner (the one with scars on his wrists who survived one suicide attempt years ago only because a larger friend physically restrained him into a car and got him to the emergency room in time), told the nice doctor in detail what is plan was I had not persuaded him to go into treatment. I am glad he told the doctor and got the help he needed. If I had not been able to persuade him, there would have been an ambulance, because the person I love deserved a chance to survive the illness that was trying its best to kill him. By telling me what he was contemplating, he temporarily put that responsibility in my hands.
Last Friday, that same partner had to call the wife of a friend and tell the wife that his friend, a father of three, was making noises to him about imminently ending it all. If the wife had not listened, it would have been my boyfriend’s decision: Let it go and hope for the best? Involve the authorities, maybe at work? Let this friend slip away out of respect for his “autonomy?”
When I’m deeply depressed, I don’t have active suicidal plans, more “It would be so relaxing if I could just not be here anymore.” “How simple everything could be if I just didn’t wake up tomorrow.” I want medicine and treatment to fucking unfuck that shit, and recognize those thoughts for the poison that they are, NOT to normalize it.
In high school a family friend shot his entire family and then himself. He was ashamed about losing his job and felt he couldn’t provide for them anymore. A friend’s boyfriend, in the midst of a manic/mixed state episode and drunk or high, decided that he wanted to crash his car and end it all. Fortunately he didn’t kill anyone else. I once saw a man throw himself in front of a moving subway train, forcing a subway driver to become an unwilling participant in his death. Those men were very sick and deserve compassion. But the bystanders did not deserve what they did. People who are mentally ill are more likely to become victims of violence than to cause it, and associating mental illness automatically with violence is wrong. I agree. But I won’t pretend that certain acts are NOT violent or that suicide doesn’t ever carry violence with it.
Romantic partners who say things like “you will regret me for the rest of your life” or threaten suicide to get someone to stay with them are threatening violence. If that’s not you, then it’s not about you.
I am sorry that you are hurting. I am sorry that I seem to be adding to that hurt. But you are not the only person who gets to have feelings or opinions about suicide. If you have something to say that might help the LW, please add it. If you are here just to yell at me, I am done hosting that particular sub-discussion on my website.
Definitely. Let’s center our feelings about suicide on what people who have suicidal friends think. Bonus if they link mental illness with violence because I know when I love someone I like to perpetuate bigotry against groups they are in and then point to them to defend my feelings. “Violence against self” is a meaningless term. Other people have mentioned how equating suicide with murder, with violence is harmful. Do you think Leelah Alcorn was violent? Is that an association we need just to pretend violence rests in individual actions devoid of context? Are tattoos assault? Scarification? Just self-injury? Just the *mentally ill* one? You aren’t sorry I’m hurting because right now? Your insistence on using violent terms for MI-related things is what’s hurting. Or you are just repeating the sort of patronizing condescending platitude that is more of a microaggression than support.
You are sincerely not helping ANYONE right now and are in fact being unnecessarily rude.
I don’t think Leelah Alcorn was violent or that all suicidal people are violent
I do think that statements like “you will regret me for the rest of your life” and “I will kill my self if you don’t (stay)(love me back)” are cruel and terrifying and in fact are one of the indicators of escalating domestic violence.
I also think that you have hijacked this thread enough today and that I am not obligated to host all of your thoughts on my website. You can hate my guts from somewhere else.
I mean, I sincerely hope that you are receiving the help you need, and I hope that you one day feel better.
But being in pain does not mean you get to spew poison at people who have experience suicide in their lives, telling them that they experienced it WRONG/ABLEISTLY.
Sending the option of Jedi hugs your way, too. Sometimes we forget, I think, that there’s a person inside the Awkward Supersuit, with feelings and life experiences. I’m guessing, given what you’ve said here, that this was probably a tougher-than-average letter to receive, and read, and respond to – so an extra dose of thanks for doing it.
Appreciate it. I’ve edited the post based on feedback from people in the comments.
(Reply to E.) Mental illness does not necessarily, does not inherently, does not often involve violence. The same goes for suicide. But you know what, occasionally it fucking *does*. Sometimes people with mental illness do violent things that were influenced by or related to their mental illness. When that happens, we are allowed to talk about it. And yes I have often been deeply and actively suicidal, just in case I need the correct credentials in order to hold an opinion.
I would note that if you HAVE noticed the correction re: what Rourke did vs what his sister is doing, it might be a good idea to reflect that in the post, because right now it actually does look like you’re saying that Rourke being upset and suicidal IN THE PRIVACY OF HIS WRITING is inflicting violence on people.
Which would contribute to E., for example, feeling like you very much are talking about her.
Just a thought.
I think this is a great solution, thank you. Will do.
LW, I’ve lost three romantic partners or ex-romantic partners to death. None of it was suicide, (misadventure once, illness twice) but I know those crushing feelings of “should have” and I’m here to tell you that they lie.
His sister needs to blame someone and you are conveniently there: someone she knows about but doesn’t know, and thus can displace all of her own feelings of “should have” onto without having to face the fact that you are also a person who is grieving, or that her brother’s actions hurt her very badly.
I have some advice, from my own experience. I hope that it seems helpful.
In the immediate moment: have a friend put everything she sent you of his in as small a box as possible, tape the box, write “to be opened in 2020” on it, and then give it to a trusted friend to keep for five years. If in five years you do not feel capable of opening it, scratch out 2020 and write 2025 on it, or throw it away. Do not open anything you have not already opened. Just put it in the box. You do not need to see those things now. You might not ever need to see them. If you worry that there is something you do need in them, like information about other people to inform of his death, have a trusted friend skim them for you. Someone that you know will not tell you anything at all unless you absolutely need to know it. In the event, you may end up just throwing the box away unopened in 2020, but it’s nice to have the option if you feel you are in a better place then. If you throw the box away, YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON. You are a person who does not need those things anymore. That is okay.
Now and tomorrow and next week and next year and forever: DO NOT MEET WITH HIS SISTER. Ever. In fact, now that you know what she wants from you, don’t ever talk to her again. Block her number and email. If you worry that she will convey some information you require, find a trusted friend who will agree to have her emails forwarded, and set up a mail rule that forwards all her email unread to that friend, who will only tell you of their existence if there is something you need to know. You are not responsible for her brother’s death, and you are under no obligation to pretend to be. No ritual abasement will appease her; no violent words from her will assuage your feelings, either. It is best to just disengage from that situation entirely.
It is a shame that you cannot attend a memorial service of some sort and experience that catharsis and shared space for grieving and remembering but it does not sound like you will be emotionally safe in that space, and possibly not physically safe, and your own safety trumps everything. Because you are a wonderful person who has gone through something tough and who deserves to be and feel safe and to be able to process what has happened in the way that is best and healthiest and safest for you.
Keep on looking diligently after your own health, mental and physical. I know how hard this is, but you can do it. I have faith in you.
LW, this was not your fault. WHAT HAPPENED WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. And I’m begging you not to meet with his sister. Please, please, please do not do that to yourself. His sister is angry and his letters made you a convenient scapegoat. Please do not open yourself up to any more abuse (because that is certainly what she intends to serve up to you) from this woman. This is not the price you should pay for the non-crime of not knowing that someone was in love with you. The price is too high. Please take care of yourself. This was not your fault, and you don’t deserve this, and I am 1000% on your side here.
So much support to you LW. Print out the captain’s words and carry them Round with you as long as it takes for they are absolute gospel. This is not your fault. You did nothing wrong.
His sister is acting like a wounded animal now because she needs an excuse – any excuse. You are not a coward to see this for what it really is and to not throw yourself at her feet as an empty martyr. It would no nothing but hurt all involved even more, most importantly you, LW.
Keep living, keep looking for beauty in living. Remember that you are worth it. Always.
Let me start with what’s obvious, this whole situation was not the LW’s fault in any form. But I’m gonna take a slight turn here, and do something that’s going to sound mighty weird, but I’m going to try (once again, TRY) to explain things through the Rourke’s point of view. Because you see, and I’m talking only from my own experience, I can remember a time I felt so down right shitty, I would watch people walk by me and grit my teeth, swallow hard, and feel like putting my head through glass. I honestly felt that only way to ask for help was to be in actual pain, that I couldn’t get a reaction or any other for of attention or affection from people. I honestly thought it better to make people miss me, because I believed they didn’t appreciate me. And boy! Did it suck to feel that way (you know, like your heart’s in a full Nelson), looking back, it was sad, stupid, not to mention dangerous and every day I’m grateful nothing ever materialized and that I could come to see that my friends and teachers didn’t talk and pay attention to everyone else because I was less important, and that I didn’t have to make myself suffer for others to see I was in trouble.
Sadly, not everyone can get out, and that’s on no one. There are so many variables, when you come out of that funk and you see things more soberly, you think it’s absurd, that you could make people react exactly the way you wanted them to.
The signs always seem clear in hindsight, but when you’re busy LIVING YOUR LIFE, you’re not going to be nitpicking everything a person does, no matter how close the relationship or what troubles the person might be going through.
A decision made during a time of very painful feelings (and even with some sucky brain chemistry going on), is still a decision. Sometimes our circumstances push us towards the wrong choice.
To reiterate, that isn’t anyone’s fault.
LW as awful as this is going to sound, document everything the sister is doing. The Captain gives great advice but there is something about this that makes me think a restraining order might be in your future. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. You don’t deserve it, it isn’t your fault.
Or have a trusted friend do so–actually documenting everything personally would require it to be in LW’s house/inbox, and I do not think that is a good idea.
Long time reader, first time commenter just to say that I have always found use in every column you write, but this one makes me want to say I love you.
I wish I didn’t need to read this as much as I did. I am so glad you wrote it. I am trying so hard to forgive and be forgiven after a friend killed herself last January, and I needed those last few paragraphs so badly.
To the letter writer-it is not your fault. I am so, so sorry your friend left behind so much hurt aimed in your direction, and I am so sorry his family in their deep distress are carrying it forward. None of it is your fault. You are doing so well just by trying to be better, please don’t allow any of this to derail your wonderful, worthy, and necessary efforts to buoy your mental health. I am so proud of you for the work you’re doing and by your presence of mind to ask for help on this. Keep reaching out. Keep getting better. I’m rooting for you.
Hi Domino. It wasn’t your fault. I think everyone knows how hard you are trying, even when it feels like they don’t. You are trying hard, even when it feels like you aren’t succeeding. This stuff is a process and it takes time. And forgiving yourself is usually the hardest of all. But you are okay, wherever you are in the process, you are doing it and it is happening and you are okay. Be kind to yourself.
Oh, LW, I can only repeat what everyone is saying (and wish that I could give you a hug, fifty hugs). And “your suffering cannot help them, and you don’t have to serve it up as a sacrifice” is exactly right.
Oh, sweet, feeling LW! Super-warm cossetting hugs for you. I wish some gondolus gramma-critter could put you in a big old rocking chair and sing to you for hours on end. This is so sad. Please include me in the thunderous applause for your good and caring heart. This thing was done to you, not because of you. And done with out your consent or approval. Because you are a sweetheart, a torrent of “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” is inevitable. Let them flow on by and know this is part of a process all survivors of suicide go through. There are SOS support groups all over the place, so besides the therapy – you might be able to find one of these… part of the many kind presents you deserve and can maybe give yourself.
Can I tell you something few know? When I was a little girl my best friend’s Mother killed her self. She made a great bloody billboard of her body to get back and to end her own emotional agony. Know what? I thought it was my fault. Totally. No matter she was 44 and I was barely 10. Because her daughter and I walked each-other half-way home, and back, for an extra half- hour, causing my little girl friend to get home too late to do the rescue — because the Mom was bleeding out while we talked? I felt it was my fault that she died. We were planning the next-day’s birthday party, and the Mom was mad her X was announcing a new engagement on that day. She showed him! It was a sorry vengeful mess and this little guppy was not asked if it was OK to do that, and it was never, ever for a millisecond my fault. Nor is this yours. Ok, so now it is just part of my life’s interesting story but it took me years (and some therapy) to get there… and as you can maybe see, I’m still a slight-bit owy.
It is normal if you are not omniscient, LW. I hope you can learn not let yucky people tell you who you are. I hope you can wobble forward in your days and shuck off the paralyzing fear of what might happen if you do anything, or don’t do anything, or don’t know the possible outcomes of every blink of your wide and salty eyes. Wishing you rest and comfort and peace. My thoughts are with you, with tenderness.
LW, Not your fault.
He had siren brainweasels singing to him about how perfect his life would be if only you loved him, but conversely, that you never would since he’s such a failure.
His brainweasels did this; they lied to him. They lie so hard. IF, in a different universe, y’all got together his brainweasels would start singing a different song, because that’s what brainweasels DO. They know our hopes and dig in with their little evil weasel teeth and don’t let go. They might have sung about how no one really loves him, or that his life is pointless, or a million other things. You are not responsible for their song.
Right now take care of your own weasels, they are singing a song of guilt and worthlessness. They lie. You know they lie. You wrote in because you know they lie. Right now their song is strong since you’ve had to go through some horrible things. But you know this, at least part of you does. You’ve been here before and will be again and you’ll ALWAYS, ALWAYS come through the dangerous water into the bright blue sea.
Sometimes you’ll need help. Sometimes you won’t. Sometimes the sirens will catch you by surprise but always you’ll become more knowledgeable about your particular brainweasels and how to deal with them.
I have ALL OF THE NOS to add to the chorus of please, don’t meet with the sister. I know someone who something broadly like this happened to, except he was an ex. The suicide itself sent her into a tailspin back into problems she had spent a huge amount of effort healing from after the breakup, and then his family hounded her for months after his death blaming her, sending texts, emails, phone calls, you name it. That set her mental recovery back literally years. Please don’t let Rourke’s family do this to you. They are making an error that is not an uncommon one, to blame the “love interest” or the last person contacted, it is wrong, wrong, wrong, and you should not fall for it and let them use you as their scapegoat for their grief.
The Captain is wise, the commenters here are wise, and you deserve all of the hugs and soft blankets and warm drinks and therapists lining up at your door asking to work with you, not hurt family members mouthing off at you. You have been hurt by his loss, you have been badly used by his blame and now his family’s, and you deserve Team You shielding you from the hurt they want to inflict.
LW, something very similar to what happened to you happened to me.
It involved an internet friend about 15 years ago, and he kept having obsessive personal feelings about women in his life. As he was telling me about the girl that he was obsessing with, he was transferring his obsession onto me. He told me how he had tried to kill himself one night by standing on train tracks while he was obsessing with this woman, and the train passed him on the other track.
One night, when my phone was broken, he called me. I didn’t answer because my phone was broken. The next day when I replaced my phone, I had a call from the police on the other coast and mine was a number he had recently called. He had stood on the train tracks again, and the train did not pass him on the other track that time.
His mother blamed me for his death, and we exchanged a few emails. She created a whole webpage devoted to how her son’s death was my fault. I think it may still be out there somewhere.
Your friend’s death is not your fault. The fact that your friend’s family wants to blame you is not your fault. Please try not to blame yourself.
More specifically, your suffering cannot help them, and you don’t have to serve it up as a sacrifice.
Repeated for truth.
I’m going to be as gentle as I can here toward the sister, because I know she’s shocked and grieving, but…what she has asked of you is nothing short of monstrous, and I can only hope that it is a wild departure from her usual character. It will not help her to use you as an emotional punching bag. Agreeing to it would be destructive to you, but you also need to know that it will not help her.
And LW, I want you to know, this isn’t your fault. It isn’t. Your friend was depressed, and his depression killed him. When someone commits suicide, it’s so easy to look back and say, well, if only I had picked up the phone, if only I had moved closer, if only, if only…but he didn’t kill himself because you couldn’t talk on the phone right that moment. He killed himself because he was sick. The fact that he was secretly in love with you does NOT make his death your fault.
I’m so, so sorry for your loss.
Wow, this is… horribly relevant to my life.
Hey, LW, I got held responsible for a suicide that was never committed, and got stalked by the person who didn’t attempt it and harassed about it for years. (As in, it happened back in… 2009? 2010? And STILL got a passive aggressive PM about what a shitty person I was BUT THEY HAD NOBLY forgiven my shittyass self last year.) You can still find posts about it online.
This hung over my head for YEARS. I felt responsible for a suicide that hadn’t even been attempted–for that person’s LIFE! For a person miles and miles away, STATES away, and was blamed not only by the person, but their partner as well. I ended up having to cut off all our mutual friends and hung in a haze of guilt for the longest ass time.
Ironically, it was my own suicide attempt that actually helped me most. Even in the haze of psychosis, I managed to muddle out the realization that if one of my friends had screwed up helping me during that time, or anything like that, it wouldn’t have been their fault. I wouldn’t have dreamed of blaming them. SO MAYBE IT WASN’T MY FAULT EITHER.
I admit, I never want to go through that again, but I guess it’s good to know that even something as shitty as failing my own suicide proved to have a useful lesson in it.
Also adding to the chorus; You are not at fault. You did nothing wrong. You tried your very best to be the best friend that you could be. You did good.
I think the sister’s reaction comes from three things: the death of her brother, her own guilt about it, and internalised misogyny that is saying to her ‘if A Reader had just gone out with him/given him more time and emotional attention, this wouldn’t have happened’. It takes time and effort to unlearn that internalised misogyny, and maybe she hadn’t done it, or maybe she had but this situation is overiding her sensible thoughts. I don’t know. I may be totally wrong, for all I know. But what I do know, for sure, is that it was NOT your fault. It’s not your fault you couldn’t talk to him that night. You were at work, and you tried to arrange a time. It’s not your fault that you couldn’t give him the emotional help he needed. You weren’t wrong to contact the family either. That is perfectly normal in these situations.
I’m really angry at the sister for what she is doing to you. I feel bad for her, and if her grieving process focuses on you because you were in the notes, then that’s how it will be. But she NEEDS to do that grieving away from you, the real you, not the imagined you Rouke had in his notes. You are a real, flesh and blood person, not the scapegoat for her anger she is trying to make you in to, not a demon who took Rouke away from her. Don’t feel guilty when you block her. I suspect you will, and I think I would too in your shoes. Your blocking her is not an act of violence but an act of protection of your own mental health. I think one day she will realise what she did to you was wrong. But that doesn’t matter now, what matters is that you get to stay away from her while she processes this.
As you cannot visit Rouke’s grave without going against his family’s wishes, maybe you could make your own personal memorial to him in a way that feels right. Or write to him, and keep the letters, or destroy them afterwards. All my love to you LW in your time of grief we are all thinking of you.
Just wanted to send some love to you too, Captain Awkward, you’re so kind and this is such an emotional topic that you have handled with great sensitivity.
Yikes LW, I’m so sorry, it is NOT YOUR FAULT.
I hope this advice is unnecessary; I’m trying to find some sympathy for the sister in that I am sure she is hurting from this too. But. She is not the one who wrote in or likely to read this, and her actions sending you hurtful things (I assume she knew what was in the letters – unless they were unopened?) and asking to meet up in person (and not for mourning at the funeral) are raising some red flags to me.
I think the captain’s response to her is a good one to send. If you are in the US (and this may apply elsewhere as well) I would consider adding “please do not contact me further” on there. That is a very specific request that, if she violates it, could be considered evidence should you need a restraining order.
Again I hope that is all not necessary, but I would consider protecting yourself. Do try to block her, etc, and include a request she not contact you again. Do keep a little document somewhere of what she has done and if she evades your block. Hopefully it is a little file somewhere you never have to open.
Oh my god, oh my god what a horrible situation. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT, THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Fuck that sister, fuck her so much. What a shitty thing for her to do. SHE is the coward here, who cannot face her grief and guilt for her brother and so tries to dump it on someone else.
LW, my aunt married a man who threatened to commit suicide if she left him, and I hate his guts for it. I don’t care if he was depressed, he was a manipulative shitbag who guilted my aunt (who could have done SO much better than him) into selling her life to him for the price of a hostage. It’s not right. I don’t care how ill or in pain someone is, it’s never never never okay to do that.
Rouke’s choices and actions were his own. It is not your fault that you exist, and that you existed in his life.
LW, this was not your fault. It’s messy, complicated, tragic, ugly . . . it’s a lot of things, but it is not your fault.
I feel like it’s really important for me to add my small voice to the others saying this, but, again, it is not your fault.
I wish I had something more to offer besides my sorrow and sympathy.
Sending you gentle internet Jedi hugs, LW.
LW, I am so, so sorry for the loss of your friend, and for how his family has chosen you to direct their pain and anger and blame at. I too lost my brother to suicide, as your friend’s sister did. I understand how that anger eats at you. Fortunately — or unfortunately, I guess I don’t know — I found my anger laid squarely at my brother, but I can imagine how easy it might have been to lay it at someone else’s door if there was a likely suspect. But that wouldn’t have made it right, just as what your friend’s sister is doing is not right. Please don’t take her feelings as an accurate reflection of your actions or character; they are the feelings of someone in great pain who is lashing out because she probably literally doesn’t know how to live right now.
I’ll tell you what you can do: you can take care of yourself, in whatever way that means to you. Please, please be kind to yourself. Please cherish the moments with your friend that brought you joy and laughter. Please try to love yourself and accept that this was not your fault, because it’s not. None of it is your fault. Please take Jennifer’s reply to heart, because it is full of very wise words that I think hold wisdom.
I hope you’re able to find peace and forgiveness within yourself. I know how hard it can be.
LW, what everyone is sayinig above is right. You are not to blame, and Rourke’s sister is almost certainly lashing out at you due to her own grief and anger at her brother. There is a type of behaviour that cats sometimes display called redirected aggression. They see something frightening or threatening outside, but because they can’t get to the source of the threat, they turn on the animals or people that they live with and attack them. Rourke’s sister is redirecting her pain and anger at you because Rourke isn’t here any more and because it is very hard to admit how angry you feel with someone who was in so much pain that he ended his life.
I come from a family of psychologists. All of my family have had clients who have committed suicide. It is terrible and sad, but it was not their fault – and they are therapists whose job it is to help people in this situation. It’s not your fault either. Keep talking to your therapist. Talk to your friends, the ones you think will understand. Don’t meet Rourke’s sister. It would do neither of you any good. Sooner or later she will have to deal with her pain, but unloading it on you won’t make it go away, because you aren’t the one that caused it, her brother is. Until she can accept that, everyone else she blames will be just a proxy for him.
Jedi hugs to all of those who have lost someone to suicide. I lost a friend a very long time ago now, and I am still sad that he is no longer in this world. He was a brilliant, bright and shining star, he was one of the most intelligent and fascinating people I have known, he was an alcoholic, he was sad and lost and brittle, and at some point he couldn’t go on. I’m so sorry you lost your friend, and that he left you with such a emotional mess to try to navigate through. And Jedi hugs to you, Captain. It sounds like this one was close to home, and I appreciate your beautiful, thoughtful response.
When my mother was in her twenties, she had a casual relationship that she broke off. He killed himself shortly afterwards, and his family blamed my mum. They accused her of driving him to it at the inquest. They filed a wrongful death claim against her, that’s how solidly they were convinced that it was her fault. It was a horrific thing to do to my mum, victimising her in the aftermath of the suicide.
But it wasn’t her fault, just like it’s not your fault, just like if I kill myself tomorrow, as I so often think of doing, that won’t be anyone’s fault either. Suicide is rarely anyone’s fault. I’m so sorry that you’re in pain, and I’m sorry that Rourke’s sister is in pain, and that she has chosen to project that pain outwards onto you. But you don’t have to be a receptacle for that pain. It’s not yours to carry.
I hope you have a good Team You to help you through those times.
I understand that they are angry and grieving but the way they have violated your friends privacy rights is horrible to me. He kept it a secret because he wanted it to be a secret.
You have your own what ifs to deal with. You will likely end up where we always end up. You did as much as you knew to do under the circumstances.
I am so sorry they are doing this to you. They want to punish you for what he did. You don’t need to let them.
Nothing to add. Just sending you love.
LW, I hope you are somewhere that has a ‘suicide survivors’ group you can visit or join. People who were close to someone who committed suicide have a number of emotional responses in common and it can help a lot — really, a LOT — to discover that what’s going on inside you is
* emotional reactivity and not “the truth”
* pretty similar to what is going on inside other people who have lost someone to suicide
You are not responsible or at fault for what Rourke did, and it’s also entirely normal to feel both guilt and regrets — and to imagine that there must have been something you could have done that would have ‘saved’ Rourke.
Sending you plenty of Jedi hugs if you want them.
It is not your fault.
You have done nothing wrong.
STAY AWAY from the sister. She has told you that, if you don’t allow her to unload vile abuse at you in person, she’s going to think badly of you. But she’s going to think badly of you no matter what. So let her think badly of you somewhere else, far away from you and out of earshot.
I am torn between being all “fuck Rourke’s sister” and “hurt people hurt people”.
She is grieving and handling it in a stunningly awful way, and I am sorry you’re the chalice into which she wants to pour her vitriol. You don’t deserve it. Please put yourself first and stop being in contact with her, refuse to meet with her, and send her letters returned unread and unopened.
Even if the only thing that could have made Rourke want to stay alive was you, your love in the way he wanted it, and the relationship with you the way he wanted it, even if you had known that one hundred percent and without a doubt ahead of time, you would still have not been under any obligated to provide it.
LW, I am so sorry for your loss. I’ve lost two people to suicide and had to have interventions myself for my state. I notice he wrote those letters but decided not to send them. That’s a standard thereputic exercise for externalizing emotions that don’t have the expected outlet, which would be talking out a problem. He decided, a whole bunch of times, that he wasn’t going to do that. I read that as love and compassion for you.
His sister sounds like she’s hitting out. I see it as a gesture of love and compassion towards her, to not let her strike out at you while she’s in her grief and rage. From my own experience I’m guessing she needs to forgive herself for what she sees as her own shortcomings, and she cant do that if she’s looking outward at you. What everyone wants right now, whether they know it or not, is for you to do everything you can to get safely onto a healing path.
Oh LW, I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know that you do not have the power to make someone commit suicide. You are not some sort of mind-controlling witch, you are just a person who had a friend who died of a terrible disease. Please know that you do not have the power to make someone *not* commit suicide either. If people had that kind of magical power, there would be no suicides.
If he couldn’t wait to talk to you later, that’s depression’s fault. If he didn’t feel like he could talk to anyone else, that’s depression’s fault. If he felt like life wasn’t worth living, that’s depression’s fault. It’s all depression’s fault, you could very well have dropped everything for him just for him to commit suicide anyway.
Like so many others have said, if Rourke wanted you to have those letters he would have sent them. Rourke’s sister is being shockingly cruel to you in so many ways, and even if you were to do what she wants it wouldn’t help. If your pain could bring her brother back, he’d be back. All letting her be even more awful to you would accomplish is that if she ever realized how badly she behaved she’d feel terrible about it. If you can’t stay away from her for yourself, maybe staying away so that future-Rourke’s-sister has fewer things to feel guilty about would work?
If you feel able, I really recommend talking with your friends in addition to your therapist about Rourke’s suicide. Having his sister blame you must be brutally traumatic, but nobody who isn’t being totally awful would ever blame you for failing to grow magic powers and save him from his disease. Trying to keep it all inside would be really, really hard and if they’re real friends, your friends will want to help you. You are hurting too and you deserve support.
LW, please know that this isn’t your fault. You are not a murderer or anywhere near being one.
Please don’t meet up with his sister. She has done so many abusive and wrong things here. She SHOULD NOT have scanned his suicide note and sent it to you, she SHOULD NOT have sent you his private letters, and she SHOULD NOT be blaming you for the thing he chose to do on his own. A reasonable person would have give you basic information about his death and details about the wake and funeral. That’s it. She’s trying to get you in a position where she can heap abuse on you, or quite possibly assault you.
Adding to this – a slightly less reasonable person would, if they simply couldn’t find it in their heart to not-blame the target, would have said, “You are not welcome to our private event,” and left it at that.
Because, agreed 1000x with Panda Bandit, the sister’s activity points to maneuvering LW into a trap – perhaps not literal, but definitely emotional/social: “Stand *here* while I vent my spleen” – nope!
LW I’m writing to repeat what others have surely said over and over again above, because perhaps it will help to hear it one hundred times from a hundred strangers. This is not your fault. Rourke’s suicide was not your fault. His sister is lashing out at you in her pain and she is wrong and cruel and terrible to do so – stay away from her. You have no obligation to stand there and take her abuse, because that is what this is – abuse. I can see how she arrived there – she can’t be angry with Rourke, but she can be angry with a stranger, you, and lay all the blame at your feet for her pain and suffering. I can understand it but it’s *wrong*. She wants to hurt you. Stay away from her.
I am sorry you and Rourke’s family can’t comfort each other in your grief, but they’ve shut that door. Take care of yourself – he was the one who killed himself, you didn’t kill him. You aren’t responsible for it in any way. You didn’t know what he was planning, you did nothing unreasonable by not being the lover he wanted or by trying to reschedule a catch up. You deserve no blame. I hope you can find some solace in this terrible time and with your own struggle with depression I wish you the strength and perseverance you need to cary on. Now is not the time to sacrifice yourself to someone else’s grief-driven cruelty.
I am not posting under my usual handle, but LW–this almost happened to me and I am so so so sorry. My college roommate and close friend attempted suicide. I am forever grateful she did not succeed. But she did leave a suicide note blaming me. Her mother found it and ambushed me with it in front of our mutual friends who decided that Roommate’s Mom was probably right. It was my fault. My entire life changed overnight. I had to switch dorms. None of my friends were my friends anymore. It’s over a decade ago and I still have trouble expressing my true feelings in relationships because I worry that my anger (we had a fight about her drinking too much and I told her I couldn’t live with her anymore if she continued it) will hurt them irrevocably.
It turned out later that Roommate was showing the early signs of schizophrenia. She lives in an institution now. It was not my fault. This was not your fault.
LW, please, please do not meet your friend’s sister. Rourke’s family is, understandably, looking for someone to blame, something to make this make sense. You are an easy target that Rourke oh-so-helpfully provided. Honor their wishes and don’t visit, but DO NOT engage with them anymore. What they are getting from blaming you is a sort of solace that a) won’t last and b) doesn’t need your cooperation.
Gather Team You around you, cry, express how you feel, honor the parts of Rourke you can still remember fondly, and know–KNOW–that this is not your fault.
Pro-Tip: find a good therapist. Long term, one of the hardest things for me was how guilty I felt making Roommate’s destructive attempt “all about me.” I see some of that in your letter. While Rourke and hir family deserve all sympathies possible, Rourke’s final act toward you was one of extreme cruelty and selfishness. Using one’s final communication to blame someone like that is a kind of maliciousness that is virtually impossible to comprehend for someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s an act that will, for good reason, invoke feelings of anger and resentment in you. We as a society have a hard time talking about those sorts of feelings in the context of dead people, so find a therapist who will listen to you, who will say: You are right to be furious and hurt. You did nothing to deserve this, or the blame of others. Find someone who will say that to you over and over for the days you do not believe it for as long as it takes until those days don’t exist anymore.
Finally, good luck. I send you all the jedi hugs you want. My roommate lived and this experience still marks the single biggest turning point in my life. There is a Before Roommate and After Roommate in my life timeline and there always will be but my After is very very good now. You and Rourke were not as close (outside of Rourke’s wishes), it sounds like, so I hope that you can take some solace in knowing now what it took me years to learn: You did not know things because Rourke did not want you to know them. Important information was kept from you, and even if you had been in possession of it, it would have made no difference because Rourke made this decision, not you.
I deeply and sincerely apologize for my stigmatizing language around suicide and mental illness in my original letter. I wrote it without taking the usual care that I do because I wasn’t at my best, but that doesn’t excuse my counterproductive and harmful framing. For context, much of that language isn’t mine – it was what R’s sister used in her communication with me, and out of misguided respect for her I echoed it more or less as writ. I am sorry for any hurt or harmful impact I’ve caused, and I’ll be certain to take much greater care in this regard going forward. Thank you for your criticism, I genuinely appreciate it.
LW again and I’m sorry, I completely misread the original edit and got muddled. My apology still stands, but I can see it was in response to the original draft, which I didn’t read. Many, many thanks to the Captain for taking the time to answer my query and go back and edit her response to take care of the readership. That kind of consideration is why I’ve read the site for as many year as I have, and why I trusted the community as well as Capt. Awkward with this information.
One small correction (I hope this doesn’t confuse things further), the line about regret actually was from a letter from R. There are several of them and I could only bring myself to read one. (I feel like I owe it to him to read the rest and preserve them but right now I can’t even look at them without having a panic attack.)
You absolutely do not owe it to anyone to read or keep those letters. You don’t owe it to anyone to hurt yourself. What would it prove? What would it help? And if I’m reading your letter correctly, it seems like he chose NOT to send them. If he wanted you to read through them, he would have sent them. You don’t need to put yourself through that. Someone suggested a time capsule, and I think that’s a wonderful idea, but– I’ve found it sometimes helps to do a little ceremony and burn old letters. Some kind of send off, a way to acknowledge what those letters meant, and what those feelings were, and then release them into the ether. You won’t help R or his sister by torturing yourself. You really won’t. And I am so sorry it’s up to you to take care of them.
Oh, I’m sorry, I think I misunderstood. My apology still stands, in case I was clumsy in my language, but I see now that it was in response to the Captain.
One small clarification: when I say I mourn the time I could have spent building relationships closer if it weren’t for certain emotional distances people take due to the suicidal ideation in my depression, I meant in my existing relationships with others (my lover, my friends), not with Rourke.
I wasn’t in love with him, and one of the things I feel intensely guilty about was that if he had told me, I wouldn’t have been able to honestly reciprocate, and maybe all of this would have happened anyway.
Thank you all for all your time, and kindness.
LW, you don’t owe people your emotions anymore than you owe them your body, and reciprocating Rourke’s feelings wouldn’t have healed him or fixed his problems no matter how much he (or his sister) believed it would. Although I have not yet been suicidal from it, I am very familiar with what it’s like to project my hurt and heartache and insecurities and longing onto someone, turning them more into a Holy Grail than an actual person, labouring under the belief that if I could just have them the way I want, everything would be better. It’s an illusion and a common one and it’s still not your fault or something you could fix or honestly even about you, the real you. The real you isn’t why Rourke did what he did. He invoked your name but not your personhood or your humanity and you are honestly not implicated in any of this. You are collateral damage, and I’m so, so sorry.
LW, so many hugs to you.
Even if you could have reciprocated, it would have happened anyway. You can’t love someone out of depression or suicidal thoughts or ideations, no matter that’s what we all blame ourselves for if it happens. It’s not a matter of not loving enough or there not being enough love — it’s a mental illness, and as someone who has both lost loved ones and nearly caused my loved ones to lose me, no amount of love would have changed things, could have changed things. I was very much loved, my loved ones were indeed very much loved. It can take a long, long time to really accept in your heart that there was nothing you could have done differently to change things. Especially not with other people who are hurting blaming you!
I did get help. It was a very long process, and not one that anyone could have done for me, or shouldered for me, and it took a lot lot lot of asking for help from a lot of people, a lot of discouragement and disappointment and pain, and eventually the right people, the right diagnosis, the right meds and therapy. I’m okay. You will be too. This isn’t your fault in any way, shape or form, and people who are hurting look for something to blame that hurt on (see every kid ever when accidentally whacked by another kid — “THEY DID IT ON PURPOSE!”). That doesn’t mean you have to accept that blame or that hurt.
One small clarification: when I say I mourn the time I could have spent building relationships closer if it weren’t for certain emotional distances people take due to the suicidal ideation in my depression, I meant in my existing relationships with others (my lover, my friends), not with Rourke.
Apologies for my mis-reading!
I wasn’t in love with him, and one of the things I feel intensely guilty about was that if he had told me, I wouldn’t have been able to honestly reciprocate, and maybe all of this would have happened anyway.
Well, one thing to consider is that maybe one of the reasons he didn’t tell you was because he’d registered that you didn’t and couldn’t feel that way about him, and that telling you would not have helped or made a difference. And perhaps in his better moments he was aware that his unrequited feelings were his own to handle, and didn’t want to dump the burden of them on you.
You are not “guilty” of anything because you couldn’t feel that way about him. You don’t owe someone the impossible task of forcing your feelings into an untrue shape because it’s what they think they need.
and maybe all of this would have happened anyway.
Yes, I think all of this would have happened anyway, even if Rourke had never met you, because he had a horrible mental illness.
The only alternate histories I can imagine in which Rourke didn’t die are ones in which he was able to tell someone how suicidal he was and they were able to get help and treatment to him. But he wasn’t able to tell anyone. And that is tragic, but it is not in any way on you.
It would have happened anyway. That is one of the many things that makes it NOT YOUR FAULT.
You have experienced the sad loss of your friend and his sister’s horrific attacks on you. The thing that matters is what you need in order to be safe, to work through your feelings, and to continue to fend off your own depression.
Rourke is dead. Nothing can hurt or help him now. His sister has her own pain, but letting her hurt and damage you is not going to make her pain any less; I’d say there’s nothing you can do that would help her (though cutting off communications in a firm and clear way is probably the nearest to something that might help her, because it might force her to look for better ways of dealing with her pain rather than trying to use you as a punchbag).
That leaves you, as the only person in this situation whose pain you can help. The only person you need to look after here is you.
Oh, LW. I can’t imagine. I’ve lost a friend to suicide before, and it’s just… overwhelming. It’s awful. You can’t help but wonder what you could have done, even when you were pouring your heart out for them. I can’t imagine trying to deal with that guilt, on top of being accosted by someone else for it.
You didn’t kill him. You didn’t kill him, any more than I killed my best friend, any more than my friends killed me when I attempted suicide. The guilt and doubt you feel is real and it is hard, but it’s not true. And I’m willing to bet your friends, the people who love you, wouldn’t think of you like that. Because you aren’t, you aren’t a murderer. You didn’t make that choice. You didn’t kill him.
I am so sorry you’re going through this. Grieving the loss of a dear friend is so hard. Dealing with harassment on top of your own guilt is just… so unfair. Take good care of yourself. You don’t have to suffer for a crime you didn’t commit. You don’t have to hurt yourself. I am so sorry for your loss.
LW, I’m so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the pain you are going through right now, and then to have the addition of the sister’s/family’s actions…that’s so overwhelming.
You are not to blame. You are not at fault for Rourke’s death. No matter what anyone says–you had no way of knowing anything Rourke did not tell you.
Please continue to take care of yourself. I think you’re right that you need to cling to that forward momentum. As someone who has experienced suicidal ideation, anxiety, and depression, too, I would be terrified to lose any of my progress.
I am so sorry that Rourke’s sister is acting her grief out on you so emotionally violently. I hope that with space and time, she will stop that.
I hope that you can find a time to visit Rourke’s resting place, if you would like to, perhaps on a day the family might not be there.
Most of all, I hope you can come to remember all the beauty and love and goodness that Rourke saw in you, and see it in yourself, too. And I hope you can remember the good things between you and Rourke.
Dear LW… Grief makes people do terrible, awful things. It makes us act crazy, and it can bring out our very worst. Rourke’s sister wants someone to hate, someone to blame right now because she is terrified to hate HIM for what he did. I imagine her head is full of “I miss him and how could he do this? I hate him HATE HIM oh god, I’m such an awful person for hating him when he was so miserable and now he’s gone…” So she has, in his letters and his connection to you, an easy and obvious place to fling that hate and blame.
This is a reason she might be behaving that way. It is NOT an excuse. The only person responsible for Rourke’s death is Rourke. Even if you’d been married to him and living in a little cottage with a white picket fence and two adorable children and a puppy, HE MIGHT STILL HAVE COMMITTED SUICIDE. Because depression is an illness and it is never anyone’s fault. Nor is it something that a partner, lover, friend, parent, sibling can magically fix. We all have to slay our own demons in the end.
LW, you are not to blame. I know you probably don’t believe me right now but I hope you do soon. Please don’t let Rourke’s sister’s behaviour feed your own demons. Please be gentle with yourself.
I may be way off-base here. And I’m talking as someone who has been suicidal and continues to have major depression. When I say suicidal people are unreliable narrators, I’m absolutely including myself in that.
We have a tendency to think that suicide notes explain everything, that they’re the final truth and everything in them is accurate. They don’t, they’re not, and it’s not. Someone who is attempting suicide is generally very unwell and doesn’t have a great sense of proportion, and that doesn’t magically change for the duration of the time they’re writing or typing. Someone’s suicide note isn’t the great insight into their mindset that explains everything and could have fixed everything. I mean, you can be suicidal and have really great insight and know exactly what’s going on in your life and mind and what it all means… but realistically, it’s not that likely. A suicide note is a snapshot of someone’s mind at a time when it was fatally disturbed. Don’t take everything in it as gospel truth and proof of what kind of person you are.
Two books that really changed my mind about suicide were Kay Redfield Jamison’s ‘Night Falls Fast’, which explains how impulsive many suicides are, and Udo Grashoff’s ‘Let Me Finish’, which is a collection of suicide notes. What I got from the combination of the two is that suicide is often angry, impulsive, and drink- or drug-fuelled. And that people’s given reasons vary from in-depth to what seems like the most meaningless trigger, and the notes vary from trying to help the survivors to just plain nasty getting-the-last-word, but they’re never exhaustive and objective accounts with a careful weighing-up of all the long- and short-term causes.
Ooh, yes. I have not re-read “Night Falls Fast” for a while because of reasons, but remember it as being very good. Kay Redfield Jamison is a researcher who’s attempted suicide herself (she was one of the earliest people to break the taboo on psychiatrists and psychologists talking about their own experiences of mental illness, when she came out as bipolar) and has lost friends to suicide.
Hopefully the whole “THIS IS A BOOK ALL ABOUT SUICIDE, TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE” thing is kind of obvious, but I have sometimes had brainfail about these things myself, so: for anyone considering reading it, please consider whether reading a book full of graphic physical and emotional details about suicide could poke your own brain in bad ways at this particular moment in your life.
There are some things which are best saved for when you’re feeling relatively resilient, and have some time and space to process stuff they bring up.
Yeah, sorry, if you are gonna read those, trigger warnings up to here, you know? But I did find the Redfield Jamison really, really helpful for understanding my own impulses. Learning how the depression can interact with my temper and tendency to self-medicate with alcohol – well, it was a wake-up call, let me tell you. /personal tangent
I suppose a bit of anecdata doesn’t really support your point, but perhaps it won’t detract from it. During the (thankfully relatively brief) period when I was considering killing myself, I very much believed it was about being rejected from a certain group of people (and by a certain person in particular) and what that proved about me as a person. Looking back . . . well, I had just moved to a new country, more or less cut all my support systems out from underneath myself, and had enrolled in a fairly demanding academic program in a language I didn’t speak very well. The social pressure absolutely didn’t help, but even though I made it about a few people (one person,) the reason I was at a breaking point was not, in retrospect, so much about them (him) but rather because the combination of enormous stress and mental illness had pushed me there.
At the time, could I see that? Nah. . . I figured all that other stuff (the not being able to sleep because I was so worried about my classes, the struggling through lectures where I could barely understand my professors, the general pressure of struggling to make friends when you’re not fluent in the language everyone around you is speaking) was totally something I *should* be able to deal with and therefore inconsequential. It’s a bit of a “can’t see the forest for the trees” situation — what I was struggling with was, to some degree, far more obvious to the people around me than it was to me.
LW, I can only add my voice to the flood. Not your fault. No way, no how, nope, nu-uh, and nooooooooooooooo. Further to that, you did everything you could reasonably be expected to do under the circumstances and given the knowledge you had. I am beyond angry that Rourke decided to ‘punish’ you for not reciprocating romantic feelings that you *didn’t even know existed*. You did the very best you could and I wish I could help you give yourself permission to see that.
Thus ends the tl;dr version, because this has become a damn essay, sorry.
I don’t know if this will help, but I want to offer my perspective on mental illness. I’ve been fortunate enough to never suffer from it, but my daughter fell ill from it in her early teenage years (she’s much better now, but still struggles at times). Having a young child with depression is a little different to having an adult friend with depression in that you are automatically much more intimately involved in the illness and recovery process.
From the outside, I came to see depression as a monster. It wrapped its arms around my beautiful girl and held her tight, *eating* her life, her magnificence, her amazing brilliance, whispering hateful things into her ears all the while. Saying “Don’t go out there, stay in your room with me. No-one wants you out there anyway. No one likes you, no one ever can or will. Stay with me, here in your room.” My job was to fight it as best as I could from the outside, by shouting over its terrible words and just holding on as tight as I could to my daughter and giving her some of my energy and life to keep her going until she was able to fight the monster on her own.
But even as a mother, I couldn’t fight the monster for her. I couldn’t make it go away on my own. I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t shut it’s vile mouth for even one second. All I could do was pour my energy into supporting my daughter and getting her help and giving her weapons to fight it on her own. And I’m not going to lie – as a fully functional, emotionally healthy adult it still damn near exhausted me. The monster still lives in our house and sometimes tries to whisper things to her, but so far we are winning.
Anyway, this is what I think. Rourke’s monster told him you could never love him, that there was no use trying. You did not tell him that. It is perhaps understandable that Rourke might come to resent you in those circumstances but THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY. You didn’t create the monster, you didn’t make it say the things it said, you tried to help Rourke fight it. Unfortunately in the end Rourke’s monster won, but you did everything you could.
Unfortunately, Rourke’s monster left a parting gift for your monster – that note. How delighted your monster must have been to see that note, what a fresh spring of filth for it to pour into your ears. Please, please, try to listen to all the people here. We are all shouting as loudly as we can to be heard over your monster. We are trying our best to give you some of our energy and life via internet to help keep you going until you can shut that monster right the hell up. Best wishes.
This is beautiful. Yes. The monster is wrong.
Thanks for checking in, LW.
A friend of mine attempted suicide twice. Sometime later, when he wasn’t actively suicidal but still dealing with depression, he mentioned that one of the reasons he attempted was because of his unrequited love for me. (Which he’d never kept secret, BTW. He told me and told me and told me.)
I didn’t respond to what he said at the time because he was already hurting and I didn’t want to add to his woes. But Jesus, that pissed me off. I was not one of the reasons he tried to kill himself. People experience unrequited love all the time and don’t kill themselves over it. He was depressed and had been depressed since before he knew me. Come to think of it, he’d even attempted suicide a couple of other times before we met.
He’s still alive and in a better place now. He almost certainly doesn’t remember telling me that I was partially responsible for his attempts. If I reminded him, he would be mortified. He already feels bad about what he put everyone through.
That Rourke didn’t live long enough to feel guilty about the harm he caused? Is bad luck. It’s not your fault.
If you would care to hear it, I’d like to tell you my story. Warning: it contains bullying, depression, and suicide of a minor.
When I was in high school some time ago, I used to spend reccess holed up in a bathroom to scape bullying. I spent one year and then some trying day after day not to kill myself. Eventually things got better, and I started to climb up bit by bit from my depression. Then, one beautiful day of June (one of my lasts days in that hellhole), a kid in the year below mine jumped down from the top of a building to his death. When I looked him up in the year book, I was horrified to discover that all my bullies were in the same class as him (I also was very sad and angry that I didn’t know his name till after he had already killed himself).
You see, the math goes like this: the year I finally found a place to hide safely during reccess was the year my bullies turned to him for their daily humiliation fix. And since I was afraid to go out of my hiding place, I never knew they’d found themselves a new victim. I never knew it was him, that we were suffering through different stages of the same process. I still wish to this day I could have reached out to him. Maybe I could have listened, maybe I could have helped him weather the storm. I’d have liked to have the chance to help.
Tell me, LW, do you blame me? Do you blame this kid that I was, this kid who was suffering and in pain and just trying to survive, for failing to save this other kid, who was also suffering and in pain and just trying to survive?
Do you blame me, LW?
Then I don’t blame you either.
Don’t get me wrong: you are no kid and neither was your friend, but both of you were suffering and in pain and just trying to get by. You couldn’t have helped him, as you didn’t know what was going on. And you couldn’t have known, since your friend chose not to share his secrets with you. You are no murderer. Your friend was murdered by his depression.
Please, LW, believe me: you are no more of a murderer now than I was in highschool. You deserve love and solace and healing. Tell someone you love about this so they can help, and if they turn out to think that you’re anything remotely close to a murderer, please run away as fast as you can, because they don’t love you as much.
Rourke’s sister is bad news: she’s trying to manipulate you into doing what she wants. “If you don’t do this, I’ll think that you’re a coward: come prove your worth to me”. The problem with this is, she’s already decided your worth for herself and nothing you can do will change her perception in the least. I think that her perception is wrong. I think that she may be hurting, but she’s no right to lash out at you (who are also suffering) or try to blame you for her brother’s death. As I said earlier, what’s to blame for that is your friend’s depression, not you.
I don’t think anything you can say to her will make her feel better, but I think that she can hurt you badly with her words, so please stay far away from her. I wouldn’t even write a letter to her, as the captain suggests, because I don’t think it’ll give either of you closure now. Maybe later, when you feel more at peace with yourself? But not now, maybe not ever. You’ve no moral duty to put yourself in the line of fire for her anger and her grief.
I hope we’ve been able to help you, LW, even if it’s just a little. Please keep seeing your therapist and talking with people you love. You deserve to be happy and at peace. You’re no murderer.
Please don’t allow Rourke’s sister to hurt you more than you are already hurting, LW: it will help neither of you.
Sometimes, hurt (and hurting) people very badly need someone/thing to blame for their pain, because rage can (briefly) drive out fear, and grief, and guilt. Rourke’s sister can’t be angry with her brother in a satisfactory way; he’s not here. She can’t be angry with him for leaving; he’s dead.
(I mean, she could be angry with him; I just feel that people who are able to honestly acknowledge their anger and their grief don’t send unsent letters, or demand someone come meet them for the specific purpose of being hated/blamed/verbally abused.)
You are alive. You are here.
That doesn’t make anything she says about your role in Rourke’s life -or death- true.
It doesn’t make you responsible for ANYTHING Rourke did to himself or to anyone else. Even if he had told you he loved you, and you had not had the same kind of love for him that he wanted, it’s still not your fault.
Love is not automatic. Love is not obligatory. And love cannot heal all wounds or illnesses.
Please, LW, try to be as compassionate with yourself as you were with Rourke’s family.
Ignore the little voices hissing it’s “All Your Fault.” It is not your fault, not one tiny bit. Talk to your therapist. Take care to be gentle and kind with yourself.
Re-read the ocean of voices here telling you it’s not your fault, could never be your fault, until they drown the hissing out.
Dear, precious LW, it’s not your fault. There’s something I’d like to say from my own experience. When one is suffering from feelings of guilt and grief it can be hard to believe that one deserves to take care of oneself. One wants to do the right thing, and one feels instinctively that the right thing is whatever will most affirm one’s feelings of guilt and pain. Suggestions that one deserves care and love and self-forgiveness (you do), or that one does not deserve blame (you don’t), can feel like a betrayal of the seriousness of the situation, or of the other person/people involved (it’s not, but it can feel like that). The idea of relinquishing one’s guilt makes one angry. One wants to make reparations to the people one feels one has “wronged”, by taking whatever punishment they see fit to dole out, and then asking for more.
But this is NOT the morally right thing to do. It is a misguided impulse. Giving another person an opportunity to commit acts of emotional violence (“telling you what she thinks of you”) is NOT a good thing to do for that person. Giving them an opportunity to live out their worst and most violent impulses, at a time when they have least access to their better ones, is not truly kind or helpful for them. It just gives them more to regret later, more to recover from. It creates a space for the violence in the mind to come into the world, and yet brings no healing. Meeting with Rourke’s sister is probably not the most loving thing to do FOR HER. You don’t owe her the opportunity to cause harm to herself and others. You can be kind enough not to give her the opportunity to translate the violence of her feelings into cruel words and looks and acts. Your increase in pain that would result only means there is more pain in the world. Honestly, you and she and everyone else involved are already in enough pain.
And I don’t think you can possibly owe it to Rourke to read letters he chose to keep private and not to send you (unless you think it would be a healing and reconciling thing, and only you can make that call): he chose not to for a reason! Maybe he had the goodness and honesty to recognise that his pain was his, not yours, even while he was wrestling with it in deep impairment of mind. *That* is the truth of love and friendship, not the therapeutic splurge of unmanageable emotions onto the page.
My father is deeply depressive and sometimes suicidal, and I sometimes live in fear. If he doesn’t answer my emails or my calls I start wondering if I should call the ambulance. I’ve been pre-emptively grieving his death for years now, while desperately hoping he will live long enough to heal and be renewed. His whole desire is to limit the pain – he works very hard not to place the burden of his depression on me. If he dies leaving unsent letters where he wished I had been a more loving and supportive daughter, I don’t believe he would want me to read them, because he loves me, and his love is one of the more true things, and he wants to spare me pain. He suffers terribly over other people’s pain, over injustice in the wider world, injustice towards women, war, cruelty, lies. What I wish he could know is that – for *him* to be in a little less pain would mean there would be measurably less pain in the world. This alone would already be a great victory against the dark.
For you to be in less pain – or at least for you to refrain from subjecting yourself to more pain – will mean that there is less pain and less cruelty in the world. If you can heal and forgive yourself, there is more healing and forgiveness in the world. This is a victory against the dark, an unalloyed and positive good.
Whatever choices you make going forward, everyone here can see that you are loving, and grieving, and fundamentally good. Please know that you are justified in healing. Much love to you.
I have been that at suicidal person and there was a time when my ability to process my feelings was so poor that I manipulated and blamed others. I got the therapy I needed and met a lot of others who acted the same way because they lacked the support and means to do otherwise.
I am betting that Rourkes mental ill health was dependent upon many factors; many of which he lacked insight into, many his family didn’t spot. Services are not great, medication is not predictable, life throws in stressors, who knows the extent of what created the conditions in which he made that choice? Even if you had been the partner he fantasised about, you couldn’t have healed him. Rourke was the captain of his own recovery. That he may have lacked support from his family, friends and doctors is tragic but not a sign you are to blame.
The goodness in his early love for you, the kindness in which it bloomed, I am sure he wished you well and would not wish to cause you suffering. Even in his angry, blaming, obsessed, insane moments, you don’t deserve to be punished. How unwell or serious he was is not what jumps out at me. What jumps out is that a healthy love needs each partner to commit fully to individual recovery and Rourke needed to choose it . Love is big but it doesn’t substitute for self care.
The fact you loved him and shared part if your life with him tells me that you did your best. And this is sad, angry, scary, sorrowful. It is ok to feel that.
As for his sister, she needs the space to process for herself. If the family tendency is to blame others and abdicate self care of their emotions, you are seeing his sister act a pattern that does her no good. Block her and trust that she can deal with her grief. Now is not a safe time to talk for either of you.
LW, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with losing your friend, and even more that you’re being blamed.
I find the organization “Stay With Me” headed up by Andrea Gibson and a beautiful other person inspiring for staying in life. They have a Facebook and a tumblr page Also Gibson’s poem The Nutritionist/Stay With Me is also beautiful.
Maybe you can find a way to express your experience of grief and say what you have to say to the Rourke you are grieving? Rituals help me deal with unresolved loss.
“You deserve to be here. You have always deserved life, you will always deserve it, and there is no way you could ever stop deserving it.”
LW the above is 100% true. You are NOT responsible for Rourke’s death. 100% Absolutely NOT RESPONSIBLE! I am so sorry that you are going through this, and that you are being blamed. It is not your fault.
LW, just to add to the chorus of support. If we were friends and you confessed to me that someone killed themselves because of you, I would not blame you because I would not believe you. I wouldn’t believe that you have that much power over another human being. I would completely support you and hug you and cry with you because it would be clear that you felt guilty and bad, but I would not believe you were the cause, nor would I pull away from you.
This is a hard letter to respond to because I have All The Feels about it, but dear LW, this was not, not, not your fault. I have been suicidal and for me it felt more like finally lying down in the cold because freezing to death seemed like a better option than continuing to walk.
I had a great support system, but none of those people could have saved me or loved me out of feeling the way I did. I had screwed up brain chemistry that had to be addressed with medication and a few major life changes I needed to make.
What Roark’s sister did and is continuing to do is cruel and malicious. She is probably lashing out at you in her grief, but that doesn’t excuse it. She’s deliberately hurting you. Roark chose not to send those letters or his note to you. I don’t know why. You will never know why. Life does not give us closure a lot of the time. Maybe most of the time.
Believe me when I tell you there was nothing you could have done, no amount of love or time or attention, that could have saved him. I know that because when I was in that dark place, ultimately it took me to claw my way out of it. It’s a lonely path and while a support system can make a huge difference, ultimately it’s a path that you walk alone. I’m not saying that people who lose their way and end their lives are failures or weren’t strong enough. I’m saying that in that place, where every second felt like a barb in my skin, every second was a second I chose to stay. Some people choose differently.
Please take good care of yourself. Please continue to work with your therapist. If you have trusted friends, talk to them if you think it will make you feel better. Cry. Write letters to Roark or his family to work it out but don’t send them. Come back here and read these loving comments. I’m so sorry.
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