The feeling of utter disbelief that crashes onto you when you learn that someone you love has just taken their own life is indescribable.
"I remember that sudden internal surge of panic like it was yesterday. Many of his friends were now in contact with me; where was he, was he okay? I didn’t know – I couldn’t reassure them."
For me, the news didn’t involve emergency services knocking at my door or some awkward phone call. I learnt through a Facebook message from a stranger, a friend of a friend who thought I should know that ‘A’ had killed himself the day before.
‘A’ was a very dear mutual friend of my partner and me. I had become close to him in recent months following the tragic death of my partner’s adopted brother, who took his own life the previous year. I suppose being gay, ‘A’ related to women far easier than men, and I became something of a confidant and counsellor to him whilst he struggled to come to terms with ‘S’s death. My partner, ‘A’ and ‘S’ had all gone to school together and shared a 35+yr history.
People started asking me in February if ‘A’ had been in touch, which he hadn’t. I thought nothing of it because he had been very preoccupied with a new boyfriend. Worryingly, it soon became apparent that many had been trying to call him and his phone wasn’t ringing. I looked for him on social media. Gone. This was the biggest alarm bell for me. My best buddy was AWOL.
I remember that sudden internal surge of panic like it was yesterday. Many of his friends were now in contact with me; where was he, was he okay? I didn’t know – I couldn’t reassure them.
I resorted to email. Eventually, after much persistence, I got a reply a few weeks later, an awkward, uncharacteristic set of words that offered a vain attempt at reassurance. I knew then that something was wrong. I kept emailing, doing my utmost to offer my friendship. Whatever was wrong, I made it clear that I wouldn’t judge; I simply wanted to help. I managed to get another couple of replies from him but each one sounded more and more strange and there was nothing I could do to make things better.
I later learnt that during this time he was putting the finishing touches to his death. Through those final days and weeks of social isolation, whilst he was emailing me, he was recording voice memos that would be played out at his funeral service. He was putting his affairs in order. He was planning ‘it’.
"When I eventually went to my GP I was told to go and find my own support and information because counselling via NHS would likely take over eight months to get sessions confirmed. I didn’t have a clue."
And the rest unfolded in the most tragic and futile of endings.
In those early days and weeks following ‘A’s death I was alone. I had my partner, but he too was grieving. I stumbled through work not knowing how or what I was doing. I got through the funeral but everything was a blur.
There was no immediate professional help or guidance. When I eventually went to my GP I was told to go and find my own support and information because counselling via NHS would likely take over eight months to get sessions confirmed. I didn’t have a clue.
Seven months on, I want things to change. Suicide Bereavement Buddies aims to provide a 1-2-1 support service for people bereaved by suicide. Through dedicated and immediate provision, those affected by suicide can receive the guidance they need during those early days and weeks from someone solely committed to them.
For now, Suicide Bereavement Buddies is the idea. We have a closed group on Facebook for people to join and start sharing their experiences, and we hope that through these discussions, we can shape and inform what this new service should be about.
For more information, please contact Amy Balcomb on 07740167703 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Search Facebook for ‘Suicide Bereavement Buddies’.
The Samaritans can be reached 24 hours a day in the UK and Ireland from calling 116 123.