Never More Helpless

The signs had been there for months and months. All those conversations we had about how terrible her life was, how persecuted she was, how much she regretted this and that, how injustice was burning her alive, how it was all painful and hopeless.

In short, depression was a heavy, cold, wet, woolen blanket over the whole of her life.

Although I suspect she would disagree even to that — she wasn’t depressed, she would say, not mentally ill. She was seeing things with a terrible clarity

No matter what I suggested, there was an answer as to why that wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t help. That wasn’t for her.

I might have been talking to my mother — mentally ill, suicidal, deeply depressed and suspicious of the world, convinced everyone was out to get her, and completely resistant to any help.

I spent decades dreading the moments I’d have to call my mother to make sure she was all right, dreading the visits, which left me drained and angry and sadder than sad. She said she hated me. She told her revolving door of short-term friends she hadn’t had anything to do with me in years. During a hospital stay she tried to strangle the women in the bed next to her. The staff was shocked. I wasn’t.

But my mother has been dead for several years now, and I am sorry it if sounds cruel to say I have been released and never more at peace. She is too, I believe. Her life was awful, and she was so miserable at the end, just wanting to die, striking out at everyone, metaphorically and physically. Like my friend, my mother refused all help, insisting she was right and everyone else was wrong.

However, this woman, a dear friend, is not my mother. It feels like she’s the same spirit in another body, though, if you know what I mean.

My mother attempted suicide a number of times and threatened it more times than I can recall. Finally, I gave up and told her how to do it to make sure she wouldn’t end up a dibbling, drooling, brain-damaged eggplant in some nursing home. She didn’t threaten it so much after that, and died at 92 of natural causes.

Both my half-brothers committed suicide. A number of friends have killed themselves. The agony of the living, after a death like that, is like rust, like cancer. It’s not a clean grief. It crawls through the spirit for years and years. Okay, forever.

You’d think I’d be immune by now, wouldn’t you? I’m not. So when I started getting text messages that made it clear my friend was talking about suicide I came right out and asked her. She said she was sorry, she knew she’d promised me she wouldn’t, but she was going back on that promise. She was saying goodbye. It was her destiny. She couldn’t fight anymore.

We went back and forth on text message for a while. I tried to get the name and phone number of relatives, but she refused. I only had a cell phone number and a P.O. Box in the town where she lives.

I said, you aren’t leaving me any options. She said there were no options.

So I sat. And I cried. And I got in touch with a woman I trust, and who has decades of experience in the mental health arena. Call the police she said, which I knew I would have to do, but I also knew it would end my friendship. Well, better to have her furious with me than dead, although there was no guarantee she wouldn’t be furious with me and dead.

I called. The police, who were excellent, investigated and found her and spoke to her. Of course, she said she wasn’t suicidal, and when they reminded her of what she’d said in those texts, she said it was all just talk.

And that is that.  But of course, it isn’t. I know she’ll never speak to me again, and I doubt I’ve done anything to stop her from doing what she seems determined to do. I don’t know whether she’ll read this or not. She might. If she does I want to tell her I love her and love her life and love her beautiful, creative presence in this world and that she is needed. I want to tell her I had no choice but to call the police.

I don’t know what will happen now. Today I received a note from someone I know saying that the love of his life killed herself yesterday and that no matter what he did he couldn’t stop her.

I talked to my friend whose sister killed herself.

Oh, this is a terrible club to be a member of.

There’s no good way to end this, no words of wisdom to tag on to the end…..



  1. Charlene D Jones on July 25, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    I am so sorry Lauren for this most difficult situation you are in. That you find yourself surrounded by those now marked by suicide of a loved one…so much struggle!
    Dr. Sarah Neustadter, PhD wrote a book called Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved. In it, Neustadter offers her own journey through the chaos after her beloved and betrothed killed himself. She also offers exercises, way to begin the healing process.
    Remember to breathe deeply, often. Remember to consider the positive and never give up.

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 25, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      Thank you, Charlene. I will certainly read the book and will probably, as you have done, recommend it to others. I’m breathing. Maybe not deeply just yet, but I’m breathing.

  2. penn kemp on July 25, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    I’m so very sorry, dear Lauren. What a time. Will write later.

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 25, 2019 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks, Penn.

      • Sandy Doughman on July 28, 2019 at 8:06 pm

        I am so sorry what you have gone through. I know it’s painful. My son took his life when he was 19, 13 years ago. He never spoke of how he felt. He was upset about a break up for a few weeks before he took his life, but I have found out it was more than that. We had been so close and talked about so many things, but he kept this to himself. I now feel he inherited my depression. I got through it by reading all I could on the afterlife, especially about suicides. All I could really do was pray and sent him love. This was one thing as his mother that I could not make better for him, except through love and prayer. Suicide brings about many emotions, anger, confusion, and sadness. I have never been angry at my son, frustrated yes, that I didn’t see it, but I knew that he did love me and would have not hurt me unless he was in more pain than he knew I would be in. I hate when others say the person was selfish when he took his own life. I know what that overwhelming black hole feels like. Though I would not take my life, I know what that helplessness feels like. I look forward to seeing my son when I cross over. Blessed Be.

        • Lauren B. Davis on July 28, 2019 at 9:13 pm

          Blessed be, Sandy. My heart aches for you and your pain. I can’t imagine how my father and step-mother have survived the suicides of both their sons. It is unfathomable. Of course you are right. He didn’t mean to hurt you, and I believe he will be there when the moment is right for you to meet again. One of the many terrible things about suicide is that the person contemplating it doesn’t understand that all their justifications and rationalizations are really no more than feathers caught in the wind. As you and I know, however, perception is everything. And so we go on. Thank you so much for trusting me with your story. Again, blessed be.

  3. Joan on July 25, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    How awful for you Lauren. However, you know you did the right thing. If you had done nothing and she had died, that would have been very painful as you would have been thinking “what if” …
    There are also many people who cross our path who are tormented by addiction that suicide seems to be the only way towards peace.
    Thank God we found the way to a peaceful life. 🙏

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 25, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      And I am ever grateful.

  4. Ania on July 25, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    I’m so so sorry, Lauren. You are an amazing soul ……

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 25, 2019 at 9:05 pm

      Love to you, Ania.

  5. Lynne on July 26, 2019 at 12:04 am

    My dearest friend. I love you for who you are and what you did. When I found out my ex killed himself on a park bench, his best friend said she’s haunted because she didn’t do more.

    I’m sorry for your sadness and grief but you will always know you tried to be her best friend by trying to save her.

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 26, 2019 at 9:09 am

      Thanks, Lynne. I’m so sorry about your ex. Sigh.

  6. Lisa on July 26, 2019 at 12:13 am

    I’m so sorry you are going through this with your friend. I wish there were words I could send to make this hurt less, but we both know there really aren’t any.

    “The agony of the living, after a death like that, is like rust, like cancer. It’s not a clean grief. It crawls through the spirit for years and years. Okay, forever.”

    Your words are heartbreakingly resonant. It’s been 14 years since my father died by suicide, after multiple attempts, and a stubborn refusal to accept help. It is healing to feel understood. Thank you for having the courage to share your pain, and the skill to express it so clearly.

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 26, 2019 at 9:10 am

      Oh, Lisa, I am so sorry you, too, are part of this awful clan. The death of your father must have been, and must remain, hideous. I hear you.

      • Monica C on July 29, 2019 at 4:38 pm

        This really hit home for me. I just lost my beautiful 26 year old daughter to suicide 5 months ago; 2 days after her birthday.
        I know she didn’t do it to hurt me; she just wanted to pain to stop. For her, it has, but for her family, it’s an endless struggle of learning how to move forward. I don’t believe you get over it; you just figure out how to go forward without your loved one. It sucks and I’m finding supports are sorely lacking for suicide survivors.
        Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing.

        • Lauren B. Davis on July 29, 2019 at 4:44 pm

          Oh, Monica. How awful. It is difficult to find support — the church I was attending at the time let me down badly when my second brother killed himself. And it’s a weight that never lightens, we just learn to carry it. My father and step-mother are amazing. I mean, losing two sons this way. I don’t know how they manage to stay sane, and together. Rough. For what it’s worth, you’re not alone. Love to you.

  7. D-L Nelson on July 26, 2019 at 4:53 am

    What a hard choice you had to make. You may have saved her life this time. That is enough. We can, however, only do so much. If we do all we can, than it is easier to live with whatever happens that is out of our hands. Courage, old friend.

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 26, 2019 at 9:11 am

      Thank, D-L. I fear it won’t end well, but I’ve done all I can, as you say.

  8. Deborah on July 26, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    What agony, Lauren. As difficult as it was, you made the right choice, which I’m sure your friend knows deep in her heart.

    You are such a kind, empathetic and loving person. You share your very soul with others and take on so much emotionally. Know you did the right thing… the only thing.

    What you wrote about our feelings after we lose someone to suicide is so true. I feel it every time I think of my sister. You helped me deal with her suicide with such compassion and wisdom, for which I am eternally grateful.

    You are loved. Please don’t ever change.

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 26, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks, Deborah. It’s amazing how many of us have to deal with this, isn’t it. I send you my love.

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