The Phaserl


When a Friend Takes His/Her Own Life

by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

Tragically, a friend of mine recently took his own life. As a memorial to him, I am reprinting an essay from 2007 about a dear female friend who took her own life.

When an old friend takes his/her own life, your own life is irrevocably diminished. What seemed to matter before no longer matters, and what seemed to make sense no longer makes sense.

My friend had recently moved 1,000 miles away, to a town which had long extended a magnetic draw on her. But she knew no one there, and since her work was all done on computer, she toiled alone. Like any other human being in those conditions, she was lonely. Yes, she had a loyal companion in her dog, and two very close friends here in California, and a constellation of lesser friends like me; but it was not enough at a critical moment.

She’d had those moments before, and been saved: just as she’d gathered the pills to swallow, a friend had called, and she’d gotten past that moment of dark obsession.

Of all the past days’ memories and thoughts, one returns: what if I had sensed her despair and called her at that moment? And why didn’t I sense her need for reassurance and human contact at that critical hour? I have often dreamed of her, and had done so just the week before; it was a vivid dream, not at all alarming, and I’d recounted it to her in an email. She’d made no response, and I’d given it no further thought. Was the dream a premonition? No; but perhaps it was a signal, if not of distress, then of some tendril of distress.

It is convenient is think our friends resilient, just as it is convenient for adults to believe children are resilient when turmoil or tragedy strikes the family. Yes, children are resilient–they are human beings. But they are not endlessly resilient, and their quiet after death or upheaval is not resilience or resolve, it is the numbing of terrible pain.

And so this false reliance on resilience nags at me; I was too self-absorbed to think through the underlying conditions in my dear friend’s life, and how lonely she might feel. Her childhood was not positive, nor was her family more than grudgingly supportive; there were always squabbles over money and demands for fealty she could not meet. She was resilient, but only just so; and I should have been alert to the proximity of her limits.

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2 comments to When a Friend Takes His/Her Own Life

  • Craig Escaped Detroit

    Sad when an old friend dies, even worse when they kill themselves. Some people suffer in silence until they “step out”. Others are constant complainers.

    You don’t always know who will die and who will not.

    And yes, SO many people feel some kind of emotional “TUG”, or “pull” to move to some area. Many reasons, few reasons are based in fact. They believe they’ll be “discovered”, or the new place will be wonderful, etc.

    I can see getting AWAY from an area that is bad for you, but there are people who run from nothing because they “imagine” bad or good things. Las Vegas, LA, Alaska, Montana, NYC, London, Paris, etc., are very well known for attracting more than the normal amount of drifters and troubled souls. (and I’m not even including the religious pilgrims, or broken homes, job loss, death of a spouse, parent or child.)

    We cannot always save the lost ones, or save everyone on the path of self destruction. Try to keep well balanced and strong. Help when you can, but be ready to get out of the way of a train wreck before it takes you with it.

    Sorry, but nothing wise, clever or funny to add. Just “be well, be strong, calm, and don’t give up.”

  • bob

    We all have to die anyway. More people would take their own lives if they knew the trials that lie in front of them. There is no victory in the flesh. Everyone loses.

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