There are different ways to say it:
Took his own life.
Died at her own hands.
Multiple ways to wonder the same thing: Why?
Though her body of written work is extensive and laudable, Virginia Woolf is best known for her extended essay “A Room of One’s Own” and her self-described “mental disease” – what is now termed bipolar disorder – which led to drowning herself. Statistics say as many as 15% of people with bipolar disorder will commit suicide, half will attempt to, and nearly 80% will contemplate doing so (Everydayhealth.com).
Recently a good friend of the family became one of the 15% (perhaps that is yet another way to say it). He had three prior attempts that we know of. He had severe bipolar. And he had no success with medication.
There are those who would say it should “come as no surprise, considering his history” – as if grief were unwarranted for those who wanted to die. There are those who would say he “gave up on life” – as if the physical pain caused by malfunctioning neurotransmitters in his head had not played a significant role.
And then there is this:
We may never really know what goes through one’s mind, what demons lurk there, what insufferable agony. There could be many reasons. But does knowing the reason make up in any way for our loss? Our grief? Is it because we want testimony that, no, there was nothing we could have done? Or do we want to berate ourselves till our own dying day that we should have done something? That berating ourselves absolves us of the fact that we didn’t?
But it’s human nature to wonder why – probably because we want to understand. We want to make sense of the seemingly senseless. Most of all we want closure, and to many people knowing why seems to be one way to get it. Why isn’t it enough that a person was in pain? There must be more to it, some think, more reason to have done something so horrible, so irrevocable, so final. So selfish, some think. They don’t ask why; they only judge.
Whether we seek closure or make judgments, we somehow must come to terms with the untimely death that is suicide. We can grieve, we can postulate; we can put someone on a pedestal or we can condemn them. We may try to understand. And sometimes we must accept that trying may be the only thing we’re able to do.
[Image: The Suicide by Édouard Manet]