However, sometimes things go wrong. Healing doesn't progress. Faith craters. And the mind and spirit become too exhausted to fight on.
Sometimes a person cannot see through or past the pain to the other side
Sometimes a person simply wants out.
Sometimes suicide because a very strong possibility.
I wish I had an absolute "look for these signs" list to offer, but I don't. A few things I've seen among people who have walked this precipice specifically after someone's death include:
--wishing they were with that person
--talking about how empty this life is
--expressing a lack of hope or reason to continue
--telling people goodbye, creating closure with the living
--"shrinking their lives" by not engaging in relationships or social outings
The problem with these warning signs, in my opinion, is they are also natural responses or comments to make while going through the grief process. It can be really hard to know what is going on inside someone's brain.
So I ask.
I have asked more than one friend, "Are you considering suicide or hurting yourself?"
For most, it seems knowing someone is observing that closely and cares that much is enough to encourage them to stay in the game. However, getting through rough patches can take some time. Don't be afraid to ask more than once.
I have one friend I asked on a pretty regular basis for a time, "Are you suicidal? Is it even crossing your mind? How can I help you get through right now?"
Sometimes I won't even bring up the word suicide. Sometimes I'll ask, "On a scale of 1-10, what kind of hell is today?"
Some people might find that wording offensive, but if you are in that mess, it is like breathing for someone to recognize how hard it is. Whatever they tell me, I ask, "How can I help? What do you need me to say or do to help through right now?"
The truth is, I am powerless about tomorrow or the next day or next week, but RIGHT NOW, I'm here, and I can be a presence right now.
Sometimes, though, my presence doesn't help. Sometimes it is honestly beyond me.
In those situations, I've called in reinforcements. I've called in friends, church members, pastors, and police. I've sent the police to someone's house to bang on the door and check their mental/emotional state. I've invaded Facebook friend lists to find someone close enough to the person that he could go by the person's house. When I think someone might truly be suicidal, nothing is sacred. I will invade whatever I have to invade to give that person time to think clearly.
If you really believe someone is suicidal, the situation is bigger than you. You need to call in someone else who can help. You can find counseling. You can call the police. You can go to the church. You can do an intervention with several people, hopefully jar the person into realizing their is still love here for them to live in if they will fight through the pain. Sometimes they really need to see that they are not alone in the pain.
Asking doesn't have to be a big drama either. A simple way of asking is:
"I know you've really been struggling, and I know you've gone through some hard stuff. I know you are sad, and I've noticed some things that concern me. I'm wondering, are you considering hurting yourself or maybe even considering suicide?"
Or skip the roses and get to the point. "I care about you, and I'm concerned. Are you considering suicide?"
And I know. Everybody is afraid they'll offend the person or make them mad. I have never lost a friend because I've asked them if they were suicidal, but if I did, I think I could live with that a lot easier than living with losing a friend because I didn't ask.
If they say they are not, still watch them closely. If they say they are, it is time to encourage them to go to counseling or call a suicide hotline for more help.
The national suicide hotline is 1-800-SUICIDE
or you can call your police or hospital for more information.
Grief is such an odd thing with such extreme emotions with the highs and lows that go with them. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if what you are seeing is a normal part of the process or a person slipping out of control. If you have the slightest concern it might be the latter, ask. Invade. Call in reinforcements. Call whoever you have to.
Sometimes the only way to help is realizing you can't...but finding the person who can.