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Suicide



15 years ago today on the 14th of April 2009 my dad decided to leave us and give up. No longer enjoy the spring and all there is on earth to be enjoyed. He could not bear staying in his body and his mind anymore. 


It was the Tuesday after Easter and I received a call at work. Pure horror. Something inside me was always alert about the trouble at my home but this was unimaginable. My mind was fried and my body frozen. I remember cycling home with my bicycle along Schönhauer Allee. My bike was blue or maybe red. A small bike a retro folding bike. It was a warm spring day. The sun was shining. Why did I go home first and not straight away jump onto the train from Berlin Mitte where my office was? I needed to be rational and stay in the here and now. There was a funeral to be held and to be attended. I needed black clothes. This is why I went home first. I guess I took a train around 11 am from Berlin Hauptbahnhof. A stop in Nürnberg where I missed my connecting train as I sat disconnected at the train station. Thinking back, I still get the shivers. Missing a train, bus or plane is something out of a nightmare for me and on that day the nightmare came true. Yet, it did not matter as the other nightmare was even bigger. 


I stop here as the description of the following hours and days is almost only dark and heavy in my memory. All these memories are inside of me but I rather look around what I have now and where I am now on the 14th of April in 2024. 


There is a culture of silence surrounding the topic of suicide. I also keep a kind of low profile and often don't know whether I can mention it or not. I don't want to scare others. I don't want to scare them the way it has scared me and still does. Suicide was back then something that happened to others but not to me.  Being suddenly hit by it was like a blow I hadn't expected. 


My boyfriend at the time broke up with me a few weeks after it had happened. His stepmother, who is a psychologist, advised him that it was not a good basis for a stable relationship. I was sad, but actually, it didn't hurt me that much because his behavior was so unconnected and difficult with my situation from the start that I was even relieved of a problem. 


Another more distant male friend whom I met for a drink some weeks after, talked for hours about his medical issue without mentioning even once that he was sorry about my situation. 


There was this guy I fancied that summer. He was in my French class and we studied together. One evening we went out with the whole class and he and I got to talk. I mentioned what was constantly on my mind, the suicide of my dad. The minute I mentioned it, he fell into silence. This really hurt. No, „I am sorry“ or „That must be hard". This taught me to better not tell it at all or at least not in an emotionally attached way. 


Years later, I saw very unhealthy behavior in one of my close colleagues which reminded me very much of my dad's behavior before the suicide. I told the colleague what I had observed and my experience with my day. He completely ignored what I had just told him. This taught me to better not use it with someone who is in a disconnected condition and, better not expect an emotional reaction from someone in such a state. 


Luckily I had also friends who could deal with the situation. Friends who just stood by my side and held the space. They saw my pain and still treated me like they had treated me before. 


One piece of advice I can give to anyone who doesn't know how to behave in such a situation as a friend, acquaintance, colleague, or someone who has just been told about a suicide: Just be there hold the space for the pain, no need to do anything else other than listening and showing your compassion. Don't be afraid. Don’t ignore it or put it under the table. Better, than saying nothing or keeping quiet when it's too much for you, is to speak the truth. Say that it's a lot or that you are overwhelmed, too. You don't have to do it perfectly. We are all human. Talking, listening, and being honest, however, usually helps. 

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