Yesterday, 10th September, was World Suicide Prevention Day – a day I suspect I would know not a lot about had my life not been touched, no ripped to pieces, by suicide. It’s well documented that my dad killed himself – I bang on about it enough, for Christ’s sake.
Yesterday’s event was the first where I’ve had to consider the event as a father and for my son, as a (paternal) grandfather-less child. I read a cracking blog sent to me by my lovely friend Liz, which brilliantly documented that all suicides have the effect of causing huge collateral damage. I read it about an hour before I had an epic battle of wills with Jesse. He was over tired (a term I used to think was ridiculously ridiculous and impossible in its very description!) and very late for bed. My wife Amy had taken him to bed about 8 and re-emerged with a toothy grinned little oik some half an hour later. Round one was his and “that’s half an hour of my life I’ll never get back” passed her lips. I gave the boy ten minutes belting around the kitchen crying, shouting and whinging before tagging in and giving it a go myself.
Amy and I have different techniques to sleep time. I very much take the ‘you will go-to-fucking-sleep’ approach and rock rather vigorously back and forth until his eyes roll around in his head like cherries on a fruit machine. After enough goes, I eventually get three jackpot signs and he snores. Last night was tough, though, and took some serious temper management from myself not to react to his point blank refusal to play ball. There may be parents reading this, at least I hope there may, who totally understand when I say that I love him unconditionally yet I still want to throttle the little shitbag when he’s tired, I’m tired, and nothing is going right. It’s a turn of phrase, folks – there is no need to call the social! Anyway, back to last night…
Sometimes I have to hum in some sort of gentle tone whilst rocking and I find words just coming out. Made up words that are generally the first thing that come to mind. Inevitably, the words are about how much I love him and how much I’ll care for him. But last night, I also found myself unconsciously turning some of the words to ‘if only your granddad could see you’.
As a parent, I’m now much more aware of the importance of having parents there all the time. That desire – requirement for some – never goes away. All the time I think about what it would be like if my dad had not chosen to die. How much he would smile at what Jesse does. How much he would laugh and tell me how Jesse is exactly how I was as a child. My mum is still here and she does that, but everyone knows that your mum and dad disagree on ‘fact’ and there are always many sides to a story/memory. I just wish that when he were thinking about taking his life, he could have considered the future in its entirety instead of only hours, days and weeks ahead. I wish he could have realised that life could still bring so many incredible experiences and that the choice to live is always the correct decision.
Tonight, the boy decided to scream every time I put him down. Which made it hard to bathe him. Out of the bath and onto the bed to dry, he did even more screaming. This time going a shade of purple and forcing himself to cough. Then he decided that he’d scream so much he’d vomit. Joy. Sick everywhere. At lease a small part of myself felt proud that he is so strong willed that he’ll make himself chunder! If only my dad were here for me to talk it over with.
Five minutes later, he was sat merrily playing with his testicles. He tugged at them and pulled them as far as they would go, desperately bending over trying to get them into his mouth. Alas, son, that’s a very difficult thing to do. If only my dad were here for me to laugh about it with.
When I was growing up, dad would pin me down and rub his whiskers all over my belly so it hurt/tickled in equal measure. If only my dad were here to see me do it to Jesse. Better still, if only my dad were here to do it to Jesse himself.
I tell Jesse about my dad all the time. I tell him how I wish he were here to show me how to do the DIY things he was brilliant at, how he always had supreme confidence in me (but not in himself) and how he worked harder than I can ever contemplate to earn a pittance so that we could eat. I also tell Jesse how my dad chose to die and how his suicide affects me, my sister, my brother, my nan, my aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and perhaps most unfortunately, people not even born yet – people who will never be lucky enough to meet him – people like my son, Jesse. The ripples caused by a suicide continue way, WAY after the initial ‘hit’ of the meteorite.
If you have a friend you are worried about, talk to them. Ask them if they are OK. You do not need to be a counsellor or a psychiatrist to help somebody.
Perhaps more importantly, if you are feeling sad and have ever/may contemplate taking your own life, let me reassure you that you are loved. That you affect people every day of your life and that people care so much that they will help you in whatever way they can. People will not turn their backs on you because you are sad, depressed or suicidal. The ripples after you die will never stop – trust me. Don’t leave the people you love and whatever you, don’t ever think that you leaving this world would be ‘best’ for anyone or anything! As quite a famous picture says:
“suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse. Suicide eliminates the chances of it getting better.”
There is a fantastic new app that has been created by the incredible people at Grassroots Suicide Prevention called Stay Alive. You should check it out – both if you are at risk of suicide or if you know someone who is. Actually, scrub that, learn about it anyway because one day it may be of use and it will be there for you.