I had to do six months of research on suicide once. I’m not going to get into statistical mumbo-jumbo in this piece, this is about my experience during this time and what I felt and understood from that experience.
Sitting at my desk for at least eight hours a day, reading about how people had chosen to end this lifetime, was alright for the first 2 or 3 weeks, I think. I looked at it as a job and that I needed to provide the most comprehensive, yet detailed report on what was happening to our community in our district. I wanted to find answers and resolutions. I wanted to give it my very best for those who had left and for those who had been left behind.
Now part of being able to do this type of work is being able to distance yourself, compartmentalize and focus on giving your full attention to the job at hand. That job was to look at the past 5 years of coroners’ reports on suicide. This ranged from a ten year old hanging themselves from a washing line, to a couple in their 80’s who decided to leave together. Naturally, the older the individual and especially there being two of them, that was almost comforting, darkly romantic, but that was as good as it gets. The child and everyone in between were just tragically sad and seemingly so unnecessary. The information in the reports contained everything and I gathered something like 900 suicides and the individual information on a spreadsheet I designed.
It was a very in depth piece of work and very tolling. After those first few weeks, I found I was taking some of these individuals I had been digging around in, with me. Back home with me. It started with me feeling like someone was looking over my shoulder while I was working. No one was, but it became very awkward. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling. This went on for weeks. I felt like someone was not happy with me digging around in their past. Some people had been from a criminal background, a few had been child molesters, they had been related to their victims. Not nice people but I was not doing this to judge, I wanted information to help. Many had just been overwhelmed with financial stress, a too demanding life, a hopeless situation.
Then one day, after spending my working day feeling like I had a bunch of suicide victims hanging around me, that feeling then started following me. I had a little two door car. As I drove home, I felt the car become more and more crowded. I turned the music up, opened windows. Nothing changed. I couldn’t wait to get home and get out of the car. Pulling up into the driveway I saw my flatmate outside mowing the lawn. I got out and felt better, we chatted and I went inside. I felt a little better when I was around others but I didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on. When I climbed into bed that night I asked those lost spirits to leave me alone. I had thought about it and figured that these people’s spirits may be trapped here for some reason. I didn’t know why and I didn’t understand how I knew this was the case, I just knew.
I felt that being so personally involved in each individuals’ death had brought these spirits close to me, not all of them – but somehow these guys had become trapped or lost on an earthly plane. I made a decision to do something crazy – or what may be thought of as crazy by others. I was at home alone one weekend and I could feel the heaviness of these souls around me. Something compelled me to go outside and look up at the sky. It was a cloudy, drizzly day with a bit of gusty wind. The trees rustled around us and I felt the need to speak out loud to these souls. I said to them that I understood that not all of them had done the right thing here on earth and had left so much heart break and devastation behind. But there was a light they needed to find over there. I said I forgive you – I didn’t know who or how many there were but I told them they were all forgiven for everything and needed to go towards the light. I kept repeating this, looking up at the iron grey sky. Then all of a sudden I felt a sudden lightness. The sky didn’t open up, no lightning, torrential rain or blasting wind – they just seemed to move away from me.
I kept using this solution to help those souls move forward each time I felt someone around me. I had to wait to get home so that I could be alone and in the quiet – oh and keep it a secret, until now…