It’s suicide prevention awareness day today here in Australia and I wanted to share with you a story. Its not strictly about suicide prevention but it is about bereavement and trying to keep going when you’re not entirely sure what the point is anymore. My story happened yesterday and I am afraid that I cannot name the person who was so helpful because I was so distressed during the exchange that I cannot now remember his name.
Yesterday I was pulled over for running a red light. I am usually a very careful and slow driver, and so the fact that I managed to do this shows just how disordered and upset I was. For context, in the last two weeks I have experienced the deaths of a family member and a friend, was still recovering from a ten day flu and had learnt that I have developed complications from the chronic disease that I have. Ironically, when the policeman pulled me over, I was actually on my way to the chemist to get some Rescue Remedy.
I was already shaking when he approached me and he asked me if I could explain what I had done. I fumbled some pathetic reply about still not feeling well and was on my way to the chemist. He took my licence and went back to the patrol car. I erupted into tears. Trouble was I was still an eruption when he came back, a totally uncontrollable outpouring of anger, sorrow, frustration, and fear all mixed up together.
He very gently asked me what was wrong, and after some minutes of attempting to answer, in between hyperventilating, coughing and crying, I managed to get out about the complications and the deaths. He offered me his condolences on the loss of my uncle and my friend, then offered to organise counselling for me, saying that the police have people on call if I didn’t have anyone I could turn to.
This stranger offered me more acknowledgement, support and kindness in that tiny moment than most of my friends and acquaintances had. I’ve been shocked all over again by how people are so effing useless at talking about death. Even when I went to the three different medical types, who I thought would know better, to get help with the illness symptoms, not one even acknowledged the fact that I had used the words ‘funeral’ and ‘death’.
And so, the actions of that young policeman yesterday truly mattered to me. I can’t begin to express how much his kindness and gentleness mattered right then, when I felt like the whole world was against me. Nothing changed, of course. I still ran the red light and have a huge fine. I still have health issues and my uncle and my friend are still dead. But for just a fraction of time when I most needed it, someone was kind to me and it buffed off enough of the jaggedy edges to make me think that things might possibly get better.
I will be sure to pass it on when I am in his position.