Suicide. One word, yet it is so heavy with meaning, with implications, with assumptions, with stigmas. One stigma, in particular, the stigma of suicide being a selfish act, has been on my mind. Society hears that a friend of a friend of a friend (you get the idea) committed suicide, and the forefront thought is “Oh, that was such a selfish thing to do. He/she didn’t think of the impact it would have on their family and friends. So selfish.” Placing a snap judgment on the person in question and labeling them as selfish is a normal response.
What do I think about it? I tend to agree. It is a selfish act. But I doubt that those who choose to commit suicide sit down and have a rational pro/cons discussion with themselves about their decision. I doubt they sit there and think, “If I’m dead, how will my husband/wife/mother/father/son/daughter/friend/etc go on? Will they blame themselves for the rest of their lives? Will they be able to live through losing me?” I think when someone commits suicide, they are not thinking rationally, like themselves. They are in a very dark place, put there by whatever emotions, actions, losses, arguments, depressions, addictions they suffer from. I doubt anyone truly thinks about the impact taking their life will have on everyone attached to them. They are in the heat of the moment and escaping their pain is the only clear, sharp thought.
Not many people know Brandon’s official cause of death, but of those who do know, not one of them has said these words to me yet. No one said it, but I know it was thought about. Actually, I take that back. I think someone did say something along the lines of what Brandon did as being “a selfish act”. Regardless, “selfish” is a stigma that follows suicide closely, arm in arm.
Is suicide a selfish act? Absolutely. Do I blame Brandon, or am I angry with him? No. For months I’ve been struggling, wondering why I’m not angry at him. I have plenty of anger for his father, anger that makes me see red, but none for him. I thought it was strange, that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was numb? Maybe I was closing off from feeling what I should be feeling? I kept wondering why I wasn’t angry with him. Then one day a few weeks ago, I was driving to work, listening to some song on the radio. My thoughts, as they usually are on the drive to and from work, were on Brandon. And it suddenly occurred to me, like a ray of light breaking through a dark sky.
Brandon and the word selfish don’t belong in the same sentence. He was always doing things for others, going out of his way, giving up his free time, to do something for others. He ran all sorts of errands for his dad, helped him with yard work, and took him to doctors’ appointments (ones where he’d have to sit in the waiting room for hours). For his brother, Brandon was always fixing something that broke on his cars, and something always broke. The summer before he died, he replaced an entire engine in his brother’s car, among other things. He always did things for me, too. He’d fix my car, change the oil, help me run errands, and a lot more I’m probably not even remembering. He ran errands and fixed things for his mom on a regular basis. He’d help his friends with various projects, from fixing vehicles to brewing beer (that one he actually enjoyed doing). On a typical day, Brandon would get at least one phone call from someone that needed him for something. At least once, if not more. And 99% of the time he would stop whatever he was doing, even if it was taking a nap after work, and go do it. So no, Brandon was not someone who I would call selfish. Far from it.
So does one selfish act color someone without a selfish bone in their body as selfish? No. One selfish act doesn’t undo all the unselfish things he was always doing for people. It doesn’t. He was never selfish. Never. He so rarely did things for just him. And as odd as it may sound, I don’t blame him one bit for this one act of selfishness; I’m not angry with him for it. He must have been so tired, so tired of always doing things for people.
I should have done more for him. I should have been a better girlfriend, a better wife. I should have been less selfish. But as a survivor of suicide, those are my regrets to live with now. Hindsight, as I’ve found out, is a real bitch.