The near suicide

I had a friend who called me one day. “My husband left me. I’m not OK.”

I went to get her, her baby and lots of her stuff, so they could stay with us for a few days.

She was a wreck.

After a few days, she returned home. Two days I didn’t hear from her.

Then she showed up one morning with a relaxed, but dazed face — like a zombie. “It’s all going to be fine now. I’ve got everything taken care of.”

Oh, big alarms here.

She handed me the baby. “This is the last thing. I just needed to bring you my baby.”

Frantically I searched my mental archive for dos and don’ts I’ve heard about. The pointer settled on this item: You can tell if a person is serious about suicide by asking about plans. The serious ones have thought out the details.

“Come in,” I said, taking the baby, “and tell me what you’ve planned.”

There were details. She not only had it all worked out how she was going to run her engine in a closed garage, she’d been up all night clearing out a spot for the car, getting important documents laid out on the kitchen table and packing the baby’s things.

She couldn’t tell me the last time she’d slept or eaten, but tried to ensure me she felt at peace since she found this solution.

I strained to hide my panic.

I felt like I might say exactly the wrong thing and crack the ice under her feet. Surely there are words that are exactly right. I didn’t know them.

I tried reason: What about your son?

She dismissed me: He’s got his dad and stepmom.

What about the baby?

That’s why I’m here. The main thing stopping me was the idea she’d end up as a foster child. I wanted to choose who raised her. I thought about taking her with me.

Well that upped my panic. I was getting dizzy and couldn’t think clearly anymore. I was going to screw this up.

I grabbed at one last idea, “Have you said goodbye to your father?”

She looked suprised. “No. I should.”

While she was on her cell phone, I was in the kitchen sneaking a call to my mom’s minister — not because either of us is spiritual, but because she did her thesis on suicides. She said to call the police.

I hadn’t mentioned my friend’s considering taking the baby with her. I was sure if the law got involved she would lose her baby. What a mess.

I went back into the living room. My friend was crying. That was a good sign. She was nodding, “OK, Daddy. OK.”

She flipped her phone closed and looked at me, all red and puffy. “He said no.”

No? The exactly right thing to say was no?

I kept the baby for a week while she got a room at a recovery center.

A few weeks later, her husband came back.

Whew.

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2 Responses to “The near suicide”

  1. Noisy Quiet Says:

    The exactly right thing to say, in this case, was “Have you said goodbye to your father.”

    FWIW, the other “right” thing to say would have been to have her stay with you while you helped her try a few other options, reasoning that whether she followed through on her plans now, or next week, or a month or two from now, really wouldn’t make much difference. -That’s if you could have been there for her fully. If you had no time (or interest) for that, then that wouldn’t have worked.

    She trusted you enough to call you, to tell you outright that she was not ok, to give you the baby she loved, and to tell you her plans, not hide them or lie, when you asked. Her trust in you (scary as it may have been) meant that you had the power to help her. You were someone/someplace where she felt some safety.

    (Ok I realize that’s a bit long for a first comment EVER 😉 I feel very strongly about this issue. -And I am really glad you didn’t call the cops!

    FYI: I found you through NABLOPOMO 🙂 )

  2. T. Says:

    CNN just released the what to say and do, and what not to say and do. I wish I had had this resource back then. It’s a great article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/03/11/save.friend.suicide/index.html?hpt=T2

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