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Mum's Euthanasia and Dad's Suicide
An uncomfortable discussion. A necessary perspective.
“I don’t want you to die, but if this is your decision, I’m 100% in your corner”
These were the words I said to My Mum about one week before she passed away from Ovarian Cancer. What made these words particularly difficult to not only say, but comprehend, was that my Dad passed way to suicide 11 years earlier.
My Mum and Dad’s situations were completely different, but they both made the decision to die, and I think this can illuminate an important perspective to better embrace those considering, or vulnerable to, suicide.
My Dad’s suicide highlighted to me that ending your life can’t be the answer. If he only knew the heartbreak that followed his decision, I can’t help but think he would be here today.
His death and my interpretation of his experience was the inspiration behind Running for Resilience, and when my Mum was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, I got a glimpse of where my resonation with ‘resilience’ came from. She was stoic, brave, tough, and was always looking for the path to remission. Her courage validated my belief in resilience and never giving up, but it was a discussion we had in her final week that challenged my belief structure.
My Mum was in the throes of Cancer, she hadn’t eaten properly for months, had no energy, and the Doctors tone had changed from overcoming the disease to managing her comfort despite it. I truly believe that I never saw the brutality of Cancer in its entirety because of how tough my Mum was, but her request for assisted dying epitomised her struggle.
For a Woman so strong and optimistic to prefer death speaks to the level of pain she was in. The perception of hopelessness that her decision represented and the notion of my Mum considering this conclusion at any stage after her diagnosis is, simply put, heartbreaking.
When she told me she wanted to die, I understood her. I could see the pain in her eyes and knew immediately that she had laboured on this decision. As much as I didn’t want it to be so, I could do nothing, but support her.
Standing around the bed as she fell asleep before she eventually passed over the ensuing days was bizarre. In some regards, it was a soft landing from a tumultuous period and my experience certainly lends itself for those who support euthanasia, in an effort to preserve the dignity and limit the unnecessary suffering of those afflicted by a terminal condition.
But through this experience and extensive reflection comes something that I haven’t been able to state confidently until now; that my Mum made a decision to die because of the pain she was in and the lack of hope she felt, and I think my Dad made a similar decision. They both experienced a different pain, but they both felt a sense of hopelessness.
Only, if my Dad had told me he wanted to end his life, I wouldn’t have understood.
The tragedy of suicide is that the sense of hopelessness a person feels is absolute from their perspective, but almost never so in reality. Whilst many of us might not understand how someone can hold this perspective, we have to acknowledge that it feels true to the person who believes it.
If we are to make true improvements in the mental health landscape, we have to accept that people ‘feel how they feel’ based on their experiences and perspective, and we have to be empathetic to their struggle, despite not being able to understand it, whatever it is.
By the same token, if you’re reading this and you truly believe your situation is hopeless, you have to accept the possibility that it isn’t, despite not being able to understand why.
It’s a belief.
It’s the belief that things will work out, one way or another, and it can only be validated by putting it to the test. Once you do, your success in overcoming life’s struggle can be proof to you that it can be done again. It will give you a tangible example of when life kicks you in the teeth, you can take it on the chin, and be stronger for it.
So whatever it is, know that what you’re feeling is true and that you’re not crazy. But know that it will pass and that whilst you might not know HOW you’ll feel better, know that you WILL. It is frustratingly simple and it does require a leap of faith, but I promise you, there are countless examples of people who’ve overcome the exact position you’re in.
I and so many others believe you, in how you feel now, but we know, how you will feel in the future. It truly is a factor of time, but the best thing you can do right now is to give yourself the best chance to feel better, even if for just a moment.
Call a friend, do some chores, exercise, read a book… whatever it is…
Just. Keep. Moving.
It might not solve your problems, but it absolutely improves your position to overcome them.