A Closed Door

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Maldon is Victoria’s best preserved gold rush town with its carefully maintained colonial buildings and historic precinct. My wife and I visited there recently. The town was bustling with day visitors from other parts. Finding a place to park was a premium. We strolled down the main street appreciating the streetscape with its old-fashioned shop fronts, wide verandahs and flagstone paving. Julie is inevitably drawn in to the shops to inspect the merchandise while I search for somewhere to sit. On this particular occasion I had brought my camera hoping to capture a subject of interest. As I was soaking up the sun I noticed a door, a closed door.

A closed door can convey many messages. It might be saying “Private! Stay out! I’m not available for comment. I don’t wish to talk about it.”

Carla Fine, author of No Time to Say Goodbye, encountered a closed door. She writes, “On December 16, 1989, my husband … killed himself in the waning light of a late Saturday afternoon. My once-familiar world exploded with his suicide; in an instant, the life we had built together during our marriage of twenty-one years ended, without discussion or time for goodbyes.”

Carla recounts her thoughts at the time of her gruesome discovery. And the thoughts are inevitably questions. “How could he have left me like this? Why hadn’t he turned to me for help? Why did I allow him to convince me that he didn’t need professional counselling for his growing depression after the deaths of his mother and father in the past year?”

People contemplating suicide distance themselves emotionally from those closest to them. There is a belief and a determination that they know what’s best. They are not looking for comfort. They are not looking for advice. They have put a sign on the door “Private! Stay out!”

Carla’s husband Harry was an accomplished physician and medical researcher in the prime of his career who had planned his death impeccably. As the medical examiner reported, “As a physician, your husband had it all figured out.”

This poses a significant challenge for those who are committed to suicide prevention. “How do we get beyond the closed door? How do we encourage help-seeking? How do we evaluate the seriousness of the situation? How do we bring hope when all is lost?

Reference: Carla Fine, (2000) No Time to Say Goodbye. Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

No Time to Say Goodbye

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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