In July 2015, Arthur Cave, the 15 year old son of Australian rocker Nick Cave fell 20m to his death off a cliff in southern England after taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD. At the inquest, it was revealed Arthur Cave also had cannabis in his system. A friend noted that he appeared completely disorientated and couldn’t feel what was real and what wasn’t real anymore. He was spotted by motorists walking in a zigzag motion, holding his trousers up, across a grassy verge toward the white cliffs.
It is not uncommon for recreational drugs to cause psychotic episodes in users. Psychosis causes people to misinterpret or confuse what is going on around them.
Although Arthur Cave’s death wasn’t suicide his reckless behaviour was a flirtation with death. Many young people believe they are indestructible and behave accordingly.
Nick Cave reflected on the impact of such a tragic loss and wrote about the challenge to identity. He said,
“Most of us don’t want to change, really. And why should we? What we do want is modifications on the original model. We keep on being ourselves, but just, hopefully, better versions of ourselves. But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic that you just change? You change from the known person to an unknown person? So that when you look at yourself in the mirror, you recognise the person you were, but the person inside the skin is a different person.”
It is clear, not all change is welcome. Personal tragedy is something we try to avoid. Should it impose itself on our life it can’t be ignored.
The death of our son, Adam, to suicide, was cataclysmic. The consequences were far reaching affecting relationships and changing lives.
In her recent book, ‘Barkskins’, Annie Proulx says,
In every life, there are events that reshape one’s sense of existence. Afterwards, all is different and the past is dimmed.
Suicide brings a changed perspective on life. Nothing is the same. There is a re-assembling of priorities. Previous relationships are tested. Some fade away while others assume a renewed importance. Survival is paramount.
Suicide paints a solitary landscape. Survivors are handed a free pass to an unwanted journey. Frank Page lost his daughter, Melissa, to suicide. He says,
Many people describe the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide as aloneness – it is as though we now possess, and are rapidly accumulating, a catalogue of experiences that no one else can possibly understand.
Rev John Ames, a pastor of a small congregation is the main character in Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Gilead’. His first wife, Louisa, and their daughter died in childbirth. Reflecting on the past, he says,
My own dark time, as I call it, the time of my loneliness, was most of my life, as I have said, and I can’t make any real account of myself without speaking of it.
Tragic circumstances had left their mark and his sorrow had brought about a separation. He was a kindly person, a gentle man, a caring leader but who could possibly know his pain.
Suicide grief is personal. It is to be lived with and worked through. It is there when you wake and when you lie down. It occupies your thoughts and messes with your emotions. It invades your dreams and inhabits your subconscious. It is complex. There are people who are supportive but no-one that interested that they want to explore every nuanced look or sigh. It is a private space.
Grief and loneliness go hand in hand. There are many reasons for this. Let me mention just a few.
- Interactions feel somewhat superficial
- Talk about grief is avoided
- Things that were once important lose their attraction
- Tiredness becomes an excuse for inactivity
It is known that loneliness and isolation have the capacity to erode both your emotional and physical well-being. So it is important to find ways to connect.
Nick Cave uses his music to convey his deepest feelings. His recent album, Skeleton Tree, explores his anguish and grief over the tragic death of his son. Music critics describe it as a true testament to an artist trying to find his way through the darkness.