Putting together the pieces after a suicide

By Dan Simons

The last time I saw my friend Chris alive, he was wearing a giant green sombrero, had two Hawaiian leis around his neck, was still sweating from the hot wings we tricked him into eating, and was trying to get me to do another shot of tequila. It was my birthday, earlier this summer, and we were all eating lunch together.

At around 5 p.m., I left the restaurant. An hour and a half later, Chris put a gun to his head and ended his life.

We were all supposed to go out to the bar and celebrate that night, but instead I stood outside Chris’s apartment, in the rain, and tried to comfort his family.

Chris was one of my best friends, a co-worker, a drinking buddy, and absolutely the last person I would have ever expected to commit suicide. When his girlfriend called me to tell me what happened, I yelled at her for five minutes because I thought it was a sick birthday joke. It was only when I heard a police officer in the background asking her if she was all right when it really hit me.

Chris just found a new job that paid under the table so he could still collect unemployment. He had three nephews he would have done anything for, and at that same lunch where I last saw him, Chris and his girlfriend were talking about what kind of wedding they were going to have. He lived more life before a Tuesday morning than most people did in an entire week. He had everything going for him.

Yet, days later, there I was, cleaning out his storage unit, making sure the people closest to him were OK, and struggling to tell everyone he knew what had happened, because no one believed Chris was capable of doing something like this.

Chris was passionate, spontaneous, and determined. But passion can be misdirected, a split decision can end in tragedy, and stubbornness will stop a person from seeking help.

In the days that followed, the worst part was when people asked me how I felt. I couldn’t answer them because I felt nothing. It’s one thing to lose someone you know, but to have them take their own life changes everything.

Everyone who knew him, at some point, felt some sort of blame and guilt. And when everyone gets together and tries to put the pieces together, all they get to see is that the puzzle is bigger than they thought. Why didn’t we see it coming? How could we have stopped it? Was there something I did that fueled whatever it was that made him pull the trigger?

The worst was wondering “If Chris seemed so normal and could do this, then who’s next?”

I still try to see who is driving when I spot a white Grand Prix, and I think about him whenever I hear country music or every time I drink Jack Daniels. Every time I did anything after he died, I couldn’t stop thinking “This is the first time I’ve done this since Chris …”

I never want to have to stand up and speak at another friend’s funeral again. I hate the look in someone’s eyes when you tell them someone they just talked to the other day took their own life. I want to stop thinking “Why?” and “What if?” and “How could he?”

The questions I still have could fill out the rest of this newspaper, and then some. But that would solve nothing. Wasting time and wasting space were two things Chris hated.

If you, or anyone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is contemplating taking their own life, there is always help. Times may be tough but they will never be tough enough to take such drastic measures. Seek a solution to the problem instead of making all the problems go away. Suicide is senseless, pointless, and a completely avoidable tragedy.

The victims of suicide are not the people who choose to end their life, but all the people they leave behind distraught, confused, depressed and unable to answer why. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I did, let alone do I want anyone to reach that point where they think there is no other option.

There is no reason for Chris to have done what he did, and there is no reason anyone else has to either.

Please contact the Common Ground 24/7 hotline at  (800) 231-1127. You can also visit their website: commongroundhelps.org