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  • Writer's pictureSara Morgan-Beckett

What suicide leaves behind

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

The only photo I have with Grandma, I was 6 or 7 here.

I, like so many others, have been left deeply saddened by the death of Caroline Flack. A beautiful, vivacious, talented young woman who decided that her only option in dealing with the incessant hounding by the press, the trolls, the forthcoming court case, was to end her own life. Quite rightly, it’s sparked a national outpouring and calls for more stringent laws surrounding online bullying and the tabloid press. Caroline's friends and loved ones are devastated and, although I never met her, I shed tears for her and the way she died.

When I was 7 years old my grandmother took her own life. Her name was Sybil, she was born in Ballymena and she was bright and attractive. Her eyes sparkled and she had a love of books which she passed onto my dad, who has passed that on to me and my children. After her marriage to my grandfather ended and Dad had grown up, she remarried. Her second husband, Gordon, was a very cruel man. Today it’s known as ‘coercive control’ and it’s a criminal offense, but back in the early 80s his behaviour went under the radar. He would move furniture and when she remarked on it he would say nothing was different. He opened her letters. He said she had said things she hadn't and when she was understandably confused, he’d say, “Don’t you remember?” He was having affairs. And these are just the things I’m aware of. He wanted to dim her light by trying to make her think she was losing her mind. It was decided she would come and live with us. Before Dad went on a trip working for British Airways, she called and asked him to go and see her before he left, he said he would on his return. Dad was as far away as he possibly could be, on the other side of the world when he heard the news she had died. This is how he was told; the captain of the flight went over to him in the hotel lobby and said, “Are you Morgan? Your mother’s dead.” Dad had to fly back from Melbourne to London as a passenger, on his own for 23 hours. During the flight he heard a little boy ask his mother, “Why is that man crying?” My heart will never not break thinking of that moment. Dad had never liked Gordon and when his cruelty came to light he asked my grandmother what she ever saw in him. She replied, "It's a question I have asked myself many times."

She died of an overdose in hospital at the age of 58.

The wound left by the untimely death of a family member is a gaping one. Eventually there are scars; layered, knotted, growing gnarly as time passes and what lies deep beneath remains raw. Someone dying is a fact that you must learn to live with, but when someone takes their own life the weight of how they died never really lessens. I felt sadness as a child that she was gone, but I didn't understand what had happened. I remember it being a Good Friday and I remember Mum saying we weren't going out. I remember Dad coming home and shutting himself in the bedroom for 3 solid days. As an adult, even with almost 4 decades having passed and having surpassed the age my father was when it happened, the greater understanding means the loss and the way she died still weighs heavy.

Grandma knew her son and daughter-in-law were there for her, she knew we wanted her, that our home was hers. She had the support to leave her sick and twisted husband, there's no doubt she knew she was loved, but in the end she thought her only escape was to leave this world. And 38 years later, especially hearing of tragic deaths like Caroline Flack’s, I still cry about what happened. I cry for Dad and what he went through to come to terms with what happened, I cry for the years we were robbed of having her, and I cry that her pain outweighed the love around her. And that’s what suicide does, it indelibly marks all the lives left to deal with it. The ‘whys' and ‘what ifs’ pierce like knives. Gordon made sure Dad got no inheritance so the only mementos we have of her are some photos, a few handwritten letters and one or two paintings she liked. We treasure them. I admire my dad so much in how he has dealt with it all and his level of acceptance. Although there is pain, he managed to make peace with it.

It’s devastating that people who end their own lives think that there’s no other way out or that the world will be a better place without them in it. That is never, ever the case. Life evolves and changes as we indelicately make our way through it. Nothing is permanent. Sometimes sailing a crest of a wave, sometimes crashing on the shore feeling broken, there will always be another wave and brighter days worth sticking around for. Cruelty can drive someone to suicide. Words can be brutal so we should all choose to be kind. It could help save someone's life. And if you ever feel the black dog scratching at your door, please reach out. To me, to your best friend, a work colleague, anyone. You’re not alone; you are loved, you are wanted, you are important and we can get through anything. Together.

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Feb 19, 2020

That was a beautifully written, painful read. Thank you for sharing.

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