An Insight - What Its Like to Lose Someone to Suicide.
Last Friday, Garden City Gala Chairman, Mr. Tom Blades had the privilege of speaking to Miss Ayla Cresswell and Miss Kristie Davies. Ayla and Kristie, local Toowoomba residents, both suffered the loss of a brother and partner, Mr. Josh Davies, in August 2016, when he committed suicide. The Garden City Gala Team are extremely grateful for these women to openly talk about what is like to lose someone.
"Can you tell us a bit more about the weeks leading up to, and after Josh's death?”
Ayla: "The months and weeks leading up to Josh’s passing provided no warning signs for me that Josh would take his own life. Josh had so much to live for. He was playing A Grade football for Brothers Rugby League Club Toowoomba. He was doing an apprenticeship in Bricklaying with his Dad and worked with his two best mates."
"He had a great group of friends and loving family. We had a beautiful relationship, savings for a house and a trip to back to Bali. We had plans for a wedding and children. It was his birthday three days before he took his own life, we had a big family dinner and then a big breakfast with all his mates."
"I watched him laughing and smiling and cracking jokes just days before he took his own life. It was a total shock and none of us saw it coming. He had so many people that loved and cared about him and had so much to live for - but unfortunately, it is a permanent and irreversible. Whatever it was, in that moment made him feel that he couldn’t live that way anymore and he made that choice to end his own life."
"The minutes, hours, days, weeks and months after Josh’s passing all blurred into one. Having to make phone calls to parents, friends, and family to tell them Josh had passed was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do."
"Looking into the eyes of Josh’s parents who had just lost their son, or his siblings who had lost their brother, or a nephew that had just lost his uncle - to see so much pain and hurt. The biggest question everyone had is why?"
"Why would someone who had so much to live for take their own life?"
"There was so much confusion, so much devastation, and heartache. We were very fortunate to have a lot of beautiful friends and family who supported both me and Josh’s family leading up to the funeral. Those days were so hard, trying to plan a funeral when the reality of what’s happened hasn’t even sunken in. Trying to choose photos and songs to sum up such a beautiful life was almost impossible. Oceans of tears and heartache and still not understanding how or why this happened. Knowing we couldn’t reverse Josh’s decision and knowing how much he would regret it all was very hard. We all stuck together and supported each other through the hard times, we all had to accept that we all grieved differently and in different ways. I was very lucky to have such a supportive workplace (Commonwealth Bank) where I was able to return to work after a month or so, for a few days a week. Getting my routine back helped, but your world changes from that point - it’s split into “before” and “after” Josh’s death and that’s it. It’s changed the way I look at the world - and the first six months were very hard, but you just keep moving forward and staying positive."
"The anniversary was emotional, but we accepted it as the first of many, and tried to make sure we remembered his life and not just his death and celebrated that. It’s almost been one and a half years for us now. We all still love him and miss him every day and he will always still be a big part of my life and the lives of those around me."
"Which gender do you think gets more depressed? And why?"
Kristie: "I don’t think depression really discriminates against gender. I am aware men have a higher rate of suicide, but women also have a high rate of suicide attempts - they tend to use less aggressive methods then males and there is more of a chance to have someone find them."
"I think women are more open to talking about their issues than men. The stigma around mental health is what prevents a lot of people from talking about it – I feel they just don’t feel comfortable talking to their mates about their mental health because they feel it might make them look ‘weak’."
"Why do you think people keep it (depression) a secret? What are people so afraid to talk about?"
Ayla: "I feel people don’t want to talk about it because it can sometimes be hard to start a conversation about their mental health. It is hard to explain to people who haven’t been through it, and sometimes people feel like they are a disappointment - and a let down to their loved ones. They are scared of being treated differently."
"Sometimes you have to ask for help and that’s ok. There shouldn’t be any shame in asking for help but there is such a shadow cast across mental health and suicide – it is almost a taboo subject that people don’t want to talk about because they don’t want to be ‘different’, when the reality of it is that most people at some stage in their lives have had something which has had an impact on their mental health."
"We need to remove the stigma and shadow off mental health, and show that it is ok, to not be ok."
"Why is it so important for men and women to stand up and speak?"
Kristie: "The people around you who love and care about you cannot read your mind, they cannot look at you and see the darkness that’s swirling around in your head. They do not know if you are struggling unless you tell them, and when you do tell them, they WILL help you."
"People do care – and if you tell them what’s going on and how you are feeling they can and will help you. If you are not comfortable talking to them then you can book in with your GP and have a fully confidential chat with them and go through some options. By opening up and talking out you might encourage others to do so."
"What do you say to someone who's just lost someone to suicide?"
Ayla: "As cliché as it sounds - stay strong. Just focus on the day in front of you and putting one foot in front of the other. Try to let go of negative emotions, which will flood your body with guilt and anger, and just be patient and kind to yourself."
"There will be some days you feel like you’re drowning and the grief and guilt can be overwhelming but the days will get easier with time. The first 6 months are very hard, but you just keep your thoughts as positive as you can and try not to be hard on yourself. Try to focus on their life and not their death, amongst the heartache and tears. There will be a lot of beautiful memories, so just try and focus on them as much as you can, and remember that no one can take those away from you, they are yours forever."
"Biggest thing is just be KIND to yourself – it is a special kind of hell losing someone to suicide, it brings with it some very hard and dark emotions and a lot of guilt but you just need to remember that you never got a say in their decision, if it was your choice and you could have stopped them in that moment you would have, but it was their choice and as heartbreaking and hard as it is, you need to accept that and not hold guilt."
"Why do you think events like The Garden City Gala, are so important to local communities?"
Kristie: "The more awareness we can get out in the community the better. It shows local people that we have a lot of support and there are a lot of organisations like The Black Dog Institute, who are tackling mental health and suicide awareness - because it is such a big problem. Events like the Garden City Gala are great because not only do they bring people together for a great cause which raises money for a great organisation – it is a conversation starter. It encourages people to start talking more about their mental health and the more events which are focused on mental health will hopefully help reduce the stigma."
"If there is someone out, just like Josh, who's reading this - what would you live to say to them?"
Ayla: "I know the way you’re feeling now is that you’re never going to get past this moment, that this moment is going to consume all the happiness and light left in your world, but please please push through this, storms do pass. You do matter and you are important. You were put on earth for a reason. Just because you’ve had a bad hour, bad day, bad week or bad month doesn’t mean you’ve got a bad life."
"If you’re trying methods to get your mental health on track and they’re not working - please keep trying! Because one day when you’re past all this, you will realise why it was so important that you held on. People do care and they do love you. Open up and tell people you care and trust about how you’re feeling, and don’t say you “don’t want to worry them” because it’s a lot better than having them attend your funeral - that is an irreversible heartache that doesn’t go away."
"I have had so many people (both male and female) open up to me about their mental health issues, suicidal thoughts or attempts. This was so overwhelming for me, I was so shocked to see so many people who I would have never even thought twice about, being at risk of suicide, standing in front of me telling me their heartbreaking and raw stories."
"Every single one of them different, some battling with depression for years, others planning suicides for months, and drafting up notes, and others living normal steady lives. It has made me very passionate about mental health, and encouraging people to talk about their mental health issues, and look at all options because suicide should never be an option."
"Don’t ever give up because you haven’t even experienced some of the best days of your life yet, and they’re coming. So don’t cut it short. Push through this storm and focus on making the rest of your life, the best of your life."