A Friend In Need

6 April 2009

Last week, I received an email from the sister of a friend of mine in England.  I know the sister vaguely but haven’t seen her for about 15 years.  The friend I’ve known for nearly 30 years.  We were never particularly close but liked each other and communicated 2 or 3 times a year.

My friend has died.  I was shocked and baffled as I heard from her only about 3 weeks ago and had no reason to believe that she was ill.  The email didn’t read as though she’d had an accident.  So I wrote back with a (I hope) gentle enquiry.  My friend had committed suicide.

I’ve no idea how or, more importantly, why.  And I’ll probably never know.  I can’t really demand that her sister tell me, and it’s possible she doesn’t know either.  I don’t know whether there was a note or any explanation.

I understand that often when this happens, friends and family feel a dreadful sense of guilt.  Why didn’t they see this coming?  What could they have done to help?  I don’t feel personal guilt about this because ours had become more of a “Christmas Letter” type of friendship than a sharing of our emotions.  I just feel very sad that someone I knew and who was an intelligent, fairly wealthy woman, in a good job and with a large circle of friends couldn’t see any other way out of whatever her problem was. 

If I could have helped, obviously I would have.  I bet a lot of people on that email list are feeling like that now.  And am I just kidding myself to think that nothing I could have done would have made any difference?

I’ll never know. 



  1. Sally, nothing you could have done would have prevented your friend taking her life. Suicide is not always a rational response to life’s darker days. Even if you had been there, you may not have known how she was feeling or what her intentions were. She may not have known herself until she took the leap. So be kind to yourself – grieve for your friend, feel shocked and wonder why it happened, but don’t feel that you might have been able to prevent it.

  2. Listen to Grandma Flea. You will often wonder and never know why – we are not meant to know all. So very sad when things like this happen.

  3. Sally, I’m so sorry you’ve had such news (and that your friend of old felt she had no other option).

    Miserable feeling even at such a distance. Big hug.

  4. There’s such a sense of loss and regret when a friend dies – however the death happens. I’m sure she valued her contact with you.

  5. I’m so sorry this has happened. I sometimes think one of the hardest things about life is the stuff we can’t finish and have to accept that it is what it is. Take care.

  6. I’m so sorry to hear this news, Sally. My thoughts are with you at this time.

    Grandma Flea’s advice is far more eloquent than anything I could have cobbled together.

  7. I’m sorry to hear this news Sally, can only imagine how you must have felt. As others have said, Grandma Flea’s advice is sound.

  8. I am sorry to hear about your friend. Suicide is so brutal and final for those left behind. I hope you can find some peace.

    I had a friend suicide years ago, and I felt guilty that our friendship had ended on bad terms, that I never had the chance to mend our friendship.

    About ten years later, I ran into a mutual friend, who told me that he had seen her just before she died. He said that she had wanted to catch up with me to apologise too.

    Ultimately, I spent far too long feeling responsible for her pain, and I realised that her pain was just bigger than both of us.

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