Defined Sight

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Suicide and Coping with Coworkers

Suicide and Coping with Coworkers

The word suicide never bothered me to say or type before until this week. I know others who experienced suicide with their families or friends, but not directly. This week, one of the members in management who interviewed me for the current position I am in, I often consulted with for specific questions and he wore a referee shirt if a coworker and I took opposite stances, took his own life. Processing the loss has been difficult. Two days in the office has felt like two weeks. Here’s how we are all trying to help each other.

The Sound of Silence is Real

Quiet time at home with a toddler is very rare; my husband I are usually answering the same questions on repeat, “Is it morning time? Can you play bat ball with me? Can I watch Moanna again? Is it your favorite movie too mom?!!”  When we learned about the death over the weekend, I did not realize the constant questions and distractions in my home filled the sound of silence and blocked the full suicide impact on my mental and emotional state. After I dropped our son off at daycare on Monday morning, I was alone in my car driving to work when the suicide realization hit me like a tidal wave. I tried to keep it together, but when I arrived at my cube, the office was unbearably quiet. It’s always quiet, which I usually love because I can jump in and focus on my work, but this time it was different. I started uncontrollably crying and walked out of the office debating if I should go home. I got it together enough to go back in to gather my things, but then overheard my supervisor say we were all going to meet right away in the conference room. I reluctantly grabbed some tissues, dashed to the conference room to get a coveted corner seat, and like any millennial, pretended to text in awkward situations to avoid looking at grieving coworkers who would likely trigger me blubbering again.

Group Meetings & Working Together Breaks the Silence

We sat in the conference room together for almost 2 hours. At first, no one spoke, then the head manager filled the silence. He went over the timeline of events this past weekend, as much details he could share after his conversations with the police and our coworker’s spouse and we were able to ask as many questions as we wanted. At the time of this meeting, it was not officially ruled as a suicide yet as the police were still conducting their investigation, which worsened our need to know how he died and why did it happen. This meeting also brought our position in this matter in perspective: we were the coworkers; we were not in the close friends and family circle.  When a family member or close friend passes, we are privileged to know immediate details of the situation as it unfolds and I think this immensely helps in the understanding and grieving process. Whereas in this situation, we were treated like the general public, which was difficult as our coworker was extremely close to members in our office. However, just because we spent over 40 hours a week with him, knew his favorite coffee creamer and could identify his lunch containers in the fridge, did not give us a right to know about the situation more than his family.

After the meeting, I felt like I could continue staying at work as I was surrounded by people who all felt the same way as I did. We laughed, cried and some even lashed out in anger as expected during these situations. I returned to my cube and was again welcomed by the sound of silence…uggh. The group meeting did have a positive impact on me; it made me realize I needed to be busy and work with others. I marched into my supervisor’s office and made it clear I could not work on my activities today and gave my ideas how else I could be helpful. Her stressed-out, sleep-deprived response was empowering, “Go forth and do great things. Fix anything that you see needs fixing and work with whoever you need to get it done. I trust you.”  Another coworker overheard my conversation and joined in. Together we began canceling our deceased coworker’s travel and fall business meetings. I handled everything I could do by online or email, and he made the personal phone calls. This wasn’t our job, it was the office assistant’s job, but this gave us a purpose for the day we could handle. Our office assistant was unfortunately answering the main phone line ringing off the hook and fielding all the questions of why and how that were hitting our office. I would not have wanted that job, but she handled it with grace and dignity, was the right person for it, referred callers to the lead manager when needed and I was glad we were able to help lighten her load in a small, productive way.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Inside the office, we were all in triage mode working with others on the same mission and page to get things done. In our own little bubble. However outside the office, I did not expect to be hit with the situation. Randomly, a person recognizes me and asks if I worked closely with the person that just committed suicide. I acknowledge yes and become defensive as the investigation had not been ruled a suicide yet. The person continued on and provided more details supporting the suicide, clearly indicating they knew more about this death than I did. I wasn’t prepared to deal with these type of blunt and untactful questions, but managed to find a way to turn the table on the person by stating our office was grieving the loss of our coworker whom we were very close with but have not been privileged to know specifics about the situation since we weren’t family, but eventually everything will likely come out soon enough after the investigation is complete. Insert mic drop and walk away.

When the obituary came out in the paper, we were again hit with the unexpected. In lieu of flowers, they asked donations be sent to suicide prevention charities. This is how we were officially notified it was ruled as a suicide. The date of death also did not coincide to the timeline of events were were given; this caused a new wave of uncertainty and panic attacks, “Did he suffer days before dying?!” It made me want to argue with any report the police may have written up and discredit whoever the coroner was, “This death was accidental you fools! It was immediate and he did not suffer!” Clearly, I am somewhere stuck in between the denial and anger phase and can only be comforted by facts that we may not ever know.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Most of the members of our office plan on attending the funeral. We are continuing meeting as a group in our office. Some members look annoyed and want to move on with life and work. Other members still cry.  We all have questions. No one may know the answers, but we recognize everyone grieves differently so we are respectful and continue meeting, speaking and coping. We plan on donating to a suicide charity as directed in the obituary, but because this was such a key member in our office we want to do more of a memorial for how much he contributed to our workplace. Turkey trots, suicide walks or other upcoming social events have also been discussed to participate in as a group together where we can also show our support for our coworker. We all agreed to honor and focus on his life and not his death. The hardest part we are trying to accept are the facts we could not have prevented it, nor could have recognized any signs leading up to it. We are all intelligent people, but realize we could drive ourselves to the point of crazy if we spend an endless amount of time and stress trying to compile what and where things went wrong in our coworker’s life to lead him to believe whatever demons he may have been battling outweighed his will to live.

Until we find acceptance, we will try and positively influence what we can in our circle of control.  The tragedy in Las Vegas, coupled with this suicide event, rocked us to our core. Looking at what may be in your closest circle of control, if you have kids, nieces, nephews, siblings or are around other littles: please love them. Teach them kindness, patience, forgiveness and how to be a good human.  The best gift is to give back. Try and give this world another human who works to save life, and not end it.

How has suicide, or another tragic event, impacted your life? How has it shaped it? How have you coped?

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about this, Mrs. Defined Sight. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to make your way into the office. Hopefully writing about this was therapeutic for you. I always find that writing is helpful for me to deal with things and cope. Fortunately, I have not had any personal experience with suicide in terms of anyone I know. However, I’ve definitely had to go through other tragic events, and I’ve personally battled anxiety and depression. I’m way past that now, though. To answer your questions, it shaped my life in terms of how I interact with others. I genuinely want to be nicer to people because I realize how fragile life is. It also made care less about what others think since life is so short. To cope, I wrote a lot and started blogging. I spent a lot of time with family and friends. I even linked up with a few acquaintances that I hadn’t seen in years. I began to understand my own values and personality a lot more. I think being grounded and knowing what you stand for really goes a long way. Understanding yourself and how you can contribute to this world seems to help. Thanks for sharing! My sincerest condolences for the loss!
    Graham @ Reverse The Crush recently posted…That’s what the f—k you do!—To become a Successful BloggerMy Profile

    • Mrs Defined Sight

      October 7, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful response and condolences. Your coping tactics are great reminders of what I should be doing more of as well…do more things we enjoy, be kinder and don’t forget about those who are important to you and you want to keep in life!

  2. I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of life. It’s been a very sad start to the month. Though such events seem to be happening more often and all around us, which is very troubling to say the least.

    What would the future look like? I’m afraid to think.

    I wish I could go back to the 80s which is my favorite decade, the best music, the best movies, and the best video games (e.g. qbert, pacman) and there were less of bad news, or maybe I was just a kid and didn’t know any better?

    Take care
    Mr. ATM recently posted…My Magic Heat Map Says: IBM Shares Ripe For BuyingMy Profile

    • Mrs Defined Sight

      October 7, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Thank you Mr. ATM; I agree – 80s rocked or at least early 90s too! and I think we were in simpler times back then as well. Sigh.

  3. Sad times. I have experienced two co-worker suicides so far in my career. One was my section supervisor when I was brand new (many years ago). The other happened just two years ago to my new immediate supervisor.

    During the more recent suicide, they closed down work the next day after the news broke during the morning meeting.

    Suicide is a horrible thing.
    MrDoublingDollars recently posted…Presenting My $10/Day Side-Hustle Challenge!My Profile

    • Mrs Defined Sight

      October 7, 2017 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing Mr. Doubling Dollars, I find it very interesting that my coworker, as well as yours, were all in Supervisory positions. I was in my darkest days when I was supervising as well; the burden of others can really weigh down a person and I hope it wasn’t a factor in their decision, but likely did not help whatever else they may have been dealing with.

  4. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your close co-worker. I’ve never encountered a situation like that, so I can’t imagine what it was like and what you were going through I think you and your co-workers are doing a great thing by focusing on celebrating your co-workers life and spreading awareness to an issue that impacts way more people than we know. This last weekend I attended a celebration of life for an old family friend that passed away and it was a great reception. Completely different circumstance, but the point is that celebrations of life can be a beautiful thing.

    One thing I’ve tried to teach myself over the last few years is to be careful about what you say to people that may be controversial or unnecessarily critical. The truth is you never know what that person may be dealing with internally or at home. You may see a front in the office, but behind the scenes there could be something that is really bothering an individual. As you said, be compassionate, kind and understanding. I could not put my thoughts together any better than you did in your final paragraph.

    Bert
    Dividend Diplomats recently posted…Bert’s Fourth Quarter Finance and Life GoalsMy Profile

    • Mrs Defined Sight

      October 12, 2017 at 6:32 am

      Indeed Dividend Diplomants…a great reminder to treat everyone as if they are battling something, because we all truly are. Whether it be our own stresses, demons, taking care of aging parents, even addictions – we all have something that can mentally and physically pull us away from where we want or should be!

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