Chris Cornell is dead, and my Facebook feed is full of grief. And posts offering hot cups of tea or coffee and open doors to all who harbour the same kind of desperate suicidal thoughts that plagued the rock star.
But not mine. I don’t feel sad for the man himself.
I feel sorry for Vicky, his wife.
He is gone. He is no longer here to feel sorry for. No, I feel sorry for Vicky, his wife, the one left behind to begin again.
I know how hard it can be when mental health problems worm into the heart of a family, and once lodged there in all that fleshy, juicy love and care, digs in and starts to poison it.
It’s true that I’m not familiar with the star’s music so perhaps that explains my inability to share in the public outpouring of grief. Or maybe it’s just because I am full up with sorry.
I’m sorry for the woman who lost her soul mate. I’m sorry for the days, months, years before his death, that were filled with pain and anger and frustration. For all those bitter tortured arguments that lead to tears alone on a bed wondering if he would ever return from wherever he had stormed out to.
I’m sorry for the terrifying sense of responsibility. When you’re the well one in a relationship common wisdom would have it that you are responsible for the care of the other. You analyse the spat out words. Did he or she really mean ‘I hate my life’? How much, did he mean it? Would he actually act on it?
You’re not the only one who lays the weight of responsibility directly at your feet. Our social services and our overburdened medical services do too. Oh sure, they can write the scripts and deliver the medical remedy, but it is the family who is sent straight back home with their messed-up loved one, to enact the care prescribed by the doctors in their tidy consulting rooms.
They’re the ones asked to monitor the taking of medication. To become immediate medical specialists in recognising signs of deterioration, to try and make do and mend. It’s a mental health crisis out there. So many people hurting. So many people with depression, but God forbid you or your loved one is diagnosed with the less trendy malady – bipolar or schizophrenia.
I’m sorry for the sense of loss. The happy ever after that didn’t happen. The anguish that comes from feeling there’s no way to stop the runaway train and the inevitable tragic end to the journey.
I’m sorry for the guilt. I’m sorry that no matter how hard she tried, how careful and supportive she was, it wasn’t enough to stop him. I’m sorry for her regrets. I’m sorry for her anger. And her soul-destroying guilt.
It never could be enough. We are not responsible for another adult. To ensure the quality and longevity of his life was never her responsibility, but I know she won’t hear it.
All those open doors on Facebook and all those empty tables resplendent with hot drinks and homemade biscuits are pointless hollow gestures. Damaged people don’t often scour the streets looking for open doors. It’s hard enough calling an anonymous telephone number and crying for help. It’s even harder when they tell you, that your pain or your loved one’s pain is not enough. It doesn’t merit immediate attention.
‘But if you could just pop down the road and find an open door…’
And let’s hope you don’t feel that way on a weekend when only crisis teams can help. Is it a crisis? How do you know? When they wheel his body away?
Of course, it is dreadfully sad that Chris’ last days were so tortured, that he so desperately needed help and couldn’t find it. It is tragic, but I still don’t cry for him. Funerals are never for the dead, they are for those still living but dying inside.
The helpers who tried to help.
The helpers who reached the end of their patience and kindness and compassion, and had nothing more to give from the empty shell.
The mother who couldn’t reach the son.
The friend who didn’t want to butt in.
The child who lost his Dad and he doesn’t understand.
The Facebook friend, with her well-meaning door wide open.
The wife who tried so hard and now feels this maelstrom of emotions – anger, guilt, fear, loneliness.
The ones left behind who realise just how temporary this life is. How fragile. Who did what they could. The ones who have to begin living again when they don’t know how. I feel for them with all my aching heart.