In the late 1990’s, I wrote a short story about a suicide club.

Writing such a story demanded that I do a fair bit of research. Despite a lifelong battle with clinical depression, I’d never personally experienced any suicidal thoughts or tendencies, which meant that I had no real idea how one went about taking one’s own life. I’d never looked into it or indeed given it any serious consideration.

I mean, sure. I knew about wrist-slitting and pill-popping. I’d seen pictures of the crisis counselling phones on the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d watched the Very Special Television Shows with the attractive troubled teens sucking down carbon monoxide in their parents’ garages or eating bullets at their kitchen tables. These scenarios were all Hollywood clichés and while I was familiar with every one of them, what I didn’t know is whether they actually worked.

And the only way I could think to find out was on the Internet.

Despite the fact that the Internet of the 1990’s bore almost no resemblance to the Internet of today, it nonetheless did not disappoint. There was an overwhelming amount of resources to choose from. I began lurking in dedicated forums and usenet groups, all of which housed and encouraged very serious dialogues about how to most effectively take one’s own life. Seriously? There was so much information to be found. These threads offered up everything from general advice and personal counsel to shining examples of success and cautionary tales of failed attempts. And while I didn’t engage anyone in these forums – I already felt out-of-place and ghoulish enough as it was –I nonetheless read the stories, absorbed what people had to say, and tried my very best to learn. And I did learn.

I learned a lot about the how.

We’ll get to what I learned about the why a bit later.

The first thing I learned about the how was that reliable methods of committing suicide are few and far between. What’s more, they are extremely difficult to fully realize. These methods require commitment. They require forethought. They require fervent devotion to a task that goes against one’s basic survival instincts. The fact of the matter is that even when the mind believes suicide to be the only/last/best option, the body doesn’t typically agree.

Consequently, an overwhelming number of suicide attempts do not succeed. The 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that of the 1.1 million people who attempted suicide in the United States during 2008, only slightly more than 36,000 succeeded. Those are extremely poor odds, and while these odds may be partially attributable to the “cry for help” contingent of people who never intend for their attempts to be successful, they are also largely attributable to the fact that taking one’s own life is NOT AN EASY TASK. It takes research, dedication, and a measure of sheer will to do it “right.”

That’s one thing I learned.

Another thing I learned is that no reliable method with which to take one’s own life is ever graceful. Or peaceful. There is little to no dignity involved, no “O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die,” scenarios. Which makes a lot of sense, when you think about it. It’s natural for the body to rebel against a murder attempt –any murder attempt, no matter what the source – and to rebel hard. Sorry, M*A*S*H fans, I hate to tell you this, but suicide isn’t painless.

Quite the opposite.

I’m sorry if I’m the one to inform of you this but with any method of suicide there is pain, there is ignominy, and there is mess. As a culture we don’t like to think about this. We’d rather believe there are ways of taking one’s own life that are peaceful, quiet, and conducive to a tranquil passage into whatever mysteries might lay beyond the veil. But the fact of the matter is that this is bullshit. There is no lying down on the bed, taking a pinch of arsenic, and succumbing to eternal slumber while clasping a flower gently to one’s breast. The body simply won’t allow it. There is absolutely no foolproof, effortless method of taking one’s own life that grants peace and dignity to the deceased, nor mercy and serenity to the surviving loved ones.

So that’s what I learned about how.

Now here’s what I learned about why.

Not a damned thing.

After spending days and days in forums and on bulletin boards, reading personal experience after personal experience and trying desperately to understand the motivations of people who wanted such an end for themselves, I was no closer to getting my mind around the whole concept of suicide than I ever was. And in the almost twenty years that have passed since then, no amount of information gathered or experience gleaned has helped me see things more clearly or even put me in a position to say: “Yeah, I would never do it, but I can see how some people might feel that was their only option.”

So when my good friend took her own life the week before last, I was in the position of having an awful lot of accessible data in my head about how it might have happened, and none at all regarding why.

Sure, I can make an educated guess about what method she likely chose – I can at the very least narrow it down – especially given the fact that her husband doesn’t want to tell me. And yes, I can visualize how physically and emotionally painful it must have been for her to take things through to their completion. Indeed I can imagine the loneliness, the mess, the lack of dignity, and all the other awful things that accompanied my friends’ grim transition from vivacious 35-year-old woman to empty, cold, unfeeling shell.

And I can pretty much guarantee that her husband, who found her, was not left with an image of her in sweet lifeless repose, but with something exponentially more disturbing, followed by no answers, only questions, and a lifetime of struggling to heal.

But so what? So what if I have enough information to arrive at informed conclusions regarding how? What I really want to know – what I really need to know – is beyond my capacity to ever know. I would gladly trade in everything I have ever learned about how to have even the smallest glimpse of why, but the fact is that I will never have that chance. No one will.

Ultimately, no matter how much any of us can ever learn about the how, it is sadly the unknowable why that matters.


If you are in the US and are considering suicide and need help, please visit or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) at any time, 24/7.  

In Canada, 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) and 1-800-273-TALK (8255) may be called at any time, 24/7. There are additional regional and situation-specific hotlines listed at

Outside North America, there are resources of help available for you, too. The internet makes them only a quick search away.

Please contact them before you take any action you can’t undo. 


An amazing collection of bright women who somehow manage to work, play, parent and survive and write blog posts all at the same time. We are the BLUNTmoms, always honest, always direct and surprising hilarious.


  1. Beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this story. If we talk about the darkest scariest unimaginable things, drag them into the light, it can only help. Xo

  2. Hello. I just discovered your post. I’m so sorry about your friend. I hope writing has been helpful. It’s so hard to recover from such a shock. You’ve paved the way for others to share such losses.

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