For Jo

jo by chris barber

This isn’t something I ever thought I’d write about on this blog. In fact I toyed with the idea of whether or not I should actually post this for ages. But instead of trying to think about it too much I just started typing to see where it would go… writing is cathartic for me and I really just felt like I wanted to get this all out of my head. I’d decide whether to publish it or not later.

On Sunday, my friend Jo committed suicide.

Just writing those words feels unreal, like I’m in some kind of dream world or alternate reality. Dealing with death is fucking hard, dealing with death when someone has taken their own life is utterly devastating. There are just so many unanswered questions.

But I’m not writing this because I want any kind of “Oh I hope you’re OK” comments. As much as I appreciate them this is not about me. It’s about a far from being about me as anything I’ve ever written.

Jo suffered from depression. I knew she had low self esteem, and we’d spoken about it many times, but I really genuinely didn’t know how rough it was for her. And that makes me feel terrible. Like I was a totally awful friend for not knowing more, doing more, asking more.

I keep going over all our conversations in my head, wondering if I could have done anything differently or said something more helpful. I feel so guilty.

I wanted to write this today to try, in whatever small way I can, to reach out to any of you that might also be suffering. I want to encourage you to talk to people, and to never give up. Life is precious, life is short, life is worth fighting for.

FilmParis-Cov-91webbw

Depression is not some kind of comfort blanket that you need to hold on to. It does not define you. Life is so amazing when you finally fight to save yourself, when you come out the other side.

You have people that love and care for you. However low you feel, you are never alone. I don’t know if Jo knew how much I, and so many of her other friends, loved her. She was the life and soul of us and we just can’t believe she’s gone, that we’re never going to hear that laugh of hers again.

There was a time when I wanted to end it all too. When I tried, and failed, to take my own life. I am thankful everyday that I was unsuccessful. You never know what’s waiting for you just around the corner.

If I can help just one person with these words, then goodness, it’s been a worthwhile thing to publish. I know not everyone will be wanting or expecting to read this on a wedding blog, and I hope you’ll forgive my deviation from my regularly scheduled programming today, but this is something I just had to write.

To Chris, her boyfriend, and to all her close friends and family, my endless love and support is with you now and forever. I wish I could do more to help but all I can say is that I’m thinking of you all and sending as much love as I possibly can.

Jo, you were the most beautiful creature. I wish I could have done more.

Supporting Cast

182 comments

  1. It’s never an easy situation to be in, for anyone involved. I feel grief for family & friend. As someone who struggles daily with mental health, I feel I often sit on this weird fence about suicide. Also, a note it’s more correct to use the term ‘passed away by suicide’ as ‘commited suicided’ is a very dated term to when it was against the law. (Gosh, I hope that doesn’t come across the wrong way, I just know a few people who get offended by that term)

  2. Ive never commented on on blog before, but I just had to say, that I think everyone will forgive you for the deviation!
    I’m sure in most cases, suicide is a solitary event and yet it has often such far-reaching repercussions for many others. It is a bit like throwing a stone into a lake; the ripples spread and spread.
    But your words will have rippled out and reached someone and even if it helps just one person to reach out for help, then it will have been worth it!
    Thoughts to all those in the ripples tide.
    x

  3. She is such a beautiful girl – what a devastating loss for her friends and family. Depression is an extremely frightening illness and my deepest sympathy goes out to them. x

  4. Amanda

    Thank you for sharing this. Today you have helped me more than you can imagine. You have made me look at life differently for the first time in a long time. Thank you x

  5. Leanne

    Sometimes when you tell people they become tired of you bringing them down. Or your ‘low vibe’ isn’t wanted in their presence. Maybe that’s a lack of real friends. Millions are in that position and it will continue to happen. Because no one really cares until it effects them.

  6. Danella

    Such a tricky, complicated subject. As a woman living with both depression and anxiety who has on numerous occasions been a hairsbreadth from The End I empathise with Jo. As a woman who knows only too deeply the overwhelming devastation of the unexpected loss of one so vibrant I sympathise with all that loved and lost her.
    What drives me nuts though is the You’re not alone comments. I’ve reached out so many times to the people on my life, I’m very open about my illness and don’t expect it to be treated with kid gloves. And the responses have ranged from “buck up, just be more positive” to “oh yeah, depression *puzzled face*” to “how DARE you ask me to be more present in your life” so excuse me if I say that in my darkest hours I was truly alone.
    If I had died would people have come out of the woodwork to say they love me? Oh no doubt. You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone right.
    If at those times I had allowed my self worth to be based on how I was treated I wouldn’t be here today. I have a cacophony of self harm scars instead. And I’m ever so grateful for every single scar because each one (whist not a positive, healthy, or recommend coping mechanism) reminds me that I am stronger than this. That I am worthy of love, support and true friends. True friends I have found. None of those that rejected me, accused me of attention seeking (and my personal favourite from a supposed close friend whilst I was in the midst of a huge panic attack “if that’s what you’re blathering about then perhaps you SHOULD just kill yourself”) are welcome to share my life anymore. But it was a REALLY tough road that I know many don’t get to make the journey…
    This post brought up so many emotions and I’m struggling to articulate a point beyond the fact that Being Alone and Feeling Alone are so far apart, but in those darkest moments when hope is something you can’t fathom it’s how you feel that leads your actions.
    So think about those you care about, be as active in their lives as you can. Tell them you love them. More importantly SHOW them. Constantly. Be there so that they never have to ask you to be there, asking is sometimes harder than the thought of checking out.
    Gosh. And I don’t mean to insinuate that Jo was alone, unloved or unappreciated. She has an illness that complicates feelings without even trying. But by being more aware, more loving, more active towards your loved ones you might just be able to help save a life.

  7. Post author

    Amanda, you have no idea how amazing it is to hear that. stay strong, keep talking, don’t give up. sending you so much love.

  8. Post author

    Danella – I’m so sorry you feel that you havent had the support around you. I hope you will manage to keep battling through. You are worth the fight.

  9. Claire Penn Photography

    Beautifully written Kat – and thank you for hitting publish. Having a partner with depression and low self esteem is tough, and I know personally what it’s like living with the fear of what could happen… I cannot pretend to know what it feels like when it does. My sympathy and love goes out to Chris, Jo’s family and to you and all her other friends. I’m sat here in tears and I never even met Jo. I saw her once at EWE in Birmingham on Chris’ stand and her smile lit up the room. So much so that I remember thinking he had a huge advantage over the other photographers with her there to captivate people! A beautiful girl, if only she’d been able to see herself as everyone else did. x

  10. My family deal with a depressed relative every day. It’s super hard but the 1 piece of advice given to me by a councillor was to tell them they r loved. Wen ever it hits u, phone or txt them and tell them as u never kno wen u may have just caught them at a super low moment. ♡♡

  11. Anna

    This was a beautifully written piece … As a person who suffers from Bipolar /clinical depression among other things… FYI a little dark but I am being honest ….. You cannot blame yourself for not doing more it is a fight that is never ending and arduous, draining and a myriad of other adjectives I could use to describe how hard it is.Our emotions are not of “normal” people we hurt in so many ways it is unimaginable to most and unreasonable to others… Not just inward pain .. MY skin would feel to tight it hurt when people wanted to hug me…I have tried to take my life more times than I care to admit .. Pills the counting and recounting setting everything up the razors, the knife the thoughts about how hard is it to actually obtain a gun … thinking about the note you need to leave to let everyone no it is not there fault .. or not writing it at all. The days and nights of crying of feeling the pain you can’t even know is there it is a pit of nothingness that you never seem to fill. You think, hope, pray that tomorrow, well tomorrow you hope it doesn’t come never waking up again seems to be the hope for all of us who ” suffer” from this disease but if it does come you hope it gets better and you can be happy … Don’t get me wrong we have our moments of happy but it is just that, a fleeting moment, nothing that lasts as long as we want or need it to.Even with meds, they are supposed to make us feel ” normal” whatever that is but it makes allot of us VERY abnormal we lose the bits and pieces that makes us the weird quirky fun stuff that is us… I became a shell of my former self no writing no painting no dancing around my house singing crazy 80’s music I just sat and stared into space Anyway I am rambling.. My point is you could not EVER have known how much pain she was in she might have opened the door a smidge but you only got a nano glimpse of the pain she was in and that was because she did not want you to know how hard things were for her. If anyone of you ever met my friends and you asked to describe me … they would say OH Anna ?! She is loud and boisterous and quirky creative artistic giving loving I am a do what I want kind of chick because that is what I do..she seems so happy and sometimes even put together… how do I know this ?because I asked my friends when I was in my deepest darkest hours I was sifting through the ashes of my life and begging for a reason to stay on this planet Anyway I digress again .. we put on our pretty mask and our matching heels and pretend that life is wonderful and the view through our rose colored glasses is grand, but in all reality it is our fight our battle against ourselves and some of us come out on the other side and some of do indeed die in the line of fire against ourselves and we relive this fight everyday of our sad existence .. All you can do is love them and be there for them and leave your life open for them to crawl into when there world is too hard to deal, encourage them to get the needed help ( especially even when they are feeling good) and know you have no control over what is inside of them and sadly also resolve to yourself that one day they might not be there. I am grateful to my friends and I will say they have been there for me through soo much crap, but in the end I know better than anyone of them that if I can’t control it.. I will either be in the right mind to check myself into the hospital or end the pain once and for all… Sorry you lost your friend it is a sad happening, but take comfort knowing that she isn’t suffering and maybe even happy <3 Ciao and sorry for the rambling Anna

  12. Lynette Niequist

    Your post might be the one spark that allows someone with deep depression to reach out for help but no one left behind should ever blame themselves for not having done enough. If the UK has NAMI groups, they are a wonderful source for information and support.

  13. Elaine Croft

    That was hard to read as a sufferer of depression and anxiety. Some weeks I have those thoughts every day and wonder if there is any point to life when I am so unhappy. I often feel so low that I think every one would be happier if I wasn’t around and that they wouldn’t notice. I don’t like to burden people with my problems so keep them locked up inside. God bless you and Jos family RIP x

  14. Chrissy

    No words can convey how deeply sorry i am for you all. Writing this must have been really hard for you but you know what? I believe that you are what i call one of ‘Life’s Angels’, as you are not thinking of yourself but putting other people first and that is a lovely attribute to have. You have a gift and no doubt this has helped many people in the past so don’t be too hard on yourself.
    I know what you are feeling as have been there but at the end of the day you can’t save everyone. Much love. C x x

  15. Utterly heartbreaking. I don’t think it’s possible to make any sense of such a tragedy, and I feel desperately sorry for the life that has been lost, and for those left behind who will forever ask why?

  16. Hey Kat thanks sooo much for sharing that’s incredibly brave. Much love and respect to you lady and your journey and the battles you’ve overcome . To Jo’s family and especially Chris as one of the photography fraternity my heart goes out to you brother and praying for comfort for you all at this time and that somehow you’ll get through this.

  17. Samantha

    Happy thoughts and all sorts of love coming your way and her families way. What you wrote was beautifully written.

  18. louisem

    This is a such a beautiful post about such a hard subject, it has hit a nerve with me as yesterday I found out that my brother, who has dealt with depression for years, has started self harming again and has told my dad that he doesn’t want to be here anymore. He has a loving family, a good job and friends…everything a young man thrives on and yet for reasons we cant fathom, he cant find his way out of this depression, he has even said he doesn’t understand his feelings and they scare him. I hope to God he doesn’t try to take his own life again, I keep playing different endings for the scenario my brother and my family have found ourselves in. Its so hard to know the right thing to do and we are always second guessing ourselves, thinking about the “what if’s” We can only be there for the people we love, we can only give guidance and support and unconditional love. I am truly sorry for your loss, I can only imagine, and often do, the pain that a suicide brings to those left behind.

  19. Kelly

    There are no words…people can say the normal things like, “I hope you are ok” or, “I am so sorry for your loss”….but it will never take away the emptiness and pain and confusion that goes along with a suicide. I was almost in Jo’s shoes too about 5 years ago…thankfully I survived. My niece tried to hang herself almost 2 years ago when she was 15…thank Goddess her older brother kicked the door down and got to her before it was too late. My aunt committed suicide when I was about 7 or 8 years old and she used a gun to do it. I remember watching my grandmother (her sister) go through everything back then and it made me so sad even as a small child who really didn’t understand everything at the time. I just knew my Aunt Louise was gone and everyone cried a lot and some were angry and her son was just completely destroyed. Lots of people say suicide is a selfish act, but I do not believe that. People do not commit suicide because they want to die. They commit suicide to end the pain they feel inside. I have felt that way many times…like if I kept hurting I would break apart inside so why not just get it over with…at least I would be at peace and my children wouldn’t have to see their mother so completely broken all the time. That was my thinking. I am glad I didn’t succeed, but there are so many that do and it leaves behind such a void for their loved ones. Questions that, honestly, can never be answered. All I can say is to comfort each other, love each other, hug and kiss each other, and remember the loving and beautiful person Jo was and the glorious person she is now in the afterlife. Whether you believe in angels or the afterlife it doesn’t matter. She is watching over you, she sees and feels your pain, and she is sorry…but she is also finally free. it’s no consolation, I know this. I just hope you find some kind of comfort together. Just be together and remember the wonderful person she undoubtedly was. I wish you nothing but comfort and arms to hug you and love to surround you all at this time. <3

  20. Manda

    Thanks for posting this Kat, I can relate to so much of it.

    Often you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family as they’ll tell you to get over it, or don’t understand.I’d encourage anyone who is feeling lost, lonely or depressed to contact Samaritans. I’d be lost without them, and I actually became one myself to support others. No one should go through depression alone.

  21. What a beautiful smile.
    We struggle with death because the feelings its brings are not natural.
    I have two friends. Both struggled in the same way with depression. One detached themselves from their friends and choose not to reach out. He took his own life. The other gathered his friends and family around him and said help me. He is now trying to make people aware of what its like. He believes the only reason he is still alive is because he choose to reach out.

  22. Such awful news – I only met Jo a couple of times but she seemed so funny and vibrant, just awful that the horrible illness that is depression can snatch someone away like that.

    I lost my uncle to suicide a few years ago, and so whilst I can never know what you, her family and all of those who loved her are going through, I do know that there is an incredibly odd mixture of feelings that go along with this situation – this was a beautiful post, and as with all things depression related I really do think the more we all talk about it, the better.

  23. Laura

    Heartbreaking. I’m so so sorry :(

    I’m sure you have touched many with your words, including me, and not even neccasarily through this post, but I know somewhere in this world you have given someone the strength to fight through another day. x

  24. Angela

    Kat, I’m terribly sorry for you loss. I want to tell you that no matter what happened in the past and what’s going on now, you have to know that this isn’t your fault. There are so many questions, what ifs, and whys, but just know you shouldn’t feel guilty and rely on your support system.

    My mom committed suicide back in November after a few attempts and dealing with a lot of struggles in her life. I would have never known that that day it would happen; it just did. I really hope that you’re doing OK, though I know it probably doesn’t feel like it will be. You have so many readers who care about you, just know we’re here! Sorry for you loss.

  25. Steph ciancimino

    I’m sure that jo would be very proud of your posting this and raising Mich needed awareness. I lost someone recently though suicide he was my “uncle” Mark. The biggest character and the best heart. He too was depressed and after several failed attempts the last one worked. I’m proud to have known him, sad to have lost him and happy to have had several laughs with him. Death is a horrendous thing to comprehend and the pain huts so much. Be proud that you found the courage to post this I’m pleased that you did

  26. Natalie

    Last year two friends, from completely different spheres of my life and completely unconnected to each other, choose suicide. I discovered rather than it being an instant decision, it’s a choice that takes great planning and detail. Fundamentally it is a choice, for those of us connected to those who have chosen this path it’s a choice we don’t often understand and one that breaks us into tiny little pieces. They are gone and we are never the same again.
    My friends were both loved; one had a little boy, they had families who loved and supported them and they had friends too. Although my friends were completely unconnected there were many similarities; they felt broken and the choice to live was no longer a choice.
    As their friend you have to give yourself time, plenty of time, to grieve and if you reach the point of acceptance, well you’ve done well.
    Love and light x

  27. To be in such a frame of mind to feel like ending it all must be a horrible place to be. It does seem incredible that in this day in age these situations occur / we can not spot or the sufferer can not reach out to alert us and when they do, are we short of useless?? It seems that many of us lucky ones who do not suffer have a naive “things can’t be that bad” attitude. I think I may be one of those or at least I was until this. I along with anyone else reading this story must be more open to the fact that depression is not a weakness, it is an illness that can not be cured by just taking a pill or putting a plaster over it. I do feel utterly sad for her and of course friends and family who will be wondering about how, what, why and could we have done more.

  28. Sergio

    She is in a better place. If you are confused about this, you’ve never felt truly depressed or suicidal. It’s not an impulse. It’s something that has been thought about for years and carefully considered. I’ve lost a cousin to suicide who was just not built for this world, he was too sensitive. We have to weigh out the options… Is it better for a single person to suffer and carry the pain inside, or us more robust types to deal with the grief and move on and get better from it?

  29. Tisa

    Thank you for posting this. I’m struggling to maintain my equilibrium at the moment and this was so timely for me.

    I agree with Danella that this is a tricky subject. I know when I’ve had my worst episodes of depression my friends and family come out of the woodwork and plead that they love me, but on a daily, weekly, monthly basis I barely hear from them. Saying someone is not alone is not the same as being ‘with’ them, either physically or with an emotional connection (such as regular phone calls).

    Let’s remember too that depression is so much more than feeling alone and that can’t be the sole cause of a tragedy like this. Don’t blame yourself, yes perhaps you could have done something and perhaps your doing it may not have helped. Just cherish the memory of your wonderful friend and relish those who are around you now. Depression is an illness which just like other illnesses cannot be wished away.

    I’m thinking of you from the other end of the earth. My heart goes out to all affected by this loss.

  30. Alyson

    Suicide is just horrific, that someone can get so close to doing something so permanent without giving any/many outward signs, its just scares the bejesus out of me. The fact that we walk amongst people every day who might feel a hairs breadth away from this point hurts my heart, that as a nation we seem to struggle with talking about this out loud.

    Suicide is such a permanent fix to a temporary problem, and that’s not to try and minimise depression as a passing phase but to say that with the right support life can be made more tolerable, but speaking out is the first place to start.

  31. I don’t comment on blogs much either. However I look forward to reading your blog everyday. And I love the stories and ideas that are brought here. And the pictures that grace the screen are absolutely amazing. I think writing about it is one of the most therapeutic things a person can do. Suicide and depression is something I don’t think a lot of people understand. They both are such a struggle. One of the best things we can do is try to learn and help those we know are going through it as well as try to know the signs. Hard to see when people can be so good at hiding their feelings. Not everyone is the same. Some people show their feelings some people hide. This was beautifully written. I am sorry for the loss to you, Jo’s family and friends. I believe even after death our soul still is with us. Some how some way she’s still with you. <3

  32. It’s difficult to write the words to say how very very sad this is. I’ve never met Jo, but just from looking at the photographs with this post she looks so beautiful and happy. If only she could have felt the worth that I’m sure everyone around her saw in bundles. Thank you for writing about this Kat. If it helps us all be more aware of those around us then that can only be a good thing.

  33. I am still in utter shock. Jo was such a bright person, full of fun. All my thoughts are with Chris, and Jo’s family at the moment. I am so glad I got to meet Jo, she had such sparkle and fun about her.

  34. Your words have touched me and so many others. I have no doubt this has already given hope and changed the life of someone out there. Thank you!

  35. Chris, I know we’ve never met but your happiness and work has touched many others’ lives so I just wanted to say I’m sorry you ever had to experience these feelings, stay strong and know you’re well loved by many x

  36. Gemma

    Suicide is something that has effected my family and it still hurts many many years after. Its never the answer i promise that. I still experience nightmares relating to it and it was 23 years ago. Ive no idea how my other family members live with it they experienced it worse than me.

    depression is a dark vision obscuring, suffocating place. Often sadly the sunlight can not break through.

    sweet dreams Jo xxx

  37. I never write eloquently in these situations, but I truly feel for you, Jo and everyone involved. It is very, very brave of you to write this and I do believe it will help a lot of people. Sending all the love possible.

    xo,
    Lela

  38. Ann Clarke

    this has really made me think – it is many years since I found myself trying to plan an end to a life with no savour, which I felt gave nothing to the world… thankf=ully i did find friendship and love which showed me I was not valueless as I thought. I pray others may find the same pathway out of the dark labyrith. Thank you for your frank and moving testimony .

  39. Lizzie

    I won’t go into detail, but this turned over a stone for me, and I think you should just know that reading this has genuinely made me want to help myself so that I don’t end up putting others in the same situation.

    So thankyou, Kat.

  40. Post author

    Lizzie – I cant tell you how much it means to hear that. That is SO AMAZING. I know you can do it. I’m so proud of you.

  41. Thank you for posting this. <3 This is something that has touched my life both as having someone I've known take their own life and me wanting to do the same. Life is definitely too short and ever so precious to let go. Blessings to you.

  42. Samantha

    Hi Kat,

    Honestly know that you have helped a lot of people with your post – and if not directly the person then somebody in their life. On Jo’s last day I was actually in bed, all day, because I saw some pictures of myself taken the day before (by my loving boyfriend) and I was distraught. This happens monthly, sometimes more often, and I cannot control the feelings I have towards the way I look. I’ve been like this since being bullied in school and through the years have left my parents and family heart broken from trying to deal with how low I can get. And now my boyfriend – who will be my husband in 2 months time – has to deal with this too. And it’s so so hard. I have too thought about ending it all, so many times, it’s my family that keeps me going. I can’t really talk about it to my friends because I feel it’s too much of a burden – and of course because of the ‘oh depression, ok we all get down sometimes don’t worry’ way of thinking. I want to feel better, and most days I’m fine, but it’s the hardest thing. If only we could buy self esteem and happiness at Amazon hey.
    My heart goes out to Jos family and friends and to you for being kind enough to share your words and feelings.

    Lots of love xx

  43. Samantha

    In fact – I just want you to know that my boyfriend has just forwarded me your post after seeing it online for me to read.
    So you see, you’re touching people already <3 xx

Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *