I’ve been thinking and writing about suicide since April 1994 when a classmate of mine shot and killed himself a week after Kurt Cobain’s suicide and left a trail of Nirvana accoutrements in his wake, indelibly linking his death to a significant—and still resonant—historical event. That our small town was ill-equipped to grapple with adolescent suicide left me deprived of grief support and bent on making my own sense of his sudden, culturally-charged absence.
Suicide continues to be a pressing public health issue that struggles to get past our inability to navigate its resilient taboos. “Suicide, actually,” is what I say when someone asks what I write about. The “actually” is meant to soften the delivery and to acknowledge the surprise I expect on the receiving end; perhaps I shouldn’t say it but I almost always do. No matter how confident I am on the topic, I still fumble around, trying to be honest but hopeful, serious but witty—a careful balance I hope makes space for ease where the subject often inspires reluctance.
Having read the gamut of suicide literature—from dense, sociological tomes to sappy memoirs—I aim for my writing to bring the subject out of a dimness of psychological study and into contemporary literature. I have tried to acknowledge the gravity of suicide while also recognizing a levity and curiosity we must collectively embrace to further the dialogue.