Stop Asking Me How She Did It: The Answers We Want After A Suicide

Our brains need to make sense of what seems senseless.

woman thinking Ekateryna Zubal / Shutterstock

Trigger Warning: Suicide and suicidal ideation

I’ve never triggered warned anything I’ve written before, and I’ve written about infidelity, self-harm, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional abuse, and suicide.

Today, I am. Today, I’m writing in the aftermath of my friend’s suicide. Like everyone around me, I am hurting, and I suppose that will lead some to say my friend was selfish and didn’t consider the feelings of those who loved her.


My friend was not selfish.

She didn’t know how to tell her brain to turn off when it lied and said she’d never feel better. Yes, there are hotlines and therapists, and she had concerned friends and family. But none of it mattered.

I know this firsthand.

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On three separate occasions, I have attempted suicide. Obviously, I was not successful because as my dear friend once joked — when it felt okay to do so — I’m terrible at suicide. After each attempt, my husband begged me to tell him why. Why did I want to die? Why would I want to hurt my family or children? Why couldn’t I see how much people loved me?


Here’s my truth: people in pain don’t want to die, they just want to not be.

The pain I felt during this time went so deep that my physical body actually hurt. My brain lied and said I was a burden to those who loved me and that I could never be happy again. I believed the only way to end my suffering and the suffering I had forced onto others was for me to leave this world.

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But I suck at suicide, so I’m here today, trying to explain something that is, to be honest, unexplainable to anyone who has never hurt in the way depression or mental illness makes you hurt.

Why? Why? Why?


In the aftermath of suicide, our brains need to make sense of what seems senseless. Everyone — those who were close to the deceased and those who knew them tangentially — wonders if things could have been different. Could they themselves have done something? Did those closest to the deceased know something was wrong? Were there signs? Did they call the hotline?

There are downcast eyes and concerned furrows etched across brows. And then a whisper. How? How? How did they do it?

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As if the how will explain the why.

Because that is what people really want to know: why. Why did they do it?


The answer, that the victim was in agonizing pain, doesn’t mesh with what we want to hear. We want to believe that suicide will never be something we or someone we love will consider. We will call the hotline. We will reach out to a friend. We will check in on loved ones. We will be vigilant, and suicide will never knock on our door. We will do everything that the deceased — or their loved ones — did not do.

We will victoriously beat back pain and keep ourselves safe.

The problem is, that we cannot control when, if, or how pain burrows into our brains. We can try, but sometimes, our brains lie. And sometimes, the pain of staying feels greater than the pain of letting go.

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This notion that we can’t control pain is terrifying, and so we ask how the deceased died and hope that it will give insight into the why.

The answer to ‘why’ is almost always pain.

This is the ‘why’ I lived. This is the ‘why’ I lived through.


As my friend said, I wasn’t good at suicide. I am, however, amazing at surviving and I’ve learned to be great at living. I hope, if you ever feel like you want to not exist anymore, you realize you too can be great at living.

I once wrote, “it seemed like a good day to die, but it also seemed like a good day to live.”

Today, my friend, is a great day to live.

Please remember that there are several options if you or someone you know needs help dealing with an immediate crisis. Call 911 if you think a family member may harm themselves or others.

Mia Hayes' memoir Always Yours, Bee, about her husband’s accident and her subsequent spiral into mental illness, was selected by BookBub as one of “15 Powerful Memoirs to Read in 2021.” She is also the author of the women’s fiction series, The Waterford Novels.