Have you ever had somebody attempt suicide and find out they left you a note? Not only that, but not be able to read the note because the police were keeping it as evidence?
It happened to me, years ago. It wasn't even somebody I felt particularly close to, but came out of the support group experience you should have just read about. If not, I recommend you go back and read that first. It gives context and perspective.
Her name was Elaine. He was Roger. They were a couple, for years, perhaps. There were for at least as long as I had known either of them. I'm sure I knew them from small group discussions, though it was so long ago that there is absolutely no danger that I will be repeating anything that was said confidentially. This is all from events outside the groups.
It started for me one Saturday night dancing at The Anchorage, that center's current "Afterglow" spot, where people went in a group to socialize, and unwind after the emotions of small group. Here it meant listening to jazz and dancing. Roger had asked me to dance, and I agreed. He was something of a tomcat, which I knew. But he was also something of a friend at the time, though this was to spoil that. He made no bones about their open relationship, along with the fact that Elaine had problems with its openness.
That night he came on to me fairly strongly while we were dancing. Now I was immune to the suggestions, both because I knew about Elaine and from my own perspective didn't consider him to be free enough to make the offer seriously, but also because he reminded me physically of my own ex-father-in-law. That was a turn-off, for many reasons. I was there dancing just because I loved dancing and this was as safe a situation as any to do it in. Pretty much what happened on the dance floor stayed on the dance floor. No ties, obligations, commitments. Just a few minutes of harmless fun.
That was the theory.
Next time I saw Roger, he asked my if I'd heard about Elaine or from the police.
Elaine had wandered away from their Richfield home to a quiet, open spot nearer the airport and opened her veins. She was found hours later, surrounded by blood and suicide notes. I do not know how many there were, but Roger told me one was addressed to me. He added the police had it as evidence, it had been sealed and blood-covered so he had no idea what was in it, but I might be hearing from them. They might have questions. Elaine was hospitalized, having survived her attempted suicide, and likely would continue to be hospitalized for a few more weeks in a psychiatric facility.
O! M! G!
I was devastated. Did she blame me for dancing with Roger? Did she know he'd propositioned me that last night? Was I somehow responsible for what she did? My mind spun with questions, self-blame, anger at Roger, guilt, and on and on.
And why me? I barely knew her, certainly didn't think of her outside of group except as an adjunct of Roger, wasn't attracted by her personality as a potential friend. What was making me so important to her that she'd write me a note as she thought she was ending her life? What was she accusing me of?
I was reeling.
It was weeks before I had any answers, and I can't tell you now whether I finally got them from Roger or Elaine. I do know I never did receive the note. The excuse was it was too blood-covered to be legible. But the reason for it was not blame of any sort. Rather, she was thanking me for having been such a good friend to her.
That was almost worse. Here's a person I really barely knew, don't think of, have probably listened to incidentally to my functioning as facilitator, and she's considering me a valued friend? What kind of awful person does that make me? And what kind of a life has she been leading if her "good friend" is all but indifferent to her and unaware of her needs?
If this were a fairy tale, Elaine and I would have become best buddies and I would have all kinds of useful answers to my questions, leading to marvelous personal growth and happiness. In real life, Roger and Elaine shortly broke up, Elaine quit coming to the support group, Roger dated many more women often simultaneously, finally found a strong woman who insisted she'd only date him if he became faithful, and they eventually married. I have no answers, just the realization of how even a near stranger's suicide attempt can affect others. I try not to be the person I had fears I was being blamed for being.