Compartmentalization is tough

I’ve been volunteering at the Facebook Putting a Face on Suicide page for nine weeks now. Each Monday I sign in at twelve noon and stay focused on the page until eight in the evening. My job essentially is to either Like or respond with a message to every comment that is posted on the page. Though I’m able to move back and forth to my writing work or look at my emails or write a blog post, as I’m doing now, I need to check back every couple of minutes so I can respond quickly. It’s not good to let people know there is no one minding the store, so to speak.

I have gotten a lot of value from doing this job. I look forward to it every week because I know the wonderful service it provides solace to those who have lost loved ones to suicide. It is a place where our memories never die. It is a place where we can see their faces and read their stories whenever we want.

Paul’s Putting a Face on Suicide poster

This job is also a huge confront for me. Even though my Paul died over twelve years ago, my grieving for him is not over and I know it never will be. So I must compartmentalize from my grieving self as I do in all the other things that go on in my life and be an objective responder here.

And that is so hard because every week there is at least one photo and one story that brings me to tears. Today it is the photo of a 28-year old man who died fourteen years ago. A young woman commented that he was her first love.

Last week it was the photo of a boy nine years old. Why oh why does a nine year old want to die? But he was not alone. The week before it was a photo of a girl only ten years old who hung herself as a result of bullying at school.

I don’t know what the statistics are for suicides caused by bullying, but I’ll bet the numbers move up every year. A Facebook page Bullying is for Losers may have the numbers.

Suicide happens to people of all ages. Today I see photos of: Terry age 52, Jim age 47, Kelsey age 15, Ashley age 24, Wade age 19, Elizabeth age 33. And they all left behind someone like me who has to go through life compartmentalizing his/her grief in order to survive and move on.

And, please remember that Putting a Face on Suicide is not for people in emotional distress. Please call 1-800 784-2433 [SUICIDE] if you or anyone you know needs help.


  1. Hi Madeline. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are willing to give up their time to support a great cause. Obviously, those areas that so strongly resonate with our own personal life experiences are the ones which often can be a double-edged sword – sort of a constant reminder of our own story; and yet in many ways the opportunity to ‘honour’ and maintain the memories. Although the circumstances are quite different; my sister was killed in a car accident almost 35 years ago and my heart still goes out to the families/friends of those involved in the tragic accidents which are reported on a daily basis. For someone to know you not only understand what a ‘loss’ is like; but for them to realise you’ve felt the pain and all of the other emotions – words will never replace this. I also can relate so very much to your thoughts about how we find the means to cope and move on. As the years go by, the contents of the different compartments don’t change – they just seem to find the place which helps us to live with the here and now. I trust that you will continue to be ‘blessed’ through your voluntary work at Putting a Face on Suicide; as I have no doubt your involvement will be of enormous benefit to those you engage with. Very best wishes. Jeff.

  2. Thank you Jess for your always sensitive and insightful thoughts. I appreciate that you read my blog. I know you totally understand where I come from.
    Happy December. All best, Madeline

  3. I apologize for calling you Jess. Of course I know you’re Jeff. Mea Culpa.

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