Sunday 23 July 2017

Was Chester Bennington A Coward?

Over the past few days suicide has barely been out of the headlines. Chester Bennington has been discussed a lot in our house and always with the same end to the conversation. Suicide isn't harmless, it has a massive, rippling negative effect, and anyone who treats it with purely sympathy is sweeping a lot under the carpet.

There's been a real backlash condemning Brian Welch for his outburst against his friend, and I don't agree with it at all. I think he's allowed to call his friend a coward. He will think that. He'll also spend time thinking his friend was selfish, nasty, foolish, wasteful, hurtful. When you end your own life, the people left behind will without a shadow of a doubt spend time thinking that all the pain they are feeling, and the hurt and sadness that they and your loved ones, your friends and everyone else is going through, is due to you.

As those who are left try to make sense of the shock, as they scramble to rearrange what is left of their life into some sort of workable order, and struggle to see why they are bothering, they will find it almost impossible not to think of the person who died as a coward.

Blaming the person who died isn't an option because we know full well it's not their fault. As Brian Welch found out, you'll be pilloried for suggesting it. Everyone will wave their fists and say that 'you don't understand'. You do. You know that actually the person who died was the one unable to understand. Right there and at that second, they forgot why they shouldn't. They couldn't see the right path ahead and you weren't there to save them. So you can't blame them, you have to try to lay blame somewhere else. Probably at least partly with yourself.

When Brian Welch typed, he had just found out someone died. However close or distant a friend, he was grieving. I'm a fist-waver myself, and I'm pretty sure one of the mantras is that you are allowed to grieve however is appropriate. We all know the second stage of grief is anger. You'll say all kinds of things, you'll blurt out all kinds of thoughts. Let it out, don't keep it in - another mantra. He's apologised to anyone who was offended, now apologise to him for not being understanding.

Brian Welch wrote:
“Honestly, Chester's an old friend who we've hung with many times, and I have friends who are extremely close to him, but this is truly pissing me off! How can these guys send this message to their kids and fans?! I'm sick of this suicide shit! I've battled depression/mental illness, and I'm trying to be sympathetic, but it's hard when you're pissed! Enough is enough! Giving up on your kids, fans, and life is the cowardly way out!!!”
We don't say 'battled' depression and mental illness because it's easy. It's a day-to-day 3-way fight between you, yourself and the world. By making Brian feel bad about what he wrote, every comment took away from him how proud he should feel that he's winning. He shows his main motivation is his family and his fans. I feel real sorrow for Chester Bennington's family and his fans too. This example will haunt them for a lifetime. His fans see a headline-grabbing role-model with a tragic story and his children will always know that suicide is a real thing that happens to people like them.

They will always struggle to understand that their Dad loved them. They'll be far older before they can comprehend that he probably felt life would be easier for them once he's gone. He probably felt like a burden, that they'd be able to move on with their lives far easier without him. They won't ever find that easy to understand because it won't ever be true...

Losing someone to suicide is described by SOBS as 'grief with the volume turned up' because it is so much more. You didn't just lose someone, you lost someone who you believe could still be here. It is really super hard. You feel a failure, you feel you should have been able to help. You trawl back through every moment you spent with them, wondering whether you could have spotted how bad they felt, you maybe could have saved them. If you'd just done or said the right thing or smiled at the right time, would you have been able to show them some hope?

The ripples of remorse and unanswered questions go on forever.

I come to my blog each month and I post our collected smiles. With all the polish rubbed off and being brutally, brutally raw, I've spent most of the last 3 years since we lost Elspeth trying to keep the rest of my family alive and functioning, and we have had an awful lot of professional help because we couldn't manage it alone. The figures for increased suicide this next fortnight will probably never come to light, but Chester Bennington's act, especially to vulnerable young people who are finding life confusing and hard enough already, is bad and it is damaging. Even though we cannot blame him, the manner of his death cannot be remembered purely with sympathy.

Far too many of us have stood on that cliff-edge, and it really does take everything you have to step back. You have to remember, you have to see hope. Chester reached a point he couldn't see past. He stopped being brave and if that makes him a coward then so be it. He may have run out of courage, but that was because he ran out of hope. There is no shame in finding your cup is empty and having no idea how to fill it, there's only sadness.

The feelings around losing someone to suicide are so many that it's impossible to sort them out in your own head. Shock, loss, confusion, frustration, remorse, despair, regret and anger included, but the truth is that there really is nothing that ever comes close to, or is as permanent as, the overwhelming depth of sadness.

You are allowed to be sad to hear of Chester Bennington's death, you are allowed to be disappointed, but you are also allowed to be annoyed, especially if you also battle to find hope and have tried so hard to keep winning. You are still fighting. and you are even allowed to take strength from that. You are the one who can walk out of your home tomorrow, breathe deep, smile and take charge of the rest of your life...

However bad it feels at that moment, it's that moment and it won't be that moment forever. Just as you can't have the best day ever for the rest of your life, you can't have the worst either. I'm passionate about collecting our smiles each month because I know each and every one really does mean it is worth carrying on. Those are the moments we need to count, to capture and hold on to. Over the past 35 months I have collected thousands...

If you are struggling then there is always someone you can talk to. Always. Get past that moment because it is always worth it.

In the UK:

The Samaritans are online and on the phone 24 hours a day - 116 123

Childline are online and on the phone 24 hours a day -  0800 1111

If you are a young person or are worried about another young person you can get in touch with Papyrus. - 0800 068 41 41


  1. Really well written Jenny (as always!) and a really fair view x

    1. Don't be so soft. I'm perfectly capable of writing a load of tosh :)
      Thanks Karen x

  2. I am so sorry for your loss, and I hope that this comment doesn't seem insensitive or upset you. I genuinely don't want to cause more distress.

    I agree with you on several things; grieving is ok, and how people grieve is so individual & up to them. I think it's totally natural to be angry or disappointed or anything if you lose someone to suicide, it's ok, and it's super important to express it and not bottle it up.
    However I don't agree that it is cowardly to die by suicide, and I don't think it's selfish. With several failed suicide attempts behind me, for me it was never a wish to die, it was a knowledge that I absolutely could not go on.
    To my mind it is selfish to expect someone who is in such intense emotional pain, and has been for some time, to go on just for their fans, or friends, or whoever. Why are those people's needs more important than the person suffering?
    I can accept that to many people it looks like they just gave up, or that they didn't ask for help, or they didn't try hard enough, but in so many cases that's not how it is. There are people screaming and begging for help, and it's not forthcoming. There are people putting their everything into recovery, and still wanting to die. There are people whose demons are just too big.
    None of that should stop people trying to recover, of course it is possible, and plenty of people live good lives with a (mostly) well managed mental illness. But it makes me so sad that people who die from mental illness are seen as cowards, or having given up, when people with cancer or other physical illnesses are praised as having given it their best, or fought their hardest.
    We're fighting too, but we don't all win.

    1. Your comment absolutely isn't insensitive, it's respectfully written and thank you for taking the time to do so.
      For me personally, I feel 'brave' for keeping going. Each day I get up and do that thing, I feel like a warrior who just won a battle. It's not that I feel people who cannot continue are yellow-bellied and avoiding the fight. I feel more that they lost the ability to fight, their bravery ran out, their demons were too big. I don't view that as a failure on their part, it only makes me desperately sad. It makes me sad that they didn't find help to face that demon and borrow some bravery when they needed it most.
      I know that for some those demons will be fleeting and for others they'll last forever, but there has to always be hope and there are far more happy stories of people who didn't die, than there are those like mine. I could talk to you about lack of mental health services and appropriate and timely intervention all day. But that's one for the next government to try and cope with..
      I didn't mention the comment about selfishness. I actually believe pretty much everything we do is for selfish reasons and in the end we are all the one with our own back. That said, base level, it is entirely my family who keep me going. They need me, and they give me joy. I couldn't ever hurt them or put them through this again. Never. And the very fact that I haven't makes my heart glad. I like to see them smile and hear them laugh, even at 3am. I do it for my own reasons. It's selfish.
      I really do wish you well in the future. Peace and strength xx

  3. I've written and deleted a comment a few times as nothing sounds right. So all I will say is that this post is balanced and considered and I think it will be helpful. That you keep going in the way you do is mind-blowing for me at times. Yet you do and you write so beautifully when I know that times like this when these stories are in the news must be so incredibly painful. I feel my comment makes no sense and possibly is an inadequate response but I couldn't read and leave. Lots of love to you all, always x

    1. Your comment makes lots of sense and I really appreciate it, thank you xx

  4. Sending big hugs and I am sure this post will help others. I don't have anything useful I feel and I know this is hard. I've seeked mental health help for myself and at times it has been bad, but I just don't know. Hope this didn't upset you too much xx

    1. It's not something you ever forget. You live with it 24 hours a day. I think it's been frustrating reading some of the comments for all of us - it was only when I realised 4 of us were thinking the same way that I wrote this. It's good to get it out. Thanks Susan xx


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