Murderer is Victim

We heard the screams from across the little river which separates our land, but the house they were coming from is not close to ours. It’s just that these were really loud wails. And my wife and I knew that someone related to the screamer had died.

The real shock was that her relative, also a woman, in her forties, had killed herself.

Suicide: murder of the self.

My nephew did the same thing, hanging himself at age twenty-one after battling manic depression, unbeknownst to all of us but his parents, for years. They were the ones who found him.

Two days ago in Becho, Svaneti I found out that another such death, of a twenty-year-old man, had happened.

Is there a worse death? The huge jagged hole it tears through a family never seems to heal fully. There are so many questions about what I could have done, we could have done, if only. The guilt, the darkness, despair.

They also call it the ultimate act of selfishness, but usually the depths to which the dead one has sunk must close out such thoughts and leave only the need to end it all.

I suggested to my colleagues at Becho school that suicide might become a topic of guided discussion among the higher grades. Thankfully, there has been none of it among school-age children in this province at all that I know of. But for the survivors, who have to deal with the aftermath in their own lives and those around them, some kind of dialogue might be very helpful.

There’s also the topic of prevention, what possible signs to look for in another, what to do if you are in or moving towards that kind of fatal despair with life. TALK, for God’s sake!

I know that Georgia went, post-Soviet, from richest republic per capita to poorest, along with civil wars, losses of territory, numberless refugees, general breakdown of infrastructure. The trauma this little country has been through, the despair resulting from it, are real. And too many individuals have chosen to kill themselves with this as a background. What have I got left to live for?

Talk we must, find a way out together, realize that suicide’s dreadful echo doesn’t soon fade in the lives of the relatives; it might swell to a deafening crescendo first. Calling it a sin and banishing the dead one to hell for it isn’t helpful, even though I, too, rage against that one. What have you done to me, to us! How could you! How could I not see this coming!

And somewhere, if you believe it, devils are laughing their heads off. If you don’t, the universe goes on its merry way, uncaring in the slightest.

Let’s talk, young people and older. Let’s bare our souls a bit, which Georgians aren’t shy about doing anyway. Admit it when these feelings come, and seek out help. It need not even be professional, just a listening ear who will seek more help if overwhelmed.

Because one possibility arising from the despair of the abandoned is more of the same, a repeat performance, a little epidemic.

After my nephew’s death, I decided to call suicide the only murder in which perpetrator and victim are the same person. You are murdering someone, but it’s you. God, why should we need such awful philosophical wonderings?

Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1300 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

Tony Hanmer

26 May 2016 14:55