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'Those left behind' reaches out to bereaved families of suicide

After the self-inflicted death of his lover, writer Matteo Bianchi struggles with his grief, anger and guilt. With Those who stay behind he reaches out to others who went through the same thing.

Conflicting feelings

'I hate him. I hate him so much for what he did.' Sometimes Matteo shouts at the walls that his beloved S. is an asshole. And an egotist. But at the same time, he feels an intense sadness for his death. 'I struggle with opposite feelings, of hate and love, of anger and compassion, of rage and endearment, of condemnation and understanding, two opposing forces that tear me apart.'

Losing a loved one through suicide is different, often more traumatic, than when it is a non-self-inflicted death. Italian writer Matteo Bianchi also experiences this after his partner S. takes his own life. After seven years of living together, the two have just broken up, which S. finds hard to stomach. In the weeks after the break-up, S. threatens suicide several times, but his sister dismisses it as an attempt at manipulation.

Shards of a broken existence

Therefore, when Matteo has S. on the phone while in their previously shared flat, he takes the announcement 'when you get home, I won't be here' as a promise to leave their house in time. But upon returning home, he finds S.'s body behind the front door, having hanged himself.

Bianchi, prey to guilt, bewilderment, anger and loss, seeks solace in literature but cannot find anything helpful. On the advice of a fellow author, he takes up the pen to process his feelings. In short fragments - symbolic of his existence broken into shards - Bianchi recounts the memories, his pain and what he does to cope with it, how mourning changes him and his relationship with life and the world around him. Those who stay behind is his rendition on what happened to him - more than 20 years ago now.

As if you were the only one

Survivors of suicide are many, Bianchi's dryly enumerated figures show: every year, a million people commit suicide worldwide (the number of failed attempts is estimated to be ten times higher), leaving at least six to 10 survivors each in shock. Why, Bianchi wonders, does it still feel like you're the only one?

Those who stay behind aims to lift that feeling, by reaching out to others going through the same thing. Because that is what he is a writer for: to give meaning while writing. This does not soothe or heal anything, but it does give recognition and comfort.

Matteo B. Bianchi, Those who lagging behind (288 p.)
Translated from the Italian by Manon Smits
De Bezige Bij, € 22.99

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A Quattro Mani

Photographer Marc Brester and journalist Vivian de Gier can read and write with each other - literally. As partners in crime, they travel the world for various media, for reviews of the finest literature and personal interviews with the writers who matter. Ahead of the troops and beyond the delusion of the day.View Author posts

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