Trigger warning: suicide
Star Trek has always been a source of comfort for me in difficult times. When I lost a friend to suicide this February, I turned to the second season of Star Trek: Picard. I had struggled since her death. I thought the show would bring some comfort and peace. For a while, it did. And then came the episode “Hide and Seek.”
I remember the day I watched it very clearly. It was the first Saturday of May. I had to work later that afternoon and decided to watch the episode before my shift. I immediately regretted watching it. I felt sick, couldn’t speak, and was in shock. It was like losing my friend all over again. It was not the emotional state I wanted to be in before going to work. I tried to hold it together, but then I lost my composure halfway through my shift and spent the rest of the time bawling. Thankfully I was working from home that night. Only my husband and cats could see me crying.
I continued to struggle in the coming days. The image of Yvette’s lifeless body lingered in my mind. It made me think of my friend and how her loved ones found her dead body on her living room floor. I cannot put into words how painful those images were. I spent days sobbing on the couch and staring into space. It took some time to break out of that dark place.
Despite the pain after the “Hide and Seek” episode, I did continue watching the show and eventually finished the season. But I also started disengaging with Trek fandom. Everyone seemed so happy about the show, but it only made me sad and empty. I didn’t want to bring other fans down, so I avoided conversations and kept most of my thoughts to myself. I started to feel alone in the fandom, and that was hard. I did have a few Trek friends I felt comfortable confiding in, so I knew I wasn’t completely alone. (Thank you to all of you!) But it was still an isolating time.
One of the most challenging things was seeing tweets about closure and the show’s emotionally satisfying ending. I felt so angry when I saw those tweets, but I couldn’t articulate why. I didn’t comprehend it until I heard Anderson Cooper talking about his brother’s suicide. Cooper hates the word closure. He refers to it as a “TV word” and believes there is no such thing. I agree with him. I realized that was why the tweets bothered me. Closure and an emotionally satisfying ending are two things I will never have when it comes to my friend. Other survivors of suicide will not have them either. I think it is critical to acknowledge this.
Despite my criticism of Star Trek: Picard, I am not against Star Trek tackling the topic of suicide. I think it’s an important issue worthy of discussion. Star Trek has covered suicide in episodes like Star Trek: TNG’s “Half a Life” and Star Trek: Voyager’s “Death Wish.” I mention these episodes because the topic of suicide is part of the plot. In “Hide and Seek,” it’s just a plot twist. There is a difference, and it is vital to make that distinction.
I would be remiss if I did not mention trigger warnings. Whether or not you agree with them, I encourage you to consider this: Finding out a loved one has died by suicide is a real-life plot twist. It breaks your heart and rips apart your life. The trajectory of your life is permanently changed. And when you are triggered, you live through the pain again. I would not wish this pain on anyone.
I believe trigger warnings are crucial for survivors of suicide, as well as for those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts. But I think realistic depictions of our experiences would be the most meaningful. I don’t know what that would look like in fiction, but I know now what it is like in real life. And that is why I decided to write this piece. I hope it sheds light on what it’s like to be a suicide survivor in real life. And I hope it will help other survivors in the fandom feel a little less alone. You probably won’t have the emotionally satisfying Picard experience either. But know that your stories matter too.