A Beautiful Here: Emerging From The Overwhelming Darkness Of My Son's Suicide
By: Linda Phillips
Publication Date: August 2016
Reviewed by: Anita Lock
Date: July 24, 2017
Award-winning author Linda Phillips shares her journey from darkness into joy amid unspeakable grief in her poignant memoir, A Beautiful Here.
“Suicide remains a silent neglected epidemic.”
While this terrifying fact is something mental health professionals have to contend with every day, the quote has a different impact upon those who have lost loved ones to this muted disease. One such person is Linda Phillips, who lost her youngest son, Nuçi, on Thanksgiving Day in 1996. Nuçi was twenty-two at the time that he decided to end his life. There are no appropriate words to describe the mental and emotional anguish a parent goes through when they lose their child. Nonetheless, Phillips finds a way not only to turn her darkness into joy amid unspeakable grief but also to capture her emotional upheaval after Nuçi's death.
Opening on her wedding day, Phillips gives a glimpse of married life during the first few years. Marrying the man of her dreams is truly a freeing experience from her scarred and traumatic childhood. Surrounded by family riddled with mental illness of one form or other, Phillips determines early on not to follow in their footsteps. Pushing her troubled past deep in the recesses of her brain, Phillips is confident that her tainted childhood history will never rise and haunt her ever again, especially when her two beautiful boys, KP and Nuçi, enter the scene. Little does she know that genetics will come back to bite her, affecting her life in more ways than she could ever imagine.
Phillips is not one for mincing words. Her straightforward two-part narrative carries readers from a happy tight-knit family to one that suddenly gets thrown into the turbulence of Nuçi’s teen years and the first sign of mental illness, even though Phillips doesn’t recognize it until his later teens. Helplessness seems to be her trademark as she fails to reach out to him during a flurry of moody interludes. While her story leads up to that fateful 1996 day in part one, Phillips walks readers through the ordeal of figuring out a way to process Nuçi’s demise. After a two-year period of mourning, Phillips begins to look into mental health issues. Her words are profound:
“If the medication is the right one, energy levels may increase before the mood lightens. This is a period when the depressed person may regain the energy to take his/her own life. Therein lies—in my opinion—the Achilles Heel of treatment. Those waiting gaps, they need to be addressed.”
Phillips’ reasoning leads to the establishment of Nuçi’s Space, an adjunct to the treatment process.
With an overarching focus on suicide prevention, Nuçi’s Space’s emphasis is on musicians. Nuçi was a musician. Beyond that, the community of Athens, Georgia—where he was attending college and eventually ended his life—is heavily based on music. As Phillips states, “Many musicians consider themselves somewhat disenfranchised from society. They struggle to make a living and more often than not have no medical or dental insurance. Society tends to look at what they do as fun rather than work. Many times, rather than receiving a paycheck, they’re paid with alcohol or drugs.”
Phillip’s story is nothing less than a gut-wrenching yet highly encouraging read. It is fitting to close with Phillip’s goal for writing A Beautiful Here: “I sincerely hope that anyone who reads this will never know intimately the horror and heartbreak of losing a loved one to suicide. But for those who do, I hope to offer a bit of solace and hope. There is a way to survive and even to flourish.”