Suicide. In my experience, most people don’t want to talk about it, let alone admit that a family member or loved one died by suicide. There is no shame, embarrassment or cowardice behind this act. Yet, it is still whispered about, not brought out in the open and discussed like it should be.
The stigma is still there. At times, the family is in such denial that suicide could happen to them that the scar will be covered up for as long as possible. It is a private matter to lock in the family vault.
The hardest part of dealing with suicide is the blame we place upon ourselves. What did I miss? How could I have prevented it? Blame and guilt seem to overwhelm the survivors left behind. Was my husband, wife, son, daughter…depressed? Sick? Having problems at work? What was going on that I didn’t see?
Your loved one might have been in the best place emotionally and mentally that you had seen in a very long time. Once a person has made the decision to complete suicide, it can be like a burden has been lifted from their shoulders. They might have left a note to explain, but more likely than not, your questions are left unanswered.
After the fact, you may realize that they were getting things in order. They completed their paperwork, caught up on bills, gave away meaningful possessions. These things could have taken place without you noticing. With this realization comes more blame and guilt.
I was helping a family that lost an adult son to suicide. Tom was a depressed young man who had a problem with alcohol and drugs. His parents were devastated and deeply confused over the loss—not just for themselves, but for their grandson as well. They didn’t see the warning signs. How could he do this? How could he leave his son? What made him so unhappy? These questions were causing such agony.
I told them that Tom was not a coward, he was in pain. The act of suicide, in his mind, was the only way to end the pain. He wasn’t thinking of the devastation he would be leaving behind. He made a decision and followed through. His pain was greater than his will to live.In his mind, the world, “his” world, would be better off without him.
Tom’s parents agreed that they would make sure their grandson knew what a loving and caring father Tom had been—that none of this was his fault or their fault.
Suicide is a hard act to accept. As survivors, you may think you could have prevented it. The “if only” thoughts can haunt you. These are just attempts to figure out the “why,” which you may never know.
Suicide is unlike any other death. A death caused by cancer, heart disease, stroke or old agemay feel sudden, but at least you feel like there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Suicide can happen without ever seeing the warning signs.
The hurt and loss will never go away. Suicide survivors just have to learn how to live differently. To adapt. Please understand that those who have died by suicide did not do this to hurt you. They did it to stop their own pain— a pain they thought would never end, and they shouldn’t be judged. There’s no way to know the demons they faced or how many years it was going on.
The family should also never have blame put onto them. Typically, they either didn’t truly see what was going on or their loved one was just not able to be reached. Dealing with suicide loss is hard enough already, so please, don’t place blame on anyone.
Karen Roldan is a licensed funeral director/embalmer. She has 13 years of experience in the funeral industry. She helps families through one of the worst times of their lives by planning funerals and memorials and helping them through the grieving process.