Suicide of a Loved One

[Editor: This was a comment on an Ask Dr. Neimeyer post answering a question from a mother, Nancy, whose son committed suicide. We thought Lisa’s comment was worthy of its own posting, so here it is.]

Hi Nancy,

I understand and completely empathize with your pain, bewilderment and grief, as I lost my 27-year-old husband to suicide, and found him and tried in vain to revive him. My loved one did not leave a note. I was told, “Sometimes it’s a blessing that there is no note…,” meaning some notes are blaming or otherwise not helpful for the survivors. I can share that it would have been extremely helpful to me if my husband had left a note like the one your son left, so please try to take some comfort from that.

AfterTalk SuicideI want to share the two most helpful things that were said to me: “you cannot comprehend an incomprehensible act”…this occasionally quieted my mind at first, and it helped more and more as time passed…and the second was: “you will never ‘get over’ a death by suicide, you have to learn to live with it. This one helped me stop fighting the battle of trying to “get back” to normal, or “go back” to “life as it was” without my loved one. I had to learn a completely new way of life. I had to learn to live differently.Certainly my life had changed forever in that moment-for a long time I believed my life had ended and I needed to find or develop a new life; but what I finally came to realize was that this was now going to be “Part II” of my life – like a movie with two discs, or a multi-volume book; a little more than “the next chapter,” but still the same story: My life… and still “my life” (one that “continues” and goes on since my birth).

I am now 10+ years out, and this year, I feel, finally, as though I have found my “old” up beat and positive self that I used to be before his death. I feel, finally, once again, as though I am a participant in my life, rather than an observer or someone who is struggling. I tell you this to give you hope that it will come around, someday, for you too, on your timeline–not that it will take a certain period of time–just know that it will come and like Dr. Neimeyer said, it will take a bit longer.

Finally, focusing on my/our son helped me, also. My Mom told me that “you have to live for him now.” I did, and am still doing today, everything I can (continued therapy and groups Dr. Neimeyer talked about) to helpAfterTalk Suicide myself and my son to “live with” the death by suicide of his father and my husband. It truly is a process. I love you very much, and I think I can say that honestly, those of us that find our loved one near the time of their final act are a very special case of survivors. I know it adds a whole other dimension to our grief that is not shared and can never be understood or even imagined by anyone else.

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