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. You can read the original question and answer at this link: My Son Committed… 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. Please feel free to contact me through AfterTalk if it is allowed.

3 thoughts on “Suicide of a Loved One”

  1. Such a hopeful message….Grateful to share with others. I would like to make a comment that people consider using the phrase, “died by suicide,” rather than “committed suicide,” as it removes the stigma that comes with suicide death – not only the one who died by suicide, but also the family members who are left behind. Thank you for this message of hope! Margie Grebin, MS, LMFT, CT

  2. Twenty-six years ago, I found my husband who had taken his life by hanging. He had fought a life-long battle with depression and other psychological challenges. Our relationship had suffered due to his erratic and intimidating outbursts of anger. The day he died was the worst day of my life. For a long time, I blamed myself for not providing the love that could have “saved” him. Our counselor taught me that one person cannot be responsible for another person’s healing and happiness.. For the first 8 months, I saw myself as a victim. All that happened was filtered through my husband’s death. The following summer, my 14 year old son was hospitalized due to burns that happened when he placed an aerosol can in a fire. While sitting in the hospital, I wrote the poem below. It was the turning point in my thinking. I realized most adults face hardships in life. Why would it be different for me? I also began to find a balance between this huge loss and the multitude of blessings I’d experienced in my life. It was the beginning of healing. I took off the mantle of a victim and put on a new realization about being part of humanity.

    The Turning Point

    I have known the loss of loved ones, leaving me torn within.
    I have known hardships in life, leaving me discouraged and fearful.
    I have known pain and broken relationships, leaving me cold.
    I have known the fires of temptation, fleshly flames,
    Burning up the convictions of my soul.
    I could list things stolen
    By the winds of circumstance and choice.
    The loss of home, a broken marriage, a dream without a future.

    A hollowness rang through my mind; a voice whispered in my ear.
    Yes, you have known grief and loss, but you have also known Joy.
    Thoughts ran down the streets of my mind
    Like a prisoner released from bondage!

    The joy of a loving mother and father,
    Years of laughter, kindness and peace.
    The touch of beauty reaching inside and lifting up my soul.
    The tenderness of a child’s trusting hand in mine.
    The joy of singing praises to God, His Spirit drawing me close.
    Deliverance from fear, oppression, doubt and weakness.
    True affection of friends, who hold on to the good in me.
    I have known joy; it fills my life making my sorrows insignificant.

    Rosemarie Wilder

    1. Dear Rosie~

      I appreciate your courage in sharing your story, and also writing such a thought-provoking poem that seemed to have moved you from a place of feeling like you were a victim, to one of empowerment – knowing that in spite of the challenges you face, you are willing to see all the good that surrounds you…BRAVO!

      As a psychotherapist specializing in working with the bereaved population, I hold a 12-week “Grieving Mindfully: Understanding Your Grief” group, and would like permission to share your poem. If you will allow me to do so, can you please provide me with any other notations you wish me to add to your poem?

      Thank you again, and appreciate your sharing!

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