I started, and continue to facilitate, a survivors of suicide loss group for adults. I also hold grief groups for children and teens and some of those have experienced a suicide loss. Funny, how they don’t seem as concerned about a suicide like we adults. Sure, it bothers them that their dad or mom (or whoever) chose to end their life when they are just getting to enjoy hanging out with them. But they don’t feel the stigma like adults do. I think this is the case because kids/teens just don’t tell people when someone close to them dies. If only it were that easy for us adults!
In our adult group, we often talk about people’s reactions when you tell them your husband/wife/son/daughter/brother/sister died by suicide. Mostly we get blank stares and “I am so sorry” responses. But then again it can open up the door to share that they too, lost someone to suicide.
It would be easier to tell someone they died from cancer or a heart attack. But mention the “S” word and the doors shut down. What goes through their minds? Do they think we’re crazy? That it’s our fault in some way? That we must be in constant pain because of it?
We wish saying “suicide” was as easy as saying “cancer.” My son’s death was not my fault or anyone else. He suffered from major depression and substance abuse. If he had not had one or the other, he would probably be here today to make me smile.
I am not in constant pain but I will share that I was unstable for a good two years. Finding my son had ended his life caused shock, disbelief, hatred of life, pain so deep in my heart that I did not want to continue to live. But with help from support groups, I did survive and now I help others over those terrifying days, weeks, months, and sometimes years, until we find a new normal.
Mental illness causes death just as any other disease. Please remember that. I’d like to get more people to say “my son died from mental illness” or “my wife died as a result of mental illness.” It doesn’t seem quite as shocking, does it?
So how do you respond when someone tells you his or her friend or relative died by suicide?
Learn more about saving teens at savetheteens.com
And more about grief groups at theshoregriefcenter.org