Suicide is when someone decides to end their life on their own terms. In some cases there is no forewarning to the loved ones, no disease, nothing. Death of a loved one is always painful and gut-wrenching. When you add the fact that you lost them to suicide, your grievance takes many emotional tours that normal loss would never do.
Two major emotions you feel are grief over their death and anger at them for choosing to leave you. There is also a big sense of rejection in the mix. They rejected life and in a weird way, you feel rejected too. I lost a parent to suicide, my father actually. I was 8 years old and I remember that day so vividly. It is imprinted on my mind forever. It was devastating.
Lost my father
I try to remember the last time I saw my father to see if I can remember some hints of sadness or something but there wasn’t. When someone you love kill themselves, it will always leave the survivors with multitudes of unanswered questions. He was supposed to love me till the end, so did he? He was supposed to be the first man to love me unconditionally, how could he? It felt like a double-edged sword to my heart, losing a father and feeling rejected at such a young age.
The stigma surrounding suicide
Wherever you go, people are pointing fingers and whispering into each other’s ears. The rumor treadmill starts and there is nothing you can do to stop it. People will say things that will hurt you even though you are already hurting. Some people will make you feel bad like it’s all your fault. It’s like you should have seen it, so why didn’t you? The thing is you are already asking yourself all these questions, you don’t need a nosy neighbor to feed it to you as well.
Suicide is a controversial subject
Some scientists are against it, while others believe it’s a right of choice. Those who believe it is a person’s choice, have worked hard to allow assisted euthanasia in some hospitals. It is still suicide but at least the family might have had a chance to prepare for it. People who are in emotional turmoil and feel tired of life’s little fights, do become desperate.
There are some mental illnesses that can lead to suicide though like schizophrenia and depression. However, some cases of suicide occur where mental illness was not present and the person just decided to end it because of emotional hurt. For example, an abused/bullied child might commit suicide, someone living in slavery, a jilted lover who doesn’t think his/her heart goes on, chronic physical illness etc.
So who commits suicide the most?
In terms of economic classes, the rich people are more likely to commit suicide than the poor people. It’s a paradox because you would think that poor people who are hardly getting by will be the ones to do it more. The statistics show that men are more likely to commit suicide than women. The reason might have something to do with the power of the masculinity. By this I mean men bottle up their feelings and believe that showing emotions is not manly. In terms of countries in 2018, Sri Lanka has the highest rate of suicide.
So how does one heal from this double-edged sword of a tragedy; losing a loved one and feeling rejected? On my journey to healing, there are 11 things I discovered:
Accept the fact that they committed suicide
The initial shock can make you want to deny this fact. Living in denial can become like a family secret for some families because it is a difficult subject to talk about it. However, in order to heal, you need to accept the truth of what happened. I am not saying you should go around telling everyone about your loved one’s suicide. I am saying accept the fact in your heart and in your family. It will help a lot on your painful journey of healing.
Consider therapy and counselling
You need to talk about it, even if it’s within just the family unit, with close friends or with a family therapist. You have been dealt a heavy blow. A problem shared is a problem halved. If you live in a country where counselling and therapy is encouraged, which is usually the Western world, then consider it. It might help with some sort of closure as real closure might be hard to get because the question ‘why’ remains unanswered. If you have children, more reason for it. They can get to grips with what happened from a professional and get to know why it’s bad and to talk out their feelings.
Improving on your spirituality
For other cultures and nations, therapy and counselling is not well-known or encouraged. I would recommend for these families to dig deeper into their spirituality to find meaning to it all and to get a sense of closure as well. Spirituality can work as an umbrella that others operate from and that’s good. It brings a new, fresh perspective to a problem and helps people to move on.
Improve on family relations and communication lines
Suicide is painful to all people involved. We have to love each other a little bit more. Doing what the world is doing, that is ignoring each other’s pain, will not help to stop these desperate, painful deaths. We are living in a world where we are together yet not together. A stiff upper lip is very encouraged in our modern living to the detriment of our mental health. ‘I am okay’, is a standard answer that is expected and it is the only one accepted, even when you don’t feel it. However, as a family that has lost a member to suicide, can you really afford to keep your feelings bottled up? Children who come from a family where a parent committed suicide are twice likely to do the same thing. More reason for the family to keep those lines of communication wide open.
Talk to the deceased
Hear me out on this one, I am not encouraging séance, ouiji boards or psychics, no. If that’s what makes you feel better, then each to their own. I am talking about going to the graveyard and talking at the tombstone. You have to mourn a little differently because it’s sudden, scary, terrifying and there is self-blame that’s accompanied with it all. It might feel weird at first but it’s very helpful. Go there, cry, talk, blame, shout and ask all the questions that you have at your loved one. There are questions you will have that only your loved one would have been able to answer, like ‘why?’ Say everything you need to say and try and imagine their answers in your head. It does sound crazy but you have nothing to lose.
Was it a mental illness?
This is something that will help a lot with future generations. Was the deceased suffering from a mental illness? If so, what can we do about it? If it was not mental illness, was there some underlying physical illness that the person was suffering from? Sometimes, patients suffering from diseases like Motor Neuron Disease and spinal injuries decide to commit suicide because they don’t want to become ‘vegetable’. Either way, it will still lead the beloved of the deceased to look at the trigger and how to avoid it.
It’s not rejection directed at you
When you lose someone to suicide, you can’t help it but feel rejected. They were supposed to want to live as long as they could. How could they leave you? Just remember that the rejection was not directed at you per se, it was directed at life. Well, if it was just about you, they wouldn’t have killed themselves. They could have just rejected you and carried on living. Think about people who face rejection in their lives right now; the child found in a dumpster, a spouse that abandons his family, divorce, a son/daughter that is thrown out of the house due to religion, etc. The people who reject others don’t kill themselves. They just send you out of their lives because they want nothing to do with you anymore. You have to think of the pain someone has to be in to believe that life is not worth living. Don’t feel rejected, you should feel sorry for them.
Learn to withdraw from self-blame
When a loved one commits suicide, there is a label of shame that comes with the guilty of not having prevented it. If you are a parent, people look at you with eyes that says you should have done more to help your kid. To a partner, people shake their heads and say, how could he/she not have seen it coming. If you are not careful, you might wear that blame label to your own detriment. The neighbors, acquaintances and strangers alike will blame you enough to last a lifetime, don’t add to it. Look at the facts of what happened and please note that there is nothing anyone could have done to stop it. If you had caught them this time, if they really wanted to do it, they would have found another day or another way to do it. Develop a thick skin to this and try to hold your head high.
Work through that anger
When a loved one commits suicide, you feel angry at them. They took out the so called ‘easy-way out’. He/She was supposed to love life no matter what, right? They were your rock and pillar of strength. You get angry at them but they are not here anymore so instead of bending out of shape over things you can’t ask or change, work out that anger. Anger left unattended can lead to a lot of physiological illnesses, don’t let that be you. Take boxing classes, exercise, paint, yoga, nature walks or whatever that gives you a sense of relief from the pressure building up inside of you.
Ride the waves of emotions
Time heals wounds. It may not look like the sun will shine tomorrow in the middle of the night but it will. It will be an emotional roller-coaster for a while but it does get better. Take it from me a child survivor to a parental suicide. The most health way to get there though is to go through the pain not around it. A lot of us will do whatever it takes to never feel raw emotions so we pretend its okay. Or lie to ourselves that it didn’t cut too deep. There is no point in doing that. Be as emotional as is reasonable and get through it until it doesn’t hurt as much. If you keep it inside, it might come out later in worse ways than you could imagine. Take one day at a time, you will get there.
Once the dust settles and the pain has reduced a great deal, it’s time to move on with your life. It doesn’t mean that you forget about your beloved but it just means doing the best you can with the time you have left on earth. In situations like this, it’s best to take life lessons handed to you and put them into practice. Maybe you learn that not talking about family problems isn’t the best thing to do. Perhaps you learn that bullying can escalate to suicide or you learn that life is precious. You could even use those life lessons to help others, like campaigning against bullying. On anniversaries the wound is re-opened but just ride that wave. Love yourself and know that 1 in 1 people dies so be the best of you before your time comes.