I hear it often.
“But he would never have done that to his kids”.
“But she seemed happy”.
The truth is, we really have no idea how anyone is feeling on the inside. On the outside, someone may be laughing, telling jokes and acting like the life of the party. Does Robin Williams ring a bell?
If you have recently lost someone to suicide and you find yourself asking the question “Why?”, please keep reading.
The answer is this: YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHY. It has taken me quite some time to accept this as my reality. You may have some ideas. . . he was high, a bad relationship, a bad day at work, financial issues, etc. But you will never know how that person felt in that moment they took their own life. You won’t. You can’t.
I relate to it like a stack of books. I am standing up tall. I am happy and life is good. Suddenly, I lose my job. Add a book to the top of my head. I had a fight with my sister. Add a book. My grandfather passes away from cancer. Add a book. My car breaks down. Add a book. I can’t pay the mortgage. Add a book. My husband cheats. Add a book.
Suddenly, all of these usually manageable things, although frustrating and stressful, seem so hard to manage. With the weight of all these books, you are shrinking. Eventually it becomes hard to get out of bed. I mean, what’s the point? So you start drinking to drown the pain. That makes the problem worse. Add a book. Now your parents won’t even talk to you. Add a book. Get the idea? What can you do now that someone has died by suicide?
Do not blame. You may have ideas as to why it happened and naturally, we want to place blame on someone or something. Don’t do it. Nothing positive can come from blaming someone. It may take some time. That’s okay. You will not be able to move forward in your grieving process if you are placing blame. At the end of the day, your loved one is the only one who knows what happened. Forgive what needs forgiving and move forward when you are ready. Allow yourself to have peace.
Be careful with your words. Suicide is a sensitive topic and I still find myself pained with certain words. Here’s a few to avoid:
“Choice” – A person who has taken their life does not view it as a choice. From their perspective, they may think they are actually doing everyone a favor by taking their life. For others, they may not even be thinking of anyone else’s perspective. They are in such a deep dark place that they really aren’t able to consider anything else.
“Selfish” – Based on my discussion above on the word “choice”, you might think that people who have successfully completed suicide are selfish. I thought so once too. Until it happened to me. I now understand that there is an underlying mental health concern or substance abuse that are often begging for attention. My brother never meant to hurt my family. I know that for a fact.
“Committed” – Saying someone “committed” suicide is offensive. My brother did not commit a crime. Better words to use are “died by suicide” or “took his life”. In all honesty, I still catch myself using this word from time to time because it is so commonplace. It pangs my heart each time I hear it.
Be a Friend.
Talk about them. Whatever you do, please do not hesitate to talk about someone’s loved one with them. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but I can tell you every person in my family loves to talk about Mike. It brings us great joy to share stories and especially to hear stories you might have. One of my favorite stories of Mike was when a cute couple came through the line at Mike’s wake and said they were new to town and they met Mike at the bar when they stopped to grab food. They said how welcoming and nice he was. That story sticks with me and makes me proud to be his sister. I love those stories!
Listen. Everyone needs a good friend that will simply listen. Be that person for someone. Ask them how their day is, encourage and support them.
Be Kind. So simple, yet so necessary. Hold the door at the store for someone. Give a smile. Buy the next car in line a coffee. Give a struggling mom at the grocery store a hand. Being kind costs nothing and it is so much more rewarding than doing nothing.
Practice Self-Care. If you are grieving the loss of someone, please take time to take care of yourself. Here are some tips:
Diet & Exercise – it is so important to take care of your body and mind. Diet and exercise are vital pieces to self-care. When you take care of your body, you feel better. It’s that simple.
Therapy – Seek therapy. Sometimes we need is a person that is completely independent of our lives to talk to. Someone that won’t judge or berate us. Therapy was life changing for me. Let go of any stigma you may have about it. Therapy rocks!
Faith/Higher Power – Seek your higher power. For me, that’s God. I’ve found peace and comfort in knowing that God has my back. All I simply need to do is trust that He knows my path and what is best for me. I will often say that I am just a passenger, God is driving.
Self-Awareness – Listen to your words. What are you saying to yourself? I am really just starting to get the hang of this one. It takes a lot of practice to listen to your words and what you are saying. If you don’t like what you are saying, translate it into something you can believe and say that instead. If you wouldn’t say something aloud to someone else (i.e, “Wow, your hair is so ugly” or “Your arms are so chubby”) PLEASE do NOT say it to yourself! Be KIND! God created us as imperfect humans. He didn’t say “Oh crap. She has a zit on her forehead. She can’t stay.”. He said, “She’s beautiful and I love her.”. Treat yourself like that!
Seek Help – If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or substance abuse please seek help. There are a ton of resources at http://www.samhsa.gov. Reach out to your pastor, friends, family, therapist, you name it. Please know that so many people are cheering for you and want you to succeed! Visit a local AA or NA meeting. Find your support network.
Above all, you are loved! I hope you know that you were created as a perfectly imperfect human. BY DESIGN! Here are a few resources that can help:
AFSP – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – http://www.afsp.org
SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education – http://www.save.org
SAMHSA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – http://www.samhsa.gov
NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – http://www.nami.org
Local AA or NA Groups
There are a few local events coming up soon:
Sunday, March 19th at 7:00 PM – A Service of Remembrance at the Waconia Moravian Church in Waconia, MN
Saturday, May 6th at 9:00 – 12:00 noon – SAVE’s 28th Annual Suicide Awareness Memorial at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN
2nd Tuesday of each month at 6:30 PM – Suicide Loss Survivors Support Group at the Waconia Moravian Church in Waconia, MN
Take care of yourself. After all, you are the only you there is! ~Melanie