Adult suicides and what it means to their loved ones.
Without going into all the details of a life lived in sadness and depression, I'll offer a perspective on the ramifications of an adult's suicide.
I was a young adult when my mother committed suicide. My folks were raised in that era where people didn't talk about things. Since not much of her inner suffering was discussed, I've pretty much had to patch together her situation and the reasons. In the end, no one really knows how another person's mind works nor how they come to make the suicide decision. Even if there are indications, treatments, doctor visits and a life lived under the vail of depression, how it's all put together and why that one person chooses suicide will always be somewhat unknown.
What I want to talk about today is the ramifications of a loved one's suicide on those close to them. People with like circumstances or perhaps even worse may not choose suicide - the contributing factors for each are often a medical mystery. Because that complicated path to suicide is often an unknown, survivors are left to their own conclusions. Those conclusions and how they're coped with are as varied as the number of survivors.
Mom committed suicide on Mother's Day weekend. I doubt she was aware of the sad coincidence but it forever put a dark cloud over that day for her children. It fostered the question: If her children were important to her, how could it have escaped her very intelligent mind that it was a harsh burden to place upon them?
That distancing of her emotions and mind from her family had been happening for many years. Looking back, I realized from the time I was a sophomore in high school, she was seldom there emotionally. Her entire thought processes revolved around her depression. Eventually, her entire physical being revolved around her depression. Since little was known about the treatment of depression other than to give large amounts of mood altering drugs, medieval shock treatments and hospital stays where they simply drugged her to oblivion, her physical dependency upon depression treatment became as strong as her depression itself.
In looking back, I realized after 1959, I knew little of my mother personally other than the shell that was her treatments. Should any of us have realized her fate better or sooner? Maybe, but it wasn't something that era discussed. The Victorians soldiered on and kept it from being discussed especially with children.
As the years have passed, I've been around others who have tried or actually committed suicide. There has always been some other issue besides depression factoring into the decision. Often it's addictions. I don't profess to understand why some people step over that line and others don't. I won't even profess to understand the complicated reasoning.
What I do have is some familiarity with what their surviving loved ones deal with throughout life.
Most loved ones will question why they weren't enough. Why would someone chose to die rather than chose to live with them. That can be especially hard on children. It boils down to their questioning if they were loved. We are told our parents want to protect us, love us, nurture us, assure a good future for us and get us through bad times. On a more young children's level: parents are to tuck us in at night, comfort us when we are scared, feed us, provide for us, physically hug and make us feel secure. A parent's suicide speaks loudly to their child that their needs just weren't all that important to the parent. Having that kind of lesson at an early age can cause many problems for a child especially as they try to cope with something they aren't mature enough to handle.
Older children, perhaps adults themselves, will also have these feelings. I think, personally, I was able to realize her suicide was more about her demons. I refused to take on the guilt. But I assure you the sadness of missed opportunities stayed with me through life.
With children's suicide, the parents have the additional burden of guilt that they didn't do enough, they did it wrong, they should have prevented and more. There will be children who make sure their parents are wrapped in this guilt as a punishment.
That same guilt can creep out to friends and other loved ones such as grandparents. Little cousins, nieces, nephews, school friends - all will carry some kind of guilt and sadness.
I often hear people say "I didn't see the signs." She was great when we last met. He had so much going. She just got this big promotion. He sent me a message about tomorrow.
The other side we hear is "They threatened or tried suicide so many times we thought it was all manipulation." Every time they didn't get their way, they threatened. Every turn of events that other people take for granted, they make all about them.
I think the reasoning for attempted or finalized suicide is too complicated, too varied and not understood by the medical profession let alone the average person - we may never know the reason for sure.
I do believe, for sure, the lasting emotional ramifications upon loved ones is predictable. When the media waxes on about his little 13 year old child handling things really good, or she left her eleven year old a note explaining, or her husband was coping, or the parents were strong, I know it's fiction. It lets the potential suicide believe they have covered their bases and left everyone taken care of; relieving them of guilt.
If this article does anything, I hope it may speak to anyone contemplating suicide. I hope it lets you know your individual suicide has wide reaching ramifications on people that love you, strangers who may emulate you and children who are afraid.
The media may idolize suicide as the ultimate act of self gratification and bravery. They applaud their ultimate escape from responsibility. They are wrong. Suicide is a very personal inward self involved act. The results cast a very wide and outward ripple that may grow into a large tsunami of sadness that will last lifetimes for the people it touches.