When my father committed suicide I was brought to my knees by pain, guilt, anger, confusion, disbelief, shock, and love for him.
Every suicide is different from every other suicide because individuals and relationships are unique. Events leading up to the death and the way the deceased killed himself or herself vary, and survivors respond to loss in different ways.
But if you’ve lost a loved one to suicide, you share something profound with others of us who have experienced this life altering event. You are forever a member of a group you don’t wish to belong to. Membership in this group means that you will struggle with confusion, anger, pain, and frustration at the person who has died. Complicating the issue, you will likely love the person as much as you loved him or her before the suicide. The deceased is at once the person you loved, the victim of a horrendous death, and the perpetrator of the murder of your loved one.
Human beings understand and mostly accept that we will lose our parents to old age. Throughout our lives we experience losses of friends and relatives due to accidents and physical illnesses. We cope with these things and we find support from those around us. We don’t know how to cope with the loss of loved ones when the death makes no sense or when it is a kind of loss that rarely occurs in the average person’s life—as is the case when we lose a young child, when someone we love is murdered, or when we lose someone to suicide.
Partially because these things are not supposed to happen, we have no natural mechanism for dealing with the complex feelings that arise from these kinds of traumatic losses. To make matters worse, we often feel isolated because the people in our lives don’t know how to relate to us and although they may want to help, they have no idea what we’re going through and they have no clue what to say.
If you lost someone you loved to suicide, you are not imagining how bad the pain is. You are not blowing things out of proportion. You should not expect to be able to just move on, or listen to people who tell you as much.
Your deceased loved one set off a bomb in the middle of your world and then vanished. There is no way to avoid grief. There is no way to circumvent the painful journey ahead of you. It isn’t fair and you didn’t volunteer for it. Still, you have no choice but to find your way through the darkness.
It is a tired cliché to say that time heals all wounds. Honestly, I don’t think time does heal all wounds. Time takes the edge off of all wounds but human beings are complex and we maintain feelings of love and pain until we die.
But here is a piece of hope: My father’s death was eight years ago and my pain is manageable now. After the first horrible year, the pain started to dissipate. Since then I have learned to embrace joy and to live more fully than I lived before his death. The pain I feel from the loss of my father will never go away, but now I am able to think about him without crying. I am able to forgive myself for the things that happened leading up to his death. He is no longer the first person I think about when I go to bed at night, nor the first person I think about upon awaking in the morning.
There is still pain in my life. We all struggle here and there, but I am happy with my life and I am happy with who I am.
You can find this place of peace and acceptance too. I promise that if you open your heart and mind, I can guide you through your pain so that you can rebuild a new, different, life for yourself.
I know exactly how you feel right now and that it’s hard to believe, but you can feel happy again.