When I was in high school, a friend’s boyfriend committed suicide by hanging himself on the playground structure in his backyard. It was my first experience with intentional death, and I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around it.
Not too many years ago, a friend from church lost his son to suicide, and I could do nothing but look on and offer minor comforts as his grief nearly killed him. It is incomprehensible to lose a child in any manner, but to lose a child because he chose death adds so many layers of anger and grief and self-doubting to the grieving process.
This is true no matter whether it’s child, husband, partner, friend, parent who is lost. Suicide is caustic.
I am now watching a friend suffer with losing her 82-year-old father to suicide. While he wasn’t sick or suffering in any way, he wanted to protect himself and his children from his ever succumbing to illness or dementia. He chose to end his life while he was a healthy man.
He talked to his children several times about his intentions before his death, and, with what they saw as little warning, in December 2012, he drove himself to a nearby police department one night and shot himself. He was intending to save his children from the trauma of finding him.
He had only love in his heart for his children and self-preservation in mind for himself. He left several communications behind that demonstrate this well. My friend carries them with her as she attempts to make sense of what happened to her family.
We can all probably understand the fears this man had about becoming infirm, dependent, a burden. And we can probably all also relate to the feelings his children have now. They are so angry at him. So sad. Why? My friend wants to know, and there is no one to answer. We asked you not to, she tells her father in her mind. We begged you. We needed more time with you. We weren’t done needing a father.
There are hundreds of other questions in my friend’s heart too – like the ones that any grief brings. Did this really happen? Is my father coming back? It is so hard to be an orphan and have no parents left.
She’s joined a bereavement group and been to one meeting so far. She can see it will be helpful. I highly recommend it to anyone who is suffering because, unfortunately, the world gets tired of our grief long before we are done processing it and needing to talk it out. Bereavement groups give people a safe place to talk, a place where everyone understands, encourages, supports.
Here’s a website that gives the survivors of suicide some peace of mind. http://www.survivorsofsuicide.com/. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (http://www.afsp.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=9DD6308D-E520-2E45-72BD5B2C30988D76) has a support group that meets in Easthampton at Popcorn Noir on the second Tuesday of each month from noon to 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact Geraldine at (413) 203-1200 or email@example.com.