They lost their child to suicide…
Nothing much compares to the pain of losing a child. When you become a parent, it can feel as if your heart walks out your body and attaches itself to the person you’ve created. To then lose that child is a gut-wrenching, soul-splitting and life-crushing experience.
When a child dies by suicide, there’s usually additional stigma and shame added to that grief. Sometimes parents have to deal with stigmatizing comments made by other people, or intrusive questions about their child’s death. Some have been indirectly blamed for not seeing the signs, or may feel a sting of abandonment when their loved ones stop reaching out and offering support.
World Suicide Day was commemorated on September, 10, so I would like to share the experiences of parents who have lost a child to suicide. I hope my research offers some insight and provides some perspective so that we will all appreciate that the sad death from suicide is preceded by many prevailing factors and features.
Here now are some responses from a few parents who lost their child prematurely:
1. “Coming from an extremely religious community, I would like people to understand mental illness is an illness… and sometimes it kills. And when it does, [I believe] our loved ones are in heaven with God, not sent to hell as a punishment… My baby girl is in Heaven with my loving Lord and Savior.” — Gail J.
2. “Don’t think I don’t see you trying to avoid me because you feel uncomfortable knowing I have a child who died from suicide. I live with [the] pain of losing a 31-year-old daughter who was brilliant, beautiful and had a mind that tortured her to the point where she chose to end the pain. I miss Katie every day.” — Gregg A.
3. “I wish people understood suicide is not a big sign or a flash of light to show the world. It’s the fake smiles, ‘I’m OK’s,’ the hiding out from the world.” — Tam M.
4. “He is still my child. I need to know he is remembered, that he was important. My child didn’t choose the easy way out; the decision to leave this life was the hardest he ever had to make.” — Liza C.
5. “Know our pain is lifelong; we don’t move on. It becomes a part of us until we die. And with all their good intentions, they will never (hopefully) understand the depth of losing a child by suicide.” — Linda M.
6. “I wish they understood this is not something we ever get over. We carry this with us ’til we see our children again. We need people to understand this and accept this is part of us now.” — Kellie B.
7. “I wish they understood there isn’t always a why. People always want me to answer this question. It doesn’t work that way — mental illness is complicated.” — Angie M.
8. “We can’t ‘get over it,’ and shaming a parent for their child’s suicide is bullying.” — Adel E.
Message to parents dealing with the suicide of a child:
It will not be okay, but it will be fine.
I’m sorry to tell you that it will never be okay. It’s simply not possible to lose a child to suicide and ever be okay. However, you will be fine.
There’s no pain or experience like losing a child to suicide; however, you – like so many other parents before you – will eventually discover a new normal, a new way of living. It’s not perfect, but it will allow you to continue your life in order to celebrate the life of the child you lost, support and love the children you may still have to care for, and/or contribute positively to your friends’ lives and those of your community.
Don’t get stuck in the mindset that you’ll never be able to deal with the loss. You will not get over it but you will find ways to manage it. The speed at which you progress through this journey is in part determined by an acknowledgement that you’ll never be the same but that a new normal will eventually set in.
Embrace the new journey; like life itself, it will be riddled with highs and lows and each must be experienced to become the person you are.
Lastly, you don’t need to walk this journey alone. There are support groups, professionals, and individuals who can help. Seek help…seek support.