Grieving a suicide

A friend recently asked me how grieving a suicide was different from grieving a non-suicide death.  It’s a great question… and I am grateful for my dear friends who are willing to openly talk & ask questions about Drey and my grief.  I am just 10 months into this pain but so far I’ve experienced two areas of difference.  One you’d expect – one maybe you wouldn’t. 

Drey’s suicide has left me asking “why?”  I believe the “why” question is a normal part of grieving regardless of how someone died.  The difference with suicide is that not only do you ask “why” of God but you ask “why” of the person you lost.  And with that “why” come the “what if’s, if only’s, I wish I would have’s” and the “I should have’s.”  He chose this.  He chose to end his life.  But I’m his Mom?!  How did I miss that?  How could he have been thinking about this and I was so unaware?  Maybe we shouldn’t have moved.  His Dad and I never should’ve divorced?  I should’ve been harder on him about his drinking?  But he was 19 – an adult.  I didn’t want to push him away by harping on him??  Maybe I should’ve made him stay involved in the church instead of letting him make his own choice regarding spiritual engagement once he started high school?  Why didn’t I drive over to his Dad’s that morning?  My gut told me something wasn’t right – why didn’t I go over there??  Why did I just go about my day like normal?  I don’t have answers to these questions.  I won’t on this side of heaven.  So part of finding my “new normal” means learning to live without answers.  I am a work in progress.

The second thing that’s unique about grieving a suicide death is the overwhelming presence of shame.   For the first several months I felt shame’s presence.   It was as if it were a demon latched onto my back.  I felt the weight of it.   I felt it hissing in my ear – often asking me the questions I listed above but also following up with a horribly devasting lie of an answer.    I remember one time being at the grocery store and had gone down one aisle to grab something while my husband went down another.  During those brief few minutes a person casually looked at me but in my mind they held my gaze just a little too long and I immediately believed they knew my son had taken his own life.  And they knew it was because I was a bad parent.  I quickly tried to talk myself through that they don’t know me, I wasn’t a bad parent, stay focused, what did you come down this aisle looking for, it’s okay, stay calm… But within a matter of seconds I was reeling in a frenzy of panicked shame.  I quickly found my husband and didn’t leave his side the rest of the grocery store visit.

Shame.  What a damaging emotion, a painful state of mind.  Learning to talk back to it is an ongoing process for me.  I have found that keeping some bible verses top of mind is very helpful.   I was recently at the grocery store by myself.  About half way through my shopping I started to experience the panic of shame again.   I repeated out loud Philippians 4:13 over and over.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I know people were looking at me but I didn’t care.  As I was saying it I put an emphasis on a different word each time.  “I can DO all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”   Thankfully I was able to complete that grocery store trip successfully.  What is it about going to the grocery store?  It’s such a mom thing I suppose.  Just always leaves me feeling vulnerable.

Here’s an awesome TED talk about the topic of vulnerability.

Here’s an awesome TED talk about the topic of shame.

I hope you find these as helpful as I have.  I will learn to be vulnerable again… to share openly and honestly.   Because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

4 thoughts on “Grieving a suicide

  1. Praying continually for you my friend as you press on in your journey. That is one of my verses that I have clung to as well, it really is a wonderful verse…

  2. In the beginning of my own loss of my son…I had terrible thoughts and visions that haunted me every minute and especially at night…I would claimed this verse “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” because I knew that it was Satan trying to pound me with those thoughts. They are normal to have but I had to armor up and beat it down. It was my only way to peace. I still lie awake at night and think too much but it is never about those images I conjured in those early stages of my grief. It is more about longing and hoping….and of course, those memories of better times. For many reasons, the grocery store is a place that makes one get very sad. I have several meltdowns from making a grocery list to going down the Valentine Day aisle and counting all the heart boxes I was getting for the kids and grands…only to realize I counted my son and his wife and child….never more to be.

    Shame is another stigma that has been attached to this kind of death since the Dark Ages. I no longer believe after reading the many studies and research about the brain and chemistry…that “bad parenting” has to do with suicide. There are many factors that are involved.

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